Dispatch #011

Cold Gin and a Pandemic

By Georgina Marie

April 27, 2020

I’m writing this on Monday April 27, 2020 and I had to Google when the Shelter in Place in my town began. It was March 19th. The days have been blurring together so fiercely that I seemed to forget when all of this began. 

Two of my sisters often said that terrible things happen in threes. My beloved cat Clyde passed away on February 18, my estranged father passed away on March 18, bringing up years of unresolved conflict, and now this shelter-in-place order since March 19th

There is always a pause in my writing when unsettling events occur; I’m human after all and can’t always be swept away by the romance of poetry (despite my hope that being a human and poet can be interchangeable). 

On October 8, 2018 I jotted down a note in my iPhone that read,

“Seems like every time a new trauma hits I can’t bring myself to even read poetry. I don’t know the psychology of it but it makes me sad”.

This was after my sister died, my dog died, and I was evacuated from a wildfire.

Writing poetry is my passion, but even reading a poem at that point in time made me sick to my stomach.

But this time the terrible threes make me feel different. It may be resilience built from the last round of devastations. 

It could be that some of the discomfort was balanced with the excitement of being appointed poet laureate in my county. 

It could be a sense of responsibility I have as I continue to work full time for a non-profit organization serving low-income families in need. 

Or it could be the impressive amount of poets and writers who are coming together from a distance during this time to continue supporting each other with online readings, workshops, or by posting poems and articles and pictures of cats and flowers on social media. We’re all in this together. All of this combined keeps me going. 

Like many others, this period of time is offering me days of self-reflection. I think about how loss has shaped me as a woman and writer, how these new losses in this new phase of my life will shape my personal evolution in months or years to come, how I want my long term goals to happen fast like publishing a full-length collection of my poems, or submitting more of my poems to literary publications (or should I say being accepted by those publications I am submitting to). 

But if there were a time where goals and productivity could be put on hold and we can just be, it is now. 

We can grieve, we can panic, we can remain calm, we can laugh; we can cry, we can look forward to voting in 190 days for reasons I don’t need to explain; we can stay busy or we can be leisurely – all of it is okay and all of it is valid. There is no wrong way to cope so long as it doesn’t harm anyone. 

This is not to say that we can’t/aren’t also acting with kindness while thanking essential workers, thinking of our healthcare workers on the front lines working tirelessly, or taking a moment of silence for those who are losing their lives to this virus.

So I’ve been trying to write in the margins with my aim being to not place too much expectation on myself, reminding myself that it’s okay to be productive but it’s okay to not be too.

The best thing we can do is to take care of ourselves and by keeping distant, if we have the privilege of doing so, we’re taking care of others too.

It’s okay to work 8 hours in a day then do absolutely nothing afterward, or to go lie in the sun on my dining room floor with my dog and cat and read a few pages of a book, or maybe to not even read, or to not write at all but lie on the couch with my animals and stare at the wall if I’m so inclined, or write a sad poem and not feel any bit of shame or embarrassment for writing yet another sad poem such as this one.

photo credit: Georgina Marie

Cold Gin and a Pandemic

Georgina Marie 

A swig of fresh lime squeezed over ice
San Francisco’s Junipero gin with a garnish
soothes the overwhelm of more bad news
and sudden heat 
What I learned at home today:
            the length of estrangement becomes short
            in comparison to the weight of regret 
            one hundred more days of solitude – a poet’s irony
            bare white walls wait with open-hearts 
            to catch our sighs  
            how much I miss my father now that he is dead
Toss back tonic water with an extra kick
catch the sun warming the side of my face
through the glass door into the dining room 
and now the reflection 
of how many years have passed 
how the idea of a father became a ghost 
how a ghost haunted me into adulthood
how adulthood became a poem always in the works 
how poems became home
how hard it is to live inside this one 

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