Already a vast loneliness has seeped
into our souls with the cancellations
and closings. We miss the conviviality
of the restaurant table, the church service,
the joy of the jamming musicians,
the natural camaraderie of
sidewalk and supermarket. We’re not
meant to be alone, not meant to deflect
the approach of neighbors. Now each locked-down
house becomes a grave where small, dismembered
pieces of community lie scattered alive,
waiting to be called back to wholeness.
We ache for each other, ache for contact.
We knew it would all break down someday.
Not sustainable. The center cannot hold.
We are being shown something bigger.
We are being called to something higher.
Shall we come out of this changed, finally
able to hear each others’ voices across
the social distance, the voices drowned out
by fear? When the theaters and bars reopen,
when the hospital beds are vacant again
and the world resumes its old business
of getting and spending, how shall we think
on these days withdrawn from one another
and the communal heart, the dead civic air?
Will the grief still eat at us, as it does now?
Is this how it happens, a lesson we need
to learn, overshadowing all our other
learning? In the enforced quiet we have
space to ask these questions and listen
for answers. How will we love each other
and ourselves in the upheavals to come?
—Thomas R. Smith
Illustration: Atlanta Wiggs