I’ve been writing,
reflecting in my journal
and thinking just what you asked:
Why does this
feel different from the
isolated state we live in?
The closest I’ve come to it is a
feeling that’s like those
wire-framed screen covers
people put on food in the summer to
keep the flies off.
Little Covie (may I call you that?)
doing what you’ve done since
the beginning — begetting and begetting
in biblical proportion, as though
there were no tomorrow, surviving
as we wear you to the mall.
I call Aminah, a refugee, to ask has she all
urgent instructions in Arabic? “This virus
is everywhere, in every language!”
She is aghast that I don’t see
and rushes off to What’s App
Mom and Dad in Baghdad.
and in these times,
I focus on the birds, the chirps, the helicopter thrum of wings
the gossip high in the bare branches
trees waiting for pips to become a blush of early green
at dawn they branch like the lobes of lungs
and crocus tips sharp-tongued make faces through the leaden leaves
and in these times,
each day is brighter, the tint in the sky is turning a more assured blue
and the moon still sasses me early in the morning
“what a beauty I am!” and then fades into breakfast
T’was the beginning of 2020, we thought we were all free
Christmas just ended, but there’s still time for a spree
It’s the new year, a new decade, forget the black past
but who knew COVID-19 would hit just as fast
It made its first appearance in Wuhan, China
then stealthily gained way to Europe and America
“Oh, it’s nothing, it’s just a common cold,
it targets not the young but the elderly old”
against my bones
Flock of geese
in my chest
Map of the world with its new
and jarring colors —
I avoid the mental math.
I wakened Tuesday as most everyone did, dreading what news the day might bring about COVID-19. What I didn’t expect was to find a small but definite lump in my breast as I casually brushed my hand over my left side. I froze and thought, “Really? Is this some kind of cosmic joke?” To make matters worse, I knew my family doctor was away until April with no backup.
Over the next two days I lived in various states of panic between periods of calm. I contacted my Ontario Breast Screening Program and booked an emergency mammogram for the next day. They needed a doctor’s requisition, so with the help of my daughter in Toronto I found a nearby walk-in clinic. Wednesday was a time of angst, with a mammogram and follow-up ultrasound. The technician said if there were any urgent news they would call the Walk-in clinic. Thursday afternoon I was wakened from a nap by the phone ringing, and I saw it was the clinic. The receptionist said she would put me on hold, as the doctor wanted to go over the results of my mammogram. I doubt I took more than a shallow breath or two during the agonizing wait for him to come on the line.
Born of my anxiety from the Covid-19 pandemic, I have been spending copious amounts of time during this isolation period creating abstract acrylic paintings.
After hearing from friends living in Italy who are still suffering from an extended period of intense fear, sadness, and extreme cabin fever, the many works of art that I’ve produced lately reflect my attempts at keeping my own dark thoughts, worries, and ruminations at bay.
I initially turned to painting when I first embarked on a career as a remote, freelance writer. Writing primarily for medical organizations, my work-related writing often involves issues surrounding deadly illnesses. Inevitably, this work can become depressing at times. When that happens, I look to painting as a means of escapism. Creating my own diversionary “change of scenery,” I often end up painting abstracts that unconsciously depict my environmental concerns. (Escaping all of my worries, has obviously proven to be impossible!)
I am afraid of everything: spiders, public speaking, my furnace exploding, living on the first floor of an apartment building, being late, sleeping, needles, walking home alone at night, job interviews, first dates, fifth dates, relationships, choking, asking other people for help, using a gas stove, driving, flying, breaking a bone.
I have struggled with fear and anxiety all my life. Two feelings that often go hand in hand and are persistent and continual, the way a mosquito zings around your bedroom in the dark, always there, but never able to be caught and released out your window or smacked down with an unsuspecting piece of mail. I would feel anxious about work, so began to fear what would happen when I stepped through the doors of my office. Or worse, what could happen on my way there, before I’d even set foot in the building. Then suddenly my chest would be constricted, my heart would be in my throat and I’d be googling symptoms of panic attacks or heart attacks or some kind of attack that would explain the feelings I was experiencing. Or, I’d be afraid of the mouse I saw peeking out from behind my bookshelf, so I’d become anxious about how I wouldn’t be able to sleep knowing it was still in my apartment. Then I wouldn’t turn the lights off at ten or eleven or two a.m. and suddenly it was five months later and I’d still never flicked off that switch.
My car sits idle in the driveway of my parents’ house, spring pollen coating it undisturbed. I have not left for more than a bike ride since March ground to a halt, and I’m one of the lucky ones. Lucky that I’m not required to risk my life at work. Lucky that losing my part-time job doesn’t land me on the streets, since my parents can support me temporarily. Strangely, lucky that an injury ended my short career as a touring performer months ago, so that I’d already retreated home to regroup before this crisis began. Lucky that no one I know personally has yet caught the virus.
The school, emptied
goes silently blind, each window dark
under clouds, an unseeing eye
in the yard, hard brown bricks
to the bolts
of a basketball hoop
no bells ring, no children cascade
out the doors, noisy, half-fledged
running to fly, flapping
boots coats hats mitts