Welcome along to another poetry blog. I won’t bang on too long about this one, because I’ve blogged a few times recently about the fact that we’ve been isolating for ten days after my son and wife tested positive for Covid-19. And this is where these poems have come from. Simple enough.
What’s safe to say though is that this post is very much a first for me. This post contains three poems, something that I’ve never done before in a single blog. I had intended to try and write a poem a day for the time that we were isolating, but quickly realised that what I’d end up with was probably two poems that I liked and 8 absolute duffers.
I ended up writing three poems, all connected to our isolation period. My first one came about for a combination of reasons. Firstly, I was feeling quite shocked about the two positive tests that had happened in our house and while spending the first couple of days largely on my own, had a lot of time to think. Secondly, the Facebook group I formed last April called Lockdown Literature, was somewhere where I hadn’t posted anything in a long time, so when I wrote the first poem quite quickly as a one draft piece, I wanted to post it there as a way of informing friends of what was going on. Only when I wrote the second one did I have the idea for the blog. The third one? Well, that was the result of a head full of ideas and the need for one more poem to complete the hat-trick!
Here’s the first poem, written shortly after we’d found out about the two positive tests.
Ten Days We've done this so many times before that I perform a cartoonish double take as those two lines appear where there should be one. And although one is barely there, it's still a second stripe, an alarm that stops rather than starts. A moment stretches out in front of me as I struggle to react, to comprehend, before the adult in me reaches up, takes over and my mind begins to crunch reluctantly through the gears that will help me protect you. More tests are booked, the coming days organised, rest is ordered, distance kept. Ten days to get through. Ten days to check on you both as you sleep. Ten days to worry on the inside, but paint a calm picture on the out.
The second poem is about watching my wife through our dining room window as she sat outside in the fresh air and what we laughingly refer to as sun in West Yorkshire at this time of year. It was a few days into our period of isolation and a relief to see that she had the energy to go out, a relief to see that she was smiling once more. It had only been a matter of days that she’d been ill for and it would last a short while longer, but given the death toll and the horror stories that we’ve seen and heard throughout the pandemic, it was a lovely moment.
Fresh Air It's funny how, despite the myriad cures and treatments prescribed by those who know best, we still insist that fresh air is the cure for all that ails. I watch you both, furtively through the window, part concern, part inquisitive and partly just because it makes me smile. Despite the late afternoon sun dappling the table you're wrapped up for winter, for a moment comical, with your hood up. But then your vulnerability returns in sharp focus and I'm stopped in my tracks. Fresh air won't loosen this deadly grip, won't work any kind of magic. And so, I monitor, shoulder the burden, cook beige teas and hoover to stay busy, keep my mind from wandering too far down darkened streets, watching from a window as you shiver but smile.
My final isolation poem is one that I fear may come across as pretentious. That’s definitely not the intention though. It was born out of the fact that we’ve had to work hard to avoid each other over the last ten or 12 days. There have been lots of moments where we pause and indicate ‘after you’ or just make eye contact in order to tell the other person which direction we’re headed. It’s been a kind of family friendly isolation and it just occurred to me that it’s been a bit like one long dance. This has mainly involved myself and my wife and it’s been never more apparent than last thing at night when we clean our teeth. We have a small bathroom and so have had to move around carefully in order to keep a safe distance from each other – a kind of cross between an amateur ballet and something out of a fight scene from The Matrix. I suppose we could have just brushed our teeth at different times, but then I couldn’t have written my pretentious poem. Anyway, here it is.
An Isolation Ballet Little do we know it, but we've performed some kind of ballet this last week. Two parts grace, one part paranoia, several parts a combination of fatigue and sleepwalking. We've picked a path around each room and each other carefully, reluctantly, traversed two metres apart performing the every day routines and collapsed in synergy, separately at the end of each day. The discipline has been exhausting as we plie and pirouette our way through each hour of a ten day performance of avoidance in search of some kind of security on our sanitised stage. There are strange frozen moments, essential for safety, adding to the drama and prompting the odd grin or burst of laughter at the sheer ridiculousness of it all. Sometimes we don't even need to look as we move, cautiously yet gracefully navigating space, just sensing the other and squeezing ourselves into a safe space. This is not truly a ballet, a thing of beauty, but what we deem necessary, vital as we dance apart, to stay together, to remain safe.
So there you have it. The end to a difficult period of time in our house, although I think in terms of actual health it’ll take weeks, perhaps even months to adjust properly. The positive tests came at a time when I thought the threat had probably passed. I wasn’t ready for them. Not that I think I ever would have been, but at least when we were in the eye of the storm of Covid, say in the period between May last year and January of this, I had at least primed myself to expect the worst. Lately, as things have returned to being quite close to some sort of normality again, I had allowed myself the luxury of thinking that perhaps we’d got away with it. And of course we hadn’t.
I hope the poems haven’t seemed too indulgent or exploitative of the people involved or the situation. I think I just had to communicate what was going on somehow and writing it down is good when you’re being kept away from everyone else.
I hope you enjoyed what you’ve read. As ever, feel free to let me know what you thought in the comments. Thanks for reading.