Tuesday 21 April 2020


My cousin Barbara asks me if I have been writing lots of poetry. It struck her the other night that there was poetry in this, this time of strangeness, of discovering one's ability to adapt, perhaps - the beauty inherent in that. And indeed, Carol Ann Duffy has just initiated a project titled 'Write Where We Are Now', gathering the thoughts and feelings of her fellow poets on our global viral tidal wave. We surprise ourselves with adaptation, and it thrills us to discover - still here, still here. No matter what. Tsunami, earthquake, the plague, coronavirus. The Great Depression, Wall Street Crash, demonetisation. The end of circuses, the beginning of Tiger King. The end of letter writing, the beginning of emoticons. Lose limbs, become an Olympic athlete. Hospital a dangerous place? Self inject.
What gets lost in the adaptation? The transition. The nuances within those transitions. My anxiety before the sub cut training, my sleepless nights. My terrible sense of the cold once I had penetrated my flesh, in two different sites, slowly, each ml a painful new reality. 'You'll get used to it.' 'Some people love it.' 'You won't even feel it.' Later, someday. You'll be like the others. Who smile and laugh and brush this off. It's nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

The extremely vulnerable must continue to isolate. It is for their own protection. Meanwhile we rush to open our vital economies. Our schools. Life must be returned to normal. Meanwhile there is a rush on Hydroxychloroquine. India closes her borders to exporting the raw materials. Poor lupus patients. Meanwhile it's possible that doesn't matter because being on immunosuppressive therapies may explain why auto-immune patients aren't dying en masse. You're fine, lupus patients. Your cytokine storms aren't as wild and intemperate as ours. As you were. But all the same, stay home afterwards. After our storms subside. Our bodies are the frontlines. We will protect you. We may also infect you. Just stay quiet. With that needle in your flesh. It's for your own good. The front door is your safest bet. Behind that front door... well, never mind that.

That sense of cold I mentioned? It is the place of loneliness, of abandonment. Of being protected for one's own good under strictly controlled guidelines. Of the new normal being the old normal, only with an edge. An edgier edge. But it must be contained, or else our little cup of sunshine will be consumed with the single thought that threatens to destroy us on any ordinary day. The lupus patient was never meant to survive.

And yet she does, with a paintbrush in her hands. Where poetry fails me, I paint my reality. Back and forth. Wax on, wax off. Until I become something akin to the Buddhist novice, who, in elevating a simple monotonous task with consciousness, finds nirvana.


Sherry Blue Sky said...

This post is an amazement, a revelation, to me. You write SO WELL. I feel so fortunate to read you, always. The new normal is the old normal, but with an edge. Truth. I cant tell you how brave I know you are, doing your own injection. I doubt I could muster the courage. I can hear the loneliness in that cold feeling. It is interesting to think the immunosuppressants may be keeping you safe. I do hope so. I must check out your friend's site, for writing one's way through these strange and stranger times. People are doing this everywhere, as we grapple with our new reality. It is good to hear how others are making their way through. I have a very low-key routine: computer and desk in the morning, netflix in the afternoon, tablet and books in the evening. But I am old, when such a small routine feels just fine. Still here, I say, too. Still here. Stay safe, my friend.

Anonymous said...

You write beautifully. You deserve to be read by thousands. If not millions. Please, please send this article to The Guardian with a cover note introducing yourself. Please, just do it.

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