We all have to make sacrifices, I tell him.

He’s not drinking milk
each morning. Milk’s the thing
that sends us out into the town,
and shopping’s not a pleasure now.

I plan our meals, now, carefully,
avoiding waste. We check the list
before we buy. We’re not so frivolous.

Our pleasures shrink. The sky is blue –
unmarked by plane tracks. That’s
a miracle. We journey out
on foot: the lane is longer
now. Distance is measured
in our footsteps. I have never seen
so many primroses.

I caught the scent of violets and we
spent several minutes looking for
wild orchids, on the lane
that’s usually a conduit,
just the way that takes us
to the road. We bomb along it,
hurrying – we’re always late.

Suddenly, there’s nothing
to be late for. It’s all here –
work, play, music, words.
The home we built

out of the things we loved – that
painting that you bought me,
that green bowl, the table
that we knew would scratch
and stain and bear the story
of our family life – all these things
we spent our whole time
leaving. Well, now we look
at them again.

This poem is for Brendan at Earthweal, who asks us to think about the parallels between this pandemic and climate change. I think he’s right, there are many. I guess what I’ve been struck by is how much less we are consuming at the moment, just in my small household. All those things you buy just because they were dangled in front of your nose are suddenly not there. I don’t think I’m missing them. I do think I’ll have a shopping list at the end of this, but it will be of things I need (all my socks have given up on me) not things I just kind of want because they’re pretty. We’re driving much much much less. We’re walking more. This could be sustainable.



8 thoughts on “We all have to make sacrifices, I tell him.

  1. I know exactly what you mean, Sarah! This situation reminds me of my childhood, when supermarkets were few and far between and my grandmother and mother had to buy essentials at corner shops, butchers and bakers. We didn’t have much, were skinny guttersnipes, but we ate what we were given and had imaginations. We were used to writing shopping lists of things we needed (funnily enough, my husband needs new socks) and didn’t really want anything because we didn’t know about it.
    Your poem must be shared to everyone in the UK, so they can see that we are all in the same boat, and we can do it! Sadly, not everyone is able to enjoy the simple pleasures, particularly those in cities, with no countryside or garden to enjoy. I really appreciate the lines:
    ‘… Distance is measured
    in our footsteps. I have never seen
    so many primroses.
    I caught the scent of violets and we
    spent several minutes looking for
    wild orchids…’
    And it’s so wonderful to be appreciating what we have – I have a painting my husband bought me and a bowl glazed blue on the inside and terracotta on the outside.


  2. Milk is the perfect way to launch this tale of meanings gained through sacrifice. (Like posting such a fine poem in this in such a lonely forum!) So much we take for granted in our ever-gratified consumer universe — just to edge off on the spigot a bit (who’s starving?) seems an affront. Ah but the surprises a leaner take affords .. Well done Sarah and thanks for posting it on the solitary earthweal tree.


  3. “. . . all these things / we spent our whole time / leaving . . . ” and the primroses and the footsteps. It really is a spiritual journey to find familiar things again and introduce ourselves as if meeting strangers. The links between climate change and pandemic are here in that the less we use the more the air can recover, and the more at one we are with the earth. As long as we’re not seeing from the perspective of being sick. I could not make myself cross that threshold in my poem either.


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