What I Know

By Anne Taylor

That it’s hard not to take it personally when people avoid you like the plague.
That a word, or a smile, or saying hello with your eyes can make all the difference.
Some new now familiar words — Coronavirus, lockdown, self-isolation, Covid-19, shielding. What fear means. That we must stay at home.
That Samantha is alone, anxious, immobile and missing her children. She isn’t
alone but one of millions.
That there’s nothing social about distancing.
That the death toll is rising.
That we need to flatten the curve. That city bats and birds sing more sweetly now
they don’t have to raise their voices above lorries and cars.
That we must stay at home.
That this Spring is silent and breathless.
That Kashmiri goats roam through Llandudno, wild boar cruise the boulevards of Barcelona, Peacocks strut like traffic cops in Mumbai and fish swim clean in the canals of Venice.
That there are hedgehog families crossing roads in safety. That migrant workers in India are in mass exodus. Some are being sprayed with chemicals.
That we need to flatten the curve. That we must stay at home.
That empty daytime streets have an eerie stillness.
That a million people have signed up for Universal Credit. That people are kind and supporting friends and neighbours.
That my work is not essential.
That locked down means locked in.
That this virus is a leveller – Charles has it and Boris, and Jon, Tina’s brother died from it. He was 24.
That we must stay at home.
That this virus is not a leveller. Those living in cramped conditions and working in low paid jobs are more likely to die. That some people are invisible.
That I am worried about my friend with cancer, my cousin with asthma, my aunt who is 80.
That the world is united in fear. That humans are resourceful. That people are
sewing scrubs in their homes across the country.
That people are greedy and will take the last three packets of pasta from a shelf in Tesco’s, just in case.
That my daughters are resilient and filling our home with dancing and love and the smell of home-baked sourdough. That I miss my son.
That nineteen doctors have died of the virus, they are all of minority ethnic
background. There are calls for an inquiry.
That the only sounds in New York city are the sirens of ambulances and the roar of bulldozers digging a mass grave.
That my feet crunch louder on the pebbles of Castle beach, the seaweed smells fresher and the water is more sparkly than ever before.
That if you end up on a ventilator your chances are 50:50.
That people are creative and generous, singing from their balconies, jigging at the end of their drives, sharing poetry and art.
That while our chests are heaving for air the lungs of the earth are in recovery.
That the new email sign-off is ‘Stay well’.
That the swallows are arriving oblivious after a 6,000-mile journey from Africa,
guided by the moon and the stars and the wind.
That this spring is silent and breathless.
That no-one knows how to get us out of this.
That this is just the beginning.

I wrote this poem at the beginning of the first lockdown as a breathless list of all the images and anxieties that were swirling around my head.   I have found that poetry — reading and writing it — has been the thing that has helped hold me together since the beginning of the pandemic. 

I am a writer, poet, teacher and workshop facilitator based in Cornwall.

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2 years ago

Thanks for this. A true picture of the pain and quiet beauty of lockdown and Covid.

Poetry and Covid-19 ARCHIVE (This website archives the over 1000 poems submitted by over 600 poets, and viewed by over 100,000 from over 125 countries during the Covid-19 pandemic, June 2020-June 2021). Thank you to all who took part in the Poetry and Covid project.

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