Home Schooling

By: 

Ruth

Goldsmith

I wrote this in April 2020, in the early days of the first lockdown, as a response to a prompt image shared by online journal Visual Verse. It was an attempt to capture my feelings about the confusing and strange new world we all found ourselves in.

We sit inside our houses while sunny days happen without us, and

We learn about exponential growth.

 

The endless graphs and their upward lines are dizzying, vertiginous.

 

Those lines are scaling mountains, they are

Ill-advised climbers

Who chose not to read meaning into careful phrases.

 

We sit inside our houses while sunny days happen without us, and

We learn new words.

 

Politicians take up sniper positions behind podiums.

They shoot into our living rooms their

Syllabic bullets that bounce off the walls,

Leaving pockmarks,

Leaving noise ringing in our ears.

In their Savile Row flak jackets

The politicians redefine words.

 

Advice (ədˈvaɪs); noun; [2020]

An INSTRUCTION that someone gives you about what

You MUST do or how you MUST act.

 

Contradictions are what we cling to now.

 

For example, see: curves are not flat

(But we shall make them so).

For example, see: we shall be magnets that repel in flesh

(But bond in metaphor).

For example, see: unskilled shall no longer mean undervalued

(But not in terms of remuneration,

Or protection,

Or terms and conditions).

 

What we once did, we cannot do.

What we planned to do, we change.

What we do now, we never did before.

 

But, now, perhaps, we have a new faith.

 

Once a week at a preordained time, we pick up our pots and we pick up our pans and we bring them together in our hands and we raise a din to ricochet across to the terrace opposite and we hear it return back to us, in a kind of hymn, in a kind of prayer. We watch our neighbours do the same. We wave, and smile, and cheer, then retreat inside again and shut the door, and lock it tight. But we carry that din within us through the next seven days. We hope it reached inside airless corridors fluorescent with stress and fear. We hope it reached inside rooms of machines that breathe for people who cannot. We hope it reached the people inside the rooms, all of them, on either side of the line.

 

Ours is a strange communion, this

New blue-lit worship.

But, perhaps, we have a new faith.

 

And

 

Once togetherness in spirit becomes unity in frame form and flesh

Once the climbers come down the other side of the mountain

Once exponential growth turns to exponential decline

Once we have turned a curve into a straight line

Once the unskilled are valued in every sense

Once we are free to follow ədˈvaɪs, or not

 

Once we are free

 

Then perhaps, if we let it, our new faith will serve us well,

As we step outside into the sun again.

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