Yes, it takes our freedoms
because sometimes love does that:
for neighbour, for stranger,
for one who walks the same streets,
walks by your desk,
shops where you shop,
shares the same air.
Sometimes love lays down
rights - freedom of movement,
freedom of assembly,
freedom to smile and have others see -
because sometimes love judges
the more needful thing,
the truer way to be free.
Listen: the almond has something white to announce...
Tiny white heralds like angels burst
from coronawinter barren branch,
whispering, echoing, promising.
The time is slow
but gives glimpses.
The promise is faint
The season's sure
that waits in the whispers.
Truer than winter, truer than spring:
the eternal soon.
Check temperature before you leave;
Second guess that winter sniffle.
Hand-sanitiser with your markers,
Enter the ever-shifting classroom space.
Greet the students in masks.
Watch attendance, but don't be afraid.
Be calm. Reassure. You may mention the war
But know how to read the faces before you.
Keep life normal
When nothing is normal.
(Nothing will go to plan.)
Admit when you are not okay
But face the battle nonetheless.
Adapt and keep
The children safe.
Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
What the day brings is anyone's guess:
Students in masks, temperature checks at the front gate,
But what else? Prognoses and rules change by the minute;
What yesterday was harmless today may destroy.
Brave new day that has such features in it.
And so, the day lying open
Like a box, like a question,
I rejoice to see vermilion horizon
That smiles on the locked-down and the risen alike.
Being a neighbour is fraught at any time, but in a time when suburbs, states and families are being isolated from one another, it is even harder. As an Australian, being part of an island nation has much impact on how we view our own place in the world, and in this time of reminding myself continually that “no man is an island”, I have turned to this theme for the third and final installment in my video poem series, “And who is my neighbour?”
It’s been a delight to collaborate with Asher Graieg-Morrison who has supplied music for each of these films. Check out his rich and textured work here.
I wrote this poem yesterday for the third installment in a series of videos about being a neighbour. As I wrote, I was contemplating the prospect of my Melbourne suburb being the next to go into lockdown. Little did I know that today the whole city would be put back into lockdown. So I’m posting the poem today, as my city prepares for six more weeks inside. I look forward to sharing the film with you when it’s finished. Stay safe.
Curtains are borders between me and the street.
Next door is an unseen checkpoint away;
Other postcodes have police blockades
And I count the days until my home is the same.
By the bay we watch
Numbers, statistics, localities named.
Quiet suburb whispers its fears.
No scapegoat to name, only
The innate mistrust of the island state
That says, "I choose who comes here."
How did this come here?
What conspiracy brings us cheek to cheek
With the airborne griefs that plague all humankind,
save us? This happens
Only on TVs, never in 3d
Where it reaches out with power to grab.
And does it console to know that,
Somewhere, over oceans, others suffer
Far worse than us? Hardly.
I must view you up close to take comfort in your distance.
When I open curtains, my neighbour crosses street,
Crosses seas, to land at my doorstep, breathing,
"It's coming; you're next. The only place left
Is our father's house, and we must share."
I’m looking forward to sharing a number of videos of poems from my upcoming book Les Feuilles Mortes in the coming weeks, including several from my friends and readers across the world. Here is the first, a letter written in quarantine to my young children.
My twin boys turn one
within our garden's walled world,
learn to navigate
and negotiate space as
leaves fall in entrancing swirls.
This poem comes from my upcoming collection “Les Feuilles Mortes”. Stay tuned for more information about the launch, or contact me to join the mailing list.
Meanwhile, here’s a preview.