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.
The planes stopped flying.
The screensaver’s changed –
the sky’s a blue dome now,
no chalky scrawls,
no slashed, graffitied lines.
The neighbours parked up
days ago. They haven’t left the house
except to walk the dogs.
We call across the hedge,
Me? I’m quieter, too.
Switched to receive. I’m drinking in
the blue, the silence,
soaking in it. Waiting for words.
It’s like my voice is trapped.
All our connections are a little thinner,
I haven’t hugged my mum
for days now. Our words
stretched out, squeezed down wires.
I’m getting scary stories,
funny pictures, angry messages,
from friends I should see every day.
We’re making links, but we can’t touch,
pat a hand, bump a shoulder,
kiss a cheek. We can’t smell
each other. All those subtle things,
we’re down to basics now,
all our connections made of ones
Still, I can report
the sky is blue,
and the lambs wag their tails
butting their mothers’ teats
for milk. Primroses
still sit shyly in the hedgerow,
and the birds are singing.
The Earthweal challenge this week is “silver linings”. I’m not sure I should be writing at the moment. I think I should just be letting things simmer. There’s a lot going on. I struggled with the idea of silver linings – it’s hard not to just state the obvious. I’m very priveleged – I live in the countryside, so I don’t feel too trapped. The weather’s lovely, there’s lots to do in the garden. So far, this isolation is an inconvenience. I’m very aware that it’s different for lots of people, that there are people putting their lives on the line, that there are people stuck in small appartment with small children going quietly (maybe not quietly) crazy, and my heart goes out to everybody who is suffering in this.