When it Started. A poem by Michael May

When it started
we had no idea
about Wuhan or wet markets
in the far east.

When it started
we had no idea about coronavirus
except we saw face-masked people
empty streets and flat-pack hospitals

When it started
Most of us had nothing better to do
no worries about jobs
and were getting by

As it started
We were safe in our houses;
secure in our homes and didn’t need to hide from partners,
parents or anyone more than six feet away

Soon after it started
we became EXPERTS
in the history of epidemics
pandemics and contagions

Soon after it started,
We could list a clever chronology
of disease
the Antonine Plague
the Justinian plague
the Black death
and mutations across time and nations

After it started
we were scared and learnt to wash our hands
and sing ‘Happy Birthday’ because we hadn’t
washed our hands well nor caught our dribble and spittle

When it had started, we became social-distanced
pandemic, academic nerds
surfed bone- fide and fake medical sites

When it started, we knew better, lulled ourselves
and our children into an applause of appreciation
of all that might keep us well

After it started
even though for decades, our health and care
had been scarified and flailed
by the politics of harm and austerity

After it started
we came to know more about ventilators and respirators
as vacuum cleaner- and car-makers
fabricated breathing machines.

Now that it has started
We are so impressed and know,
can repeat with a passing understanding
new words and phrases
Ramping up – a term of imagined action
PPE – a term of sacred protection
isolating – a term of invisibility
Vulnerable elderly – a term of concealment
Now that we are here
we have no idea

1 Comment

  1. Loved your poem Michael; especially liked this stanza: when it started we became social-distanced, pandemic, academic nerds. Surfaced bona-fide and fake medical sites

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