They say this virus causes symptoms of breathlessness,
to keep safe, we must stay at home.
They don’t yet know how this thing behaves,
this insidious invisible hanging over heads and hearts,
like a ghost, or the grip of a man haunted by a word,
which mutates his reach into a world of hurt. Not the same
word as yesterday or last week or tomorrow.
They say we should stay at home to be safe
because others have run free, because we all need
to protect those most at risk, because some were careless.
A loose word, a whisper. Carelessness suggests there was care
to lose. We need to be more careful, they say.
But here an error comes easily sans symptom or sound.
What if home is no safe place, what if a breath is trapped
as tight as a noose around my neck?
I am chained to him, haunted by my past,
still here though he has long fled, like a thief in the night,
an invisible illness stealing those I love. I am trapped
far from freedom, struggling to breathe.
They say isolation
will set us free. I have been isolated before, believe me.
I have been apart from you before
But I have never felt my heart ache like this.
I know the same sun shines on you as me
and tonight, when the skies darken,
emptied of pollution, we will see the same constellations.
I stroke your face on the screen,
your hair, dark, unlike mine,
freckles scattered across your face like stars.
I cannot feel your hand in mine physically, but it is there.
Your eyes smile back at me, olive green ours, a trait we share.
You’re at that age where you have mastered the selfie
and you pose, sideways, smile hiding things I like to think I know.
You are safe and that is what matters,
and so I cling to the belief that soon we will be together again
and then we can go out into the night,
scattering our wishes beneath that same moon.
Hannah Storm writes flash fiction, CNF and poetry. After 20 years as a journalist her work pays tribute to the extraordinary people she has met and the places she has travelled, and through it she processes her own experiences of trauma. She has been published in EllipsisZine, Spelk, Lunate Fiction, Storgy, Bending Genres, Cabinet of Heed and others, and shortlisted in several flash competitions. She’s working on her first novel and first flash fiction collection. When she’s not writing and not in isolation, she runs marathons and works in international media.