this is the kind of poem you write when you don’t know what to write anymore
when hours feel like days and days feel like weeks and weeks feel like months
because you’re terrified, everyone is terrified and unsure of tomorrow
so, you stay home
and you watch the news, the news that has been on for the last few hours, the news that will be on 24/7, because knowledge is power
and information saves lives
except, nothing has changed, and people are still dying, and what’s the point of checking if you’re stuck at home anyway
because in this case knowledge is anxiety
and you’re growing anxious
and more anxious
and more anxious
this is the kind of poem you write when you don’t know what to say anymore
when everything is surreal, when all the stability you have come to love has shattered
when you’ve been checking obsessively to see how many have died today
how many got sick today
how many might not survive today
and you don’t know
and you can’t know
this is the kind of poem you write when you don’t know what tomorrow will look like
when all you can do is make grim armchair predictions
when it’s too hard to think to next year
or next month
or next week
because how dare you think about the future when the present is so uncertain? how dare you check out from what’s happening around you? how dare you have hope when your loved ones could die tomorrow? how dare you? how dare you? how dare you?
while the city is shut down
when no official knows what the right call is
because there is no right call
this is the kind of poem you write when you hope it’ll be over in three weeks
but it might be three months
or a year
It’s not just about what’s actually happening, is it? It’s about how it makes us feel. Because in times like this, our instinct is to band together, to get closer with our neighbours, to hug and kiss and melt into each other. We want to bond with new people, we want to meet each other for the first time, we want to connect with each other, we want to find strength in numbers. But now? We can’t. We’re trapped. We’re told to isolate, lest everything get worse. Some of us are lucky enough to be with our families, but many of us are alone.
School is cancelled. Work is cancelled. Concerts and sports and parties are cancelled. Museums, gyms and libraries are cancelled. Restaurants are cancelled. Playdates and sleepovers are cancelled. Quick bites with friends are cancelled. Couples dating across the border are cancelled. Kisses are cancelled. Handshakes are cancelled. Stability is cancelled. Payments are cancelled.
What’s left: the news. Social media. Video calls, phone calls and texts. Social distancing. Self-isolation. Panic-buying. Crashing stock markets. Layoffs. Empty cities. Paranoia. Online NAC concerts. People singing songs while quarantined on balconies. Monopoly games at 2 a.m. with your family. Art. Good books. Netflix. YouTube. Coffee. Tea. The little things.