The Land of Before

I am reposting this blog post from a year ago. Then we were just beginning to get to grips with the impending pandemic. Mostly, we were in denial that it was going to be all that bad. The title of the post seems, in hindsight, oddly prescient. Early on we talked about the New Normal and also queried “When will we get back to normal?

But the rules for normal got completely re-written last year. Now we probably all have a little fashion wardrobe of face coverings. Even when we finally get the vaccination we are likely to be wearing face masks for some time into 2022.

I thought revisiting that old world might be useful and instructive for reflection on how much as changed in one year.

Yesterday the wind blew and rain poured down. It looked like it was going to be yet another weekend of stormy weather. But lo! There is some sunshine and the clouds there are not too fearsome. So I am going to keep the Sunday Weekly poem post short. Maybe a bit bittersweet. Because it is Potato Day at the Organic Centre and we need to get there early to have the most choice from the many seed varieties that will be on sale. Along with garlic. Which has great medicinal value for those of you in a panic over the Covid-19 virus. Grow your own. Get fresh air. Wash your hands. And be well!

The Sunday poem this week was prompted by a quotation in a Guardian Review article last week. I often don’t get to the Review section until well after Saturday. I am particularly fond of the image I have chosen for this week’s post. I found it a few weeks ago and though I didn’t feel it fit the post that week, I stockpiled the Unsplash image by Donald Gianatti.

As you grow older, you become an immigrant from a vanished country. 
-Rebecca Solnit
An immigrant from the Land of Before the present,
tense, softens with nostalgia for the past.
To grow old is to have a longer view
where the youngsters can never visit.
Remnants exist, like celluloid flicker, or
bits of vintage costume taken off the rack
to dress up your granddaughter.
But it’s never ever really true.
The young are exiled from Before, where their mothers
led secret lives They cannot be spies parachuted in
to infiltrate, or fillet lies, deputise for the
post-mortem’s pathologist. The juice is gone.
Before is a ghost dance. It has a veil draped
over its consequence. It once had
importance. It had its loves and losses,
its feuds and fatalities all caught
in freeze frame.   Before has no blood
left to shed today. It is where all your old
imaginary friends have gone to play.
Some better version of one’s self has been left
behind the lines. It rests in some foreign country’s trench.
One can never visit it again. It’s buried along with
your mother and the secret lives of many others.
Copyright © Bee Smith 2020. All rights reserved.

3 thoughts on “The Land of Before

  1. Reblogged this on Sojourning Smith and commented:

    There is no freshly pressed Sunday Weekly poem this week. I did write, but I am not feeling the strong pull to post just at the minute. This Sunday weekly poem from the beginning of March is weirdly prescient in that our world will be a Before and an After Covid-19. Also, we had a bit of a kitchen sink drama in the past 48 hours that has eaten up a lot of time and energy. Despite a good ten hour sleep last night I feel weary. I need to cut myself some slack from routine. Routine is good for structuring one’s day and week, whether you live in lockdown or the times past. We have two more weeks before Ireland will gradually loosen lockdown. It will begin a three month process of gradually re-opening the country, measuring the curve and keeping it flat along the way.

    In the meantime, I need some writing cocooning time. I need to re-think this blog. I have re-writes and a complete re-visioning of the manuscript I have been working on for the past nine months. Some things are eternal, but do they reflect the impermanance that is our current condition?

    One thing this lockdown has done is ask us to address what is essential to our lives. Also, how to negotiate the non-essentials that really feel quintessential for a life well lived. Poetry is not essential work in this pandemic. Yet, poetry writing may just be essential for mental health under lockdown. Along with santizer, hearty hand cream and disposable gloves.


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