Just a month ago there was more than enough room in my head to commemorate the death of my mum. She’d passed away 15 years ago -I know, some losses survive undiminished year after year. Except now things have completely changed.
Reality is no more what it used to be and now has become meaningless. The past has ceased to exist, it seems, taken over by a present which is quite threatening and appears to be out of control. We’ve landed in an alternate universe of death and despair.
The main reason is this virus from China, one out of seven so-called coronaviruses, which are known to infect humans. Its official name is COVID-19.
You know the story.
The virus has been spreading around the globe for some time now, killing and affecting thousands of people. At the moment, the 3rd of April, more than 1 million cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed worldwide. With 5% of those being critical.
There are just over 55.000 deaths globally today…With the USA, Spain and Italy on top.
Times of Isolation
In Amsterdam -with D., who was unable to return to France as the border was closed, daily life has definitely come to a halt. There is no lockdown here, but restrictions are serious anyway. Schools, theatres, cafes, bars, sports centres, each one shut down and dark. The canals nearby are deserted too; no boats passing bye, no music being heard, no youngsters sitting at the waterside, enjoying a joint, even my own street looks unfamiliar –spooky. It’s not my street anymore. This is not my city anymore…
What else is there to say right now?
Apart from this poem by an American, Scott Cohen, which I saw in the Paris Review -it seemed totally appropriate in these times of isolation. I found some mention of his poems being published in 1971, but unfortunately, I was unable to discover more.
Anyway, here it is… For all those being distressed and in fear -most of us, I assume.
Here I am, alone in my room, feeling lonely.
Loneliness is horrible. This is an objective
statement. Sometimes I think to objectify
something means to isolate myself from it.
Sometimes when I’m alone I think of you.
You do not seem the type that is ever alone.
I don’t feel like watching television or
listening to the radio. There’s no one
around to visit. I think I may read Genet’s
Our Lady of the Flowers a bit later. I owe
Jack a letter but I don’t feel like writing
one now. I’m sure that right now, at this
very moment, thousands of people are feeling
pretty lonely. The knowledge of this is not
I have read about lots of famous men who
have spent their lives in solitude. This isn’t
very consoling either. I wonder if there really
is something consoling to a lonely man. That is,
besides another person.
To distract myself I’ve written out the line
“In the abalone shell lives the abalone.”
I’m not sure what an abalone is except
that it has the word “alone” in it and sounds
just like “lonely.”
It must really be lonely inside the abalone
shell. This is not an objective statement.
I once read that if you think long enough
about something, you yourself start to take
on the characteristics of that thing.
Maybe I should think of a crowd having a great time.
But I am thinking about you again. We are
having a great time, only I’m feeling sentimental.
I’m willing to bet the abalone is not
a very sentimental animal. Webster’s New
World Dictionary lists an abalone as a sea
Mollusc with an oval shell perforated along
the rim and lined with mother-of-pearl. The
word preceding abalone in Webster’s is abaft,
which is the rear or stern of a ship.
I already know the lonely feeling one gets
aboard a ship, standing at the stern, late
at night, watching the stars drift by. Two
words down from abalone is the word abandon.
To be continued…