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Poems are going viral in the wake of the coronavirus. One, Kitty O’Meara’s “And People Stayed Home”, views quarantine as a needed respite for self and world.
Stay home and we can heal. The Earth can heal too, the poet reminds us.
When I read her words, I feel a shiver of solace. Beautiful and true! We all need to slow down, nest, remember what’s important. Pollution needs to drop. Consumption needs a reset.
Then another voice chimes in. What about people who can’t shelter in place? What if you’re homeless, a refugee, a child or spouse in an abusive household? Where do you go if home is chaotic or violent or non-existent?
For our bodies and minds to heal, we need peace, a safe haven. For some of us, this refuge is hard to find. I’ve always been lucky to have a home, but since my Mom died in 2010, I’ve felt rootless, and have moved continuously every year since. My journeys have strengthened me, connecting me with many people and stories.
Yet, I wonder: will I ever feel at home in this world? Is there a place for people like me, sensitive, aware of the Earth’s vibration, the heart’s dis-ease?
For unto Three have I raised my hands, O Lord, and in Thee have I found sheltering support, O Lord, and unto Thee have I resigned myself, O Lord, and upon Thee have I placed my whole reliance, O Lord, and by Thee am I strengthened, O Lord. – The Bab, Selections from the Writings of the Bab
I look up from my screen. The sun sets across the Tennessee River, and I am in a house of peace. During this quarantine, my friend Barbara has opened her beautiful guest suite to me, a refuge which looks onto a garden and the river beyond.
Yet driving back to my noisy apartment the other night, I saw a man, dragging a cardboard box along the side of the road in the pouring rain. Was that his refuge?
With few answers and much confusion, I offer you this poem. It came to me after a sleepless night, and allowed me to pour my questions and worries into words. My hope for us all once the quarantine ends? True shelter in the knowledge of who we are, how we are connected, and why we are living in such interesting times.
My house is not a peaceful one.
Wild parties and endless construction
echo through the floor,
and I flee, again and again,
Now I – like you –
am grounded and must stay home
though my skin vibrates
with the scream of sirens
and the creak of neighbors
sleepless, like me, and afraid.
How are you feeling? Tell me.
I think of my students,
who escape the fluorescent pulse
of their cells by nesting
under state-issued blankets
or in the grace of a power outage –
a momentary breath
Sleepless, I worry for midnight workers
who cannot work
and children whose life is interrupted
by the strangle of unseen threats.
And we wonder at eating disorders
Brother, how do you shelter
in places where war has uprooted you
again and again, where no home
of peace exists to welcome you in
and heal the griefs lodged
to your bones, your soul?
I think of you, your families,
and pray for your safekeeping.
Sisters, thank you for making
a hundred makeshift shelters for me,
in the light of your eyes,
and in your downstairs guest room
where doors open to a pale blue garden
and a river of blood-red sky.
I could not have survived
this off-kilter world without you.
And Mother, if you can see us here,
from worlds beyond,
can you swoop down and give shelter
when we wake, lonesome and restless at 3 am?
Sing to us. We need your balm
I feel with you: young ones without a partner,
spouses who’ve lost your mates,
doctors and nursing staff so overwhelmed
by a sickness that touches us all –
and the healers who’ve arisen from the ranks –
I feel with you and wonder
how to be helpful at a time like this,
flow in equal measure
and we must stay well
& alive enough to give,
making love though our skin
is on fire
and our life is on hold
and our shelter
blue and vast