Thursday, May 21, 2020

Poem During the Plague: Poem 47

Abigail Bottome recently moved to Plymouth, Massachusetts where she continues to write and spend time observing the natural world. Her PhD dissertation, Walking in Great Marsh, explored the changes to the environment along the Massachusetts coast after the arrival of European settlers. Her focus has shifted to the southeastern coast where the Pilgrims settled on land where the Wampanoags lived for generations. This new environment provides rich opportunities for learning, reflection, and writing. Her poems have appeared in Larcom Review, Ibbetson Street, and Endicott Review among others. A staged reading of her play, Secrets, was presented at The Actor’s Studio of Newburyport under the direction of Marc Clopton. Her novel, Maggie’s Journal, remains unpublished.

What I am learning about grief
(with acknowledgement to NPR for the prompt)

What I am learning about grief
I am learned in grief
Know its contours
depths and lows.
Long ago I donned that garment,
It became part of my wardrobe
Gentle and familiar with time.
This new lesson in grief
contains sharp edges
aspects so scary I shrink.
I cannot trust joy
nor happiness
The road ahead remains dark.

What I am learning about grief
The water in the harbor still charged with sunlight
A dance of sparkling glitter
The sky above still cerulean or cobalt or turquoise.
Dogs still sniff at the brown grass
Runners still run and walkers still walk.

What I am learning about grief
Turning the pages of the magazine
Images of health workers in New York City
Eyes ablaze with worry
Above masked faces
Images from a horror movie
Or Africa
Not here in the greatest country on earth.
So some thought
Though many knew better.

What I am learning about grief
Empty theatre stages, art exhibits, no opera.
What happens to artists
Who live daily through their gifts?
Performance by performance
No audience, no ticket sales, no money.
They rise above this pandemic,
offer performances online, virtual concerts,
A collective world
Of connection and meaning.

What I am learning about grief
Letting go of the what-if, the if only,
the trip that won’t happen.
Instead the sacred space of now
Still, hey, you wonder
What would this spring feel like
without this covid madness?
This sun-filled day like no other
anticipating summertime
walks on the beach, picnics,
dining downtown al fresco
unimaginable innocence,
but this now:
when it’s all returned to normal
it will never be normal again.

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