Welcome to the latest weekly installment of our blogs written by poets about what they have been doing since the lockdown began. We’re calling it From the Front Lines: with the public being urged to stay at home to hinder the progress of Covid-19, it often feels as if our front door is the front line. Today, we hear from poet Raman Mundair.
I’m on Day 67 of self-isolation. Week one began with an ambient anxiety that gradually built into a shrill white noise. I confess I am feeling this whole situation viscerally. This isn’t an irrational response, this is a gut-wrenching reflex to the fact that I know people who have died from this disease. There is no avoiding the reality that this virus disproportionately affects people of colour – we have become cannon fodder for these dystopian times. We have been proffered up as an acceptable loss. I have an auto-immune condition that makes me vulnerable to Covid-19 amongst other things and this pandemic feels very personal to me. This virus is a Medusa, we cannot stare it in the eye and it feels ever present over my shoulder.
Ordinarily I enjoy solitude. I have chosen to go on silent, hermetic retreats for weeks at a time but these strange days are not solitude. This is an imposed isolation and the difference between the two feel very stark. Whereas solitude expands my headspace, isolation diminishes it. This is further eroded by parenthood. Lockdown life with a handful of children under seven is a very specific experience, frequently claustrophobic and chaotic, as well as centring.
The nature of time has changed, it feels more artificial. Seconds, minutes, hours, days run into one another, formless until we give them meaning. I feel as if I am in mourning. Nearly 40,000 deaths in the UK, mostly preventable and a dislocated grief is the closest emotion I feel that can hold the enormity of the situation. I consider what is missing from my current life that could help anchor this big feel: congregation, close communication and connection, preferably face to face, hand in hand – touching. I try to imagine its return. Will I be able to trust it?
I love to dance, up on the dance floor huddled with close friends, lovers and strangers – I wonder when that rhythmic intimacy might be possible again or the simple act of breaking bread in the company of others in a cafe or marching in protest on the streets. I feel quietened, words feel inadequate and music too loud. I want to gesture my thoughts subtly, a slight choreography of signs and small movements, an attempt to empty the words and thoughts that catch in my throat and mind.
The existential marries seamlessly with tedium, outside my window crows caw, caw, caw –
I am sure they are trying to tell me something. Their ancient eyes have seen this all before. Bold black wings circle in the sky, iridescent underwings sheening. I gaze up at them and listen carefully, open to their wisdom.
In Between Days
In between the days
I am waiting
for the rain to stop,
the fruit in my kitchen ripens,
then rots. While the clothes in my wardrobe
wait for me to lose
weight, the novel
inside me waits, while I
try to unblock
my fear. My womb
waits to be filled.
My insomniac self waits
for sleep to come.
In between days
planes take off;
summer comes and fades.
From ‘Lovers, Liars, Conjurers and Thieves,’ Peepal Tree Press
Raman Mundair is an Indian-born, queer, disabled, writer, artist and activist based in Shetland and Glasgow. She is the award-winning author of Lovers, Liars, Conjurers and Thieves, A Choreographer’s Cartography, The Algebra of Freedom (a play) and is the editor of Incoming: Some Shetland Voices. Her work is socially and politically observant, bold, mischievous, cutting edge and potent with poetic imagery and integrity. She has published poetry, fiction, drama and non-fiction and has performed and exhibited her artwork around the world from Aberdeen to Zimbabwe. She presents the Intersectional Voices (IV) podcast and is the founder of EKTA – a Facebook intersectional feminist space.