Updated: Jul 17, 2020
A Poem by Dr. Barry Lubetkin
“It is 7 p.m., and the city is already clapping, a nightly outpouring of support for health care workers that has taken place for weeks.” New York Times, May 1, 2020
Every night she fussed at the grill
Why alone? No husband. No son. No brother.
Her dress (the same one every time), blue
And gauzed by the illegal smoke.
And I, just across the street
Separated by an ocean of unforgiving concrete
But quiet now, the few cars indifferent to our existence
And now she dines, and the smoke is a cloud above her building
The napkin lightly touches her lips
And signals an end to her daily delight,
And, as if we both studied at the Bolshoi,
We together slide to our terrace railings
She waves at me, it’s 6:58
I never waved back at a stranger so hard!
I call out and point to my watch
She nods and I think her mouth curls to a smile
It’s 6:59, and the connection that I feel with her
The same awkwardness that engulfs me every night
As blue dress and I prepare
A car siren 16 floors below screams
Somewhere near the avenue a trumpet pierces
Wild yelling from windows I’ll never see
It’s 7:00 p.m.
Blue dress and I clap, and clap, and clap
No health care worker hears us
We clap while locking eyes
And each is deaf to the other’s sounds
We don’t hear our own noise above the din
Will she stop first? Will I? When will the street clamor end?
Each aware of the other’s commitment to the moment
Who is she really? I turn away. Our moment of closeness blends with the smoke.
Barry Lubetkin, Ph.D. is the co-director and co-founder of the Institute for Behavior Therapy in New York City. He is the author of numerous academic and popular articles, as well as two popular self-help books, Bailing Out and Why Do I Need You to Love Me in Order to Like Myself. The Institute for Behavior Therapy is the oldest private cognitive behavior center in the United States.