I wrote this one lockdown morning, a few weeks ago in the early hours. I couldn’t sleep, as has been the case all too often lately. I felt creative – what had kept me awake was that phrase, ‘a new normal’ that we’ve all been trying to get used to lately. I had a few lines swimming round in my head and decided to get up and try and write something. It’s no understatement to say that COVID-19 and lockdown/quarantine has changed everybody’s lives immeasurably. One thing that it has done for me is boost my creativity and on this particular early morning, that feeling of having to write something, combined with fear and uncertainty had me scribbling for a good hour. Amongst other things this poem was the result.
A New Normal
And from our fearful hibernation a new normal emerges.
Where faded lines on the ground tell us where to stand and judgemental frowns tell us how to do it.
Elsewhere, no lines are drawn in the sand and crowds flock like fearless pilgrims to beaches and beauty spots.
No one can count to six anymore.
Those we have lost, it seems, are easily forgotten for a burger or an ice cream.
You paid your dues in Thursday night applause, after all. This is the least you should expect.
Meanwhile, some still huddle together, scarred by the past and frightened of this new way of life, feeling our way back tentatively, occasionally forgetting ourselves at the sight of a friendly face, then paranoid that we stood too close.
Our children leave us but remain in bubbles for safety.
Life has to move on, yet we wish to stay this way forever. Confused like a swirl of spinning leaves, we have no answer.
We are passengers, resisting yet blown along all the same. Powerless. Frightened of a silent, faceless foe.
We frown at those who attempt to live again, but know we must submit ourselves back to the crowd sometime.
We don’t know when.
It is a devilish inevitability that awaits us. And we know we cannot shake its hand and be done.
We scold ourselves for feeling afraid, for not daring.
Life, it seems might simply never be the same again.
However brave, wherever you stand in that crowd, the back of your mind will always echo with the voice that warns against the new normal.
I’m not returning to work yet, but have many friends who are. The world scares me a bit at the minute. I keep hearing that phrase ‘new normal’ but I’m yet to discover mine because I’m so isolated. That made me write the poem.
It’s amazed me watching some people, who rather than adapt, seem to think that they’ve been locked down enough and that somehow time has healed things. That’s there in the line about ‘pilgrims’ and the line about ‘Thursday night applause’ refers to the Clap for Carers campaign in the UK, where people have stood outside their homes every Thursday night to applaud and acknowledge the work of our NHS. I think it’s a brilliant gesture, but have always wondered if some see it as some kind of badge of honour that allows them to take the moral high ground and then and go and do whatever they want. The fact that ‘no one can count to six anymore’ references the government ruling that people could gather in groups of six when certain lockdown rules were relaxed and many people seemed to just believe that what they actually meant was groups of over six or just multiples of six!
The line about feeling paranoid was just me referencing the fact that when I have bumped into people on our lovely government sanctioned walks, I always leave the situation wondering if I’d dropped my guard and mistakenly stood too close. I’m not the most tactile person, but nor am I a natural at standing two metres away from people I’m talking to!
The final verse was meant to represent the uncertainty of some people. I know in our house, we’d rather stay locked down, while understanding that this all has to stop somewhere and that things are undoubtedly a lot safer now.
Anyway, I hope you like the poem. It was an attempt to get out some of the frustration and fear that I have felt over these last couple of months and also at the situation that we find ourselves in now amidst the prospect of the ‘new normal’.
Feel free to leave comments – it’s always interesting to hear what people think of something so personal.