“The Board of Health
for the Colony of Newfoundland
in 1889 reported
1881 cases of diphtheria
affecting 878 families
and resulting in 350 deaths”
- Larry Dohey, 2016
This was my grandmother’s childhood:
Adult panic; rumour and fear;
Babies feverish and gasping;
Medicine distant or futile.
The unseen enemy on every surface.
Driven by worry, driven by memory
Her housekeeping was relentless.
Her mother, she said, was the same.
A warrior armed with a mop and a broom
Bleaching, sterilizing, scrubbing.
Safe in my childhood suburban cocoon
I thought this extreme and amusing.
Yesterday at the supermarket
I waited as the masked young man
Standing at his cautious distance
Wiped down my shopping cart handle.
My grandmother would have understood.
My grandmother would have approved.
I see now her certainty, always,
Of the return of times such as these.
Geoff Budden lives in St John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada, where he practices law. He is the father of two young adult daughters and has had poems published in Canada, Australia and the UK.