One Year On: N M Browne
It is a year since I had Covid and this time last year I wrote this:
'I suppose I should write something funny about working in isolation. To be honest I have been ill for most of it so far – not desperately-not-breathing ill, more fall- asleep-in-the-afternoon- blancmange- brain kind of ill, which has been almost restful.'
A couple of days later I was able to go out and wrote this:
After a fortnight of quarantine
I wake to a different world
the air is clean and no planes plough their
white furrow across the blue sky.
I buy a coffee ( takeaway) and it tastes like
my first, a sweet butter- fest of croissant
is the best I ever had.
I say hello to everyone I meet,
‘It’s still London’ my daughter says
as though I’ve moved from sick bed to dotage
but this is not the London that I know.
Along the silent tow path people smile
I wave at a toddler on Richmond Green
her startled mother laughs surprise and beams.
Everything is growing wildly, even death,
buds shooting everywhere, we’re watching in real time
little else to do: a miracle, a stealthy
constancy of change in days otherwise the same.
Plum tree blossom’s been and gone, the magnolia’s
done, there are purple flowers on the rosemary -
so Ophelia! bloom of red camellia
reminds me of consumption, the age of plague, we
don’t talk about the rising numbers in the morgues
of exponential growth rates, squashing curves,
but focus on our flat, green patch of grass, the broad
beans we have planted, and the singing of the birds.
Dread settles like the dust indoors and stays
Indolence and entropy: such strange days.
I include these poems not because they are good – they are terrible - but because they remind me vividly of this time last year. So much has changed: the huge number of deaths, Trump was replaced by Biden, we properly left the EU, Starmer replaced Corbyn, the Black lives Matter campaign gained traction, and so much else. Yet, in my personal bubble, last year seems to be a haze. I had mild covid symptoms for about six months and I think I lived the year ever so slightly out of focus.
I wasn’t idle. I’ve been creative. I wrote a lot of poetry, some of it was published. I revised the book that has just come out. I drank wine in the garden, zoomed and Teamed, walked endlessly through Richmond Park. But so much of it felt like it happened to someone else: a long fever dream. Other days I forget that we’ve ever lived any other way. I recoil when people hug in films, share food, drink from the same glass.
Today the blossom is extravagant again, the sky, blue. I am reminded of that first walk with my daughter after covid. So much is the same and yet everything is so different.