My country is a woman / asked what she was wearing when they invaded her land / like maybe she’d had one drink too many / stayed one hour too long / wore her skirt one inch too high / like maybe she should have just said no / like maybe it wasn’t forced, but invited / like all women, silenced / trauma held in cracked earth / stories birthed / from a landscape of scars / rust-red mud-red blood-red ink / stained upon the heart of her ancestors / a past not forgotten / always carried / never healed.
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