A short haiku poem today. I hadn’t intended for all my poems to be about covid-19 but this one is a reflection on my yesterday. Some days are tougher than others. We carry on.
Ebb: To move away from the land
Flow: To move back towards it
The grapevine releases its leaves: this too shall pass.
Tell me of the ways grief will release from this body.
How it will collect wherever the leaves go in winter.
How the rains will come and wash this sorrow away
the same way floods came but not before the country
first burned. Dead wood piled upon dead wood.
Trauma upon trauma. Cleaning the wounds while
reopening the scars. Tell me of the ways a river
surrenders to the ebb and flow of the ocean.
How I too will learn to stop running and move back
towards this land that is mine.
1. Something no longer measured in length, but time.
(it has been 53 days since I last pressed my lips against your neck and breathed in the warmth of you)
(it has been 53 days since I last breathed)
2. The space required between one another to keep safe.
(open highways give way to closed borders and your skin is cold to the touch behind this glass screen)
3. A word used to describe feelings of loneliness during times of indefinite isolation.
(I no longer know how to define my life other than with you or not with you)
4. A degree of separation unable to be overcome at this time.
(and still the planes are grounded and I am alone at an airport with nothing but a handful of credits and you are not here, you are not here, you are not here)
~ Kathy Parker
If you’ve followed along here for the last couple of years you’d have seen the #poemadayfeb project I do each February where I embark on writing a poem every day using prompts.
For many reasons, this didn’t happen this year. However, as I sat at my desk yet again this morning feeling unfocused, distracted, anxious and unable to find any creativity in me whatsoever, I realised I needed something that would help bring me back to some creativity, even just one small thing every day.
In a lightbulb moment, I messaged the wonderful Laura Greaves, co-collaborator of #poemadayfeb, and put the idea out there that we jump onboard this project in April instead as a way of drawing out some creativity and giving ourselves a project to focus on at this time.
So, let me introduce #coronapoetry! Starting Wednesday April 1st we’ll be back writing a poem a day and would LOVE for you to join us. As a parent with children at home, I’m also getting them onboard with writing a poem/short story using the prompts each day too as part of their learning at home during this time.
All you need to do to join in is write a poem each day using the prompts below, which you can either simply use for your own inspiration at home, or publish and share on Instagram or Facebook using the hashtag #coronoapoetry. Your poem can be however long or short you like, in whatever style you like, and if you’re not a poet, no worries – write a story, draw a picture, paint, take a photo, whatever inspires you and helps you focus and find some creativity at this time.
Can’t wait to get this started, and look forward to having you along x
Amidst both the internal and external chaos of this time, I continue to try and find moments where I can be still and quiet and lean into my emotions as I process all that is happening.
It’s difficult to grasp how I’m feeling; my emotions are so fast-moving I can barely keep up. I’ve been too unanchored to write for weeks now, constantly dragged back into news cycles and social media feeds and the conflicting opinion of a thousand so-called experts.
As I sit today and take a moment to see where I’m at, I realise of all the emotions, the predominant one I find myself stuck in, is fear.
I have always had the sense of being a small girl in a big and terrifying world. This is often the outcome of childhood trauma and abuse; that as children we weren’t protected from harm by those we trusted to keep us safe. We felt so very small in a world we identified as frightening, dangerous and unsafe. We learned no one is there to protect us so we must protect ourselves.
From this we become adults who are excessively independent, autonomous; often detached. We feign toughness on the outside while quietly living in a state of fear and anxiety on the inside, afraid at any moment the world is going to close in on us. Always guarded and grabbing at some semblance of control all the while knowing control is nothing more than an illusion we pretend will keep us safe even as we know it won’t.
As we journey through these uncertain times I find the biggest battle I face each day is the one in my own mind; to somehow overcome the fear that grips my chest so tight I have to remember to breathe. It is so easy for this fear to collapse into despair; from there, hopelessness.
I constantly have to navigate the line between being aware of what’s happening in the world without becoming afraid. To mindfully choose to not live in the hypothetical future but stay in the present moment.
It isn’t about pretending the fear doesn’t exist or using toxic positivity as a way of minimising it. Fear is a normal human response to times of global crisis and upheaval, and serves its purpose. It’s understandable and expected to feel fear during these times and it’s good for us to acknowledge that we are afraid.
However, remaining in fear does not serve us. As much as it’s important to lean into it, so is the importance of finding a way to release it.
The only way I have found to do this is to shift my focus. I cannot control or change the external circumstances. The only thing I can control and change is my focus, and my own response to the world at this time. For me, this is finding moments of still and quiet, and focusing on the present.
In this moment, I am safe.
