Waiting for the Numbers. A poem by Helen Shaw

The evening ritual
is waiting for the numbers.
How many dead?
how many infected?.
The days from one to one thousand
Separate, I walk in the park
as if a force field divides me from others.
A jogger, attuned to his headset,
crosses into my path
and like a startled fawn I jump
We drift like silent ghosts,
two metres apart
creating parallel lines
through the grass.
My conversations are mediated
across the ether,
my friends appear
from their bedrooms
or sofas,
strangely comforting to see
their rooms,
their ceilings.

But the days pass without a touch,
a hand on hand,
a kiss,
a hug,
an embrace.

My companions are the birds I feed,
they sing their hearts aloud,
thrushes, blackbirds, starlings and robins.
Like the plants around me, oblivious to our distress,
awake, each sunrise,
to the promise of new life, and purpose,
nesting within the hollows of my garden.

We are waiting,
and alone,
for the numbers
and the names.
For the ever closing circles
to find us,
hidden within the crevices of our homes.

we are not that number,
that name,
but we feel their weight upon us.

as I light the candle,
we are single lights of life,
under a full moon
and like the wren at dawn,
I find my voice to break
into the darkness.

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