Life Will Be Different. A poem by Rita Ann Higgins

We are tired of pandemic isms
that were banged around
like bin lids during the troubles.
Who are we now when we are not using new words
that are pandemic steeped and pickled.
It has been every waking minute
a pandemic zone and we are sick of it.
Antibody talk and cures that are not cures at all.
Walk three times sideways
under your shadow, for this to work
align yourself and your shadow.
Do this for two hours and two hours only.

Other aforementioned cures
involve heavy duty bleach.
Don’t do it, your insides won’t hold.
And you will be slouching to the vet
your eyes rolling down your face
looking for their sockets,
We have become pandemic experts
and pandemic poets.

We are mourning our lives before this.
When we took for granted simple things;
like free money, like parking at the beach
before the appearance of the orange cone,
which has now taken on a sinister hue.
Look around before you spin
that cone into infinity.
The pandemic police
are hiding in the very long grass.

We will do old things again,
like walk into TK Maxx
and fit on a Prussian blue blouse
that won’t fit, and those Salsa Jeans
that look at you as if to say,
who are you kidding?
We fed that virus for months
and now the muffin-top repels us.
We will be slim again
and the virus will be gone.
But not if we are to believe
some nay-sayers
who say it will be with us
all the Christmases of our lives.

Someday we will sit in a pub
with our hair coloured and coiffed.
Laughter will be absent
from the space between us.
That expanse will make us cautious –
and awkward.

We will wave to people across the street
but gone are the whispering sessions,
where you’d gasp on hearing some juicy gossip,
or insider information about white collar coke-heads
watching porn for forty-eight hours
on a bank holiday weekend.
A pirated clip from Normal People on a loop
is a purported favourite.
From now on when you meet old friends
you will just wave and life will be different.

The day I long for most
is the day I can pop into Penny’s
for the cheap knickers and cosy pyjamas.
I might throw in a pair of slippers,
with the free money.
When that day comes
I will make an altar in the garden,
I will burn incense sticks – myrr, ylang ylang
I will pay homage
I will howl for all I am worth.


Rita Ann recited this poem on the Brendan O’Connor show on RTE Radio 1 on Saturday 23 May 2020, you can listen to it above.

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