In this moment, I am healthy.
In this moment, I have all I need.
In this moment, I am okay.
It is connecting to my breath once more. It is gentle movement. It is meditation and prayer. It is leaning upon my faith. It is accepting I cannot control any of this, but can only trust in the collective goodness of our humanity; that we will emerge on the other side of this stronger, yet gentler somehow.
It is time away from news and social media, and more time in relationship with loved ones, both in real life and online. It is sitting outside watching the leaves change colour, being reminded everything has a season and this too shall pass. It is learning how to choose joy and peace even when our external circumstances would dictate otherwise.
It’s okay to be afraid. These times are hard, and we are exhausted. But living in a constant state of fear is more exhausting.
Allow yourself to acknowledge the fear; to lean into it, become familiar with it, feel it, recognise it for what it is. Some days it will be an underlying awareness. Some days it will be a paralysing tsunami.
Allow it to come, and then let it go again. Shift your focus to the present moment where right now, you’re okay. This burden of fear is not yours to carry. Lay it down, and walk lighter.
We’ve got this.
*NEW SPOKEN WORD POEM*
I want to pay tribute to this quote from Elizabeth Strout, whose words were the inspiration and cornerstone of this poem: “But I think I know so well the pain we children clutch to our chests, how it lasts our whole lifetime, with longings so large you can’t even weep. We hold it tight, we do, with each seizure of the beating heart: This is mine, this is mine, this is mine.”
“It does not matter if the ticking inside is a clock, or a heart, or a bomb; it only matters that we are seen to be standing even when we are anything but whole.”
New spoken word poem <3
I have found truth lies in the spaces between the words, the cracks in the pavements we tiptoe over as if we are afraid of seven years bad luck, afraid to break our mother’s back
afraid of what honesty will do, or undo, in the lives we have so carefully swathed
with our own language so fluent in things of the weather.
Unspoken words get caught in our throat; we choke on their sharp edges
and spit them back onto our plates and instead satiate our fear of the silence with words
soaked in honey that are swallowed with ease; malnourishing ourselves
with empty calories and all the while wondering why we never feel complete.
I wonder if this is why some of us like to chew on metaphors; here we can taste truth
without saying truth, here we can walk on the cracks without falling through and I think
that’s the only way some of us will ever feel safe. Maybe that’s all our lives really are anyway; a metaphor, an analogy, a parable.
Maybe none of this is real, maybe we are all just the same stories spoken to new generations. Maybe we are nothing more than a social experiment, Big Brother,
watched and scored and already lost to government control and maybe freedom
is nothing more than illusion and the last person standing, wins.
Maybe you no longer love me.
Maybe we have come too unstuck to hold together anymore.
I look at you and want to speak these things out loud, I want to tell you
how I think I’m sinking into the deepest part of myself and can’t find the way out.
But your eyes are fixed on the afternoon sun as it comes through the window
that faces west towards the ocean so I watch fallen leaves scatter at the kiss of the wind
and hear the sound of the currawong calling in the distance. You note the shifting light; perhaps the change of season is close, you wonder, and I reply, perhaps it is.
It’s been a tough week.
My anxiety levels have been high; even when I think I’m doing okay there is still a constant, underlying sense of unease and unrest. I’ve not slept much. It’s difficult not to despair and wonder what the point of anything is right now anyway. As a freelancer it’s hard to find commissioned work at this time with COVID-19 dominating the media, as a performance poet it’s hard to find the motivation to write when all my upcoming features will likely be cancelled anyway.
It’s hard not to worry, to panic, to try and grasp control of anything we can at this time. It’s hard to focus, to concentrate, to not check news updates and social media a thousand times a day no matter how unhelpful it is for our mental health.
Most of all, it’s hard to find hope.
We’re all in survival mode. It’s exhausting. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. We don’t know when this will end. We don’t know how to define our normal anymore. Everything is so uncertain.
But I went for a walk on the beach today. The wind was fierce, the ocean stirred up. I remembered today is the Autumnal Equinox and that an old farmer once told me about the equinox winds that blow every year in March and September; the sending out of one season, the ushering in of another.
It reminded me that all things are made new; that this is how the universe has always worked. That for new life to be born there must always be death; the dropping of leaves, the exploding of stars, the falling of blossom to make way for fruit, the fading of night before a new day can begin.
Suffering has always been part of the narrative. There is much we don’t understand. But we are part of something so much bigger than we can see. It’s easy to feel small, and lost, and alone, and afraid right now. We can’t see the bigger picture. But we can keep showing up in love, and hope, and kindness anyway knowing every second, every breath, is grace.
Knowing sometimes we have to endure the suffering to witness the transformation.