When the pandemic struck,
we couldn't get to within six feet of each other,
because of the special hoopskirts we wore.
We'd crowd into the deli
like fat-bodied bass,
mouths open, head back,
as the deli workers handed out samples
of proscuitto, roast beef and swiss
attached to the ends of long fishing poles.
Sometimes a piece would drop to the floor
and there'd be a mad scramble,
bodies teetering on the verge of toppling,
but the hoopskirts kept us upright.
Tiny dogs would race about our ankles
to gobble up the unexpected treats.
The turkey breast, smoked ham and provolone
would eventually run out,
the deli workers' arms would tire,
and the shop owner would sound the alarm.
We had five minutes to take our mouths and go.
The shop door was narrow
and it was like swimming upstream.
Every now and then, one of us wouldn't make it,
the door would close to the sound of gulping air.