Welcome to the final 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 poets Jim Carruth, Vicki Husband and Ross Wilson, all of whom work for the NHS.
For my blog I was keen to have a specific focus on the NHS and also capture the experiences of two other poets who work in the NHS – Vicki Husband and Ross Wilson. We have agreed that any fee for this to go to appropriate NHS charities.
I am one of three members of our household who work in the NHS – I have been supporting staff in the newest health board Public Health Scotland set up seven weeks ago and immediately at the heart of the NHS response to the crisis. My wife is still visiting new babies in the community and my daughter, who is an engineer working with wheelchairs, has been part of production line creating disposable face visors for front line staff. Our oldest son who lives in a nearby village is a postman.
And yet no matter how tired we are at the end of very long days there are still words – few but important words to be shared as we come together or not. Words that capture the day that’s been, words that provide comfort, words that offer a bridge to the day to come. Words are important but the actions of key workers put them in the shade. Here are the words of a shepherd with a flock on the moor.
there is time enough
there is time enough
for the beauty of snow on the moor,
where fence stabs become no more
than a trail of wooden stubs, wires
lost in the hush of heavy fall, where
hares, hawk-wary, justify their coat
hunched rowans shiver in hollows
beside burns frozen in the moment
and everywhere is dazzle and light
when the counting is done
I have been locked down with a copy of Inger Christensen’s Alphabet from the SPL:
doves exist, dreamers, and dolls
I live in a second floor flat within touching distance of sycamore and lime, leaves unfurled as the days went by, now we’re in the canopy.
killers exist, and doves, and doves
I am within walking/running distance of a trilogy of parks: Maxwell, Pollok, Bellahouston. I miss the hills, but green sustains me.
haze, dioxin, and days; days/ exist
I work in an NHS community rehabilitation team, stresses have lessened as we’ve gained PPE, and new routines. We talk of balancing risk: is it more or less harmful to this patient if I visit them? The fallout has not reached us yet, as investigations, surgery & treatments are postponed and people delay seeking help; the effects will be felt for years to come.
days and death; and poems / exist
A while ago I started to write about my work, about health and the city. I’m grateful to have a project, a distraction, a focus.
poems, days, death
I work as an auxiliary nurse in ICU. The weeks anticipating the pandemic felt like sitting in a trench waiting on an enemy advancing. An environment set up to be calm suddenly felt chaotic as we prepared ourselves for the first wave of patients, with new stock and equipment arriving all the time. By the end of my first three twelve-hour nightshifts in a mask my nose felt like it did after a fight when I boxed in my youth. I remember waking at 3am one morning after a dayshift and, half-asleep, mistaking my bookshelves for the racks of PPE at work. For a moment I thought I had to wear a mask to leave my bedroom! I’m glad to say things have settled somewhat. My colleagues and I have, on the whole, adapted to a new reality.
My partner, Amanda, is also a key worker. As she is also diabetic she must self-isolate and work from home so we must juggle work with caring for our two-and-a-half year old daughter, Rosie. We are very fortunate in that we have a front and back garden and that our house overlooks miles of countryside.
On a recent walk Rosie noticed litter and I recycled it into a story about the Litter-a-chewer, a wee creature with a book-shaped face and paper-like teeth, who eats up the rubbish people discard and spreads manure like seeds for wisdom to grow. The Litter-a-chewer is great at social distancing; it’s too wise to get close to ‘hugegerms,’ as it calls humans.
What time and energy I have for writing has been taken up with a few rough drafts of what might make up a sequence and looking over the text and cover of a pamphlet due to be published this month by Tapsalteerie; Letters to Rosie, a celebration of the first two years of my baby daughter.