The Solitude of Social Distancing

It has been some week, hasn’t it?! When contemplating what to write for the Sunday Weekly poem, it felt like it was inevitable that the virus on everyone’s mind would have to be the subject.

But the week was more than just checking in and changing plans and washing hands like we are all Pontius Pilate. Friday was the 58th anniversary of my father’s death. Who, coincidentally, was born in Corona, Queens, New York, and was an toddler during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918.

I have been posting HumpDay Haiku for the past few weeks. I wrote a senryu on the aniversary of his passing.

I emailed a check in with all my siblings, all over age 65, all considered in the most vulnerable age group. One lives in the Philadelphia suburbs adjacent to the epicentre of the virus in Montgomery County. He is a doctor. And a medical director of a retirement village. Also, a medical professor. Two of his children are teachers . The other brother lives in New York City, which has a State of Emergency. The run on toilet paper meant that his usual grocery delivery service was unable to fulfill this week. My brother-in-law has a medical condition that means they go through a lot. So there was my brother rangeing around stores, most already plundered by people who probably will have a lifetime supply of toilet paper. He came back from that shopping trip on a subway half full. Likely his last trip on public transport for a while.

Thursday brought the announcement of school, university and creche closures in the Republic of Ireland. We live in a remote spot of rural Ireland which now has cancelled Mass and confirmations. During Lent! Funerals are for immediate family only. Given that funerals are such an important social institution in Ireland this is like the seventh impossibility conceived before breakfast.

I wonder if any of the kids will choose St. Corona as a confirmation name?

So for the week ending on the Ides of March, this

The Solitude of Social Distancing

You have nowhere to go.
You can speak remotely,
unless you have no home,
unless you are a refugee.

We can count the benefits,
create our silverlinings
playlist of blessings, until
the day we reckon the cost.

In our isolation
we can begin to contemplate
all our social obligations
in a world the size of a pea, not a plate.

We can pray to the patron saint
of pandemics, or, oddly,
St. Corona, who takes calls
regarding epidemics.

Copyright © Bee Smith 2020. All rights reserved.

In our solitude of social distancing we can do what our grandmothers did – spring clean. Invoke the goddess Hygeia, who volunteered her name to venerate the concept of hygiene.

Thanks for Photo by Joseph Gruenthal on Unsplash that is our featured image.

Writing Room

As many emerging poets gear up for writing a poem a day during NaPoWriMo/GloPoWriMo 2019 from April 1st, they may want to consider the space they occupy while writing. Virginia Woolf wrote passionately for the woman writer’s need for a room of her own. Which may sound like a recipe for writing as an occupation open only to the middle classes. However, solitude is a requirement. The lack of solitude is eloquently documented in Tillie Olsen’s “Silences,” and the deleterious effect it can on on writer productivity. A dedicated writing space can be hard to find if you share living quarters with many people, some of whom may be needy. Other’s may be time famished, hounded by the clamour of unpaid bills. Carving a place for creative work and thinking can be an act of creativity in and of itself.

This morning I was perusing a past Christmas present from my sister, a book titled “Carolina Writers At Home,” where writers living in North and South Carolina described their living and writing spaces. Cassandra King confesses that for years her writing room had to be an academic office with a door open for students to interrupt her at any time. Women often lack dedicated space for writing. They also often need to overcome the guilt for shutting out all other claims upon their attention. Women, especially those of certain past generations, were conditioned not to be selfish. The solitary nature of writing can look an awful like selfishness to people who do not appreciate the writing process.

Finding a place of solitude for regular writing can be problematic, especially since writing is not always remuneratively rewarding. That is why library closures are so heartbreaking. They are public spaces available for free, offering many of the resources writers need – a space for a laptop or use of a computer, free internet access, books for reference and refreshment, quiet. Libraries are the Democratic Republic of Books and writers are their most needy citizens. The Public Library has often been a haven for a nascent writer, myself included. (Thank you, Jean Walters!)

I started poetry practice this morning thinking that it would go one way. And then it took a sharp left turn. What emerged is a kind of ‘not a sonnet’. It has fourteen lines of ten syllables, but the rhyme scheme would not go to traditional order. So it’s a bit of a mish mash.

Writing Room

A place to look out from - also, within.
An old dog's breath is no interruption
as she gently snores and snuffles in sleep.
Otherwise, it's all silence that will keep
me undiverted, solitude replete.
That is necessary as a heart's beat.
Reading is "that selfish activity"
some would say, yet  reading is writing's key.
Find me a writer who does not worship
at the Temple of the Book, We are trollops
awaiting the penetrating insight,
the ecstatic divinely inspired light.
The writing room's holy sanctuary
is womb incubating life abstractly.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash