Ice-olation. A poem by Elizabeth McGeown

In the first days of the pandemic,
those being when we were told
by channels on high that we could call it a pandemic,
we channelled our excess energy into memes and comic poetry.
A school was quietly shut down, and then another.
You held your breath in supermarkets
never believing miasma theory – of course not!
You didn’t even realise you were doing it until leaving
and wondering at your lightheadedness.
Worked from home, made your own schedule,
too much freedom could sicken.
Your day lost shape
then your week did.
The debris of a life not fully lived crept across your bedroom;
laundry stacked up in corners.

If you are ever caught in an avalanche –
and I mean personally, deeply caught,
bodily caught –
when the tumbling has stopped, before you do anything,
before you assess damage or check your phone signal
you must get oxygen.
Dig for it.
When your day loses shape,
when your world turns upside down
and you do not know which way is up,
when you are covered in doubt, or worry, or snow
you need to find out which way to dig.
Clue: it will not be the direction you expected.
Open mouth a sliver and let saliva run out,
gravity will dictate that you should dig in the opposite direction of your drool.
Are you self-isolating? Lonely, scared?
Open your mouth to see what comes out
then dig as fast as you can away from it.


Elizabeth McGeown is from Belfast, NI. She has been a finalist in the All-Ireland Poetry Slam and represented Northern Ireland at the 2019 Hammer & Tongue UK Slam Finals in the Royal Albert Hall, London. She has received funding from The Arts Council of Northern Ireland and The National Lottery to work on her first full-length spoken word show.

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