The Dead: A COVID-19 poem by Kathy Steinemann
The Dead can’t rescue the economy,
Can’t save the world from this dichotomy,
Can’t pay taxes or vote in an election,
Because they died from this corona infection;
Can’t sit with family, sip on their tea,
Can’t bounce little ones on their knee,
Can’t help them learn, can’t watch them grow,
Can’t buy them gifts or teach them to throw;
The Dead can’t save you from amoral greed,
Can’t steal your “freedom,” your rights impede;
They can’t educate you, but they can ask,
“Please be kind and wear a [bleeped] mask!”
© Kathy Steinemann
It was dark and warm inside the high ceilinged church. Hubby and I stood together. Up front, on a large screen, a worship band video played with the lyrics displayed on the side.
Moonlight shone through a stained glass window, casting our shadows all the way to the alter – across the aisle from us the shadow of a tapping foot and a pair of raised hands.
That’s the moment I realised that Hubby and I were singing – not into our masks, but out aloud with no masks on. We’d been wrapped up in the moment. We’d forgotten ourselves. It struck me that we’d been singing for some time. My heart seemed to skip a beat and my mouth went dry. I looked to my right. The foot tapper and the hand raiser were also singing. Behind us an elderly couple cowered under a large coat trying to cover their faces.
How many virus particulates could have circulated the room in (I quickly calculated) 30 minutes of singing?
I imagined the headlines a few days later: WEST LONDON CHURCH SOURCE OF NEW COVID HOT SPOT.
I hissed at Hubby, “We’ve been singing out aloud!” His face, when he finally understood what I was saying, mirrored my panic. We had to get out of there.
PHEW! It was only a dream – in actual fact, the nightmare I had on Sunday night.
It’s a strange old world when a dream about singing in church wakes you up with a start so that you have to pinch yourself to remind you it didn’t really happen.
I digress …
On Sunday, after 4 months, our church opened it’s doors again for a service unlike any I’ve ever attended.
It began with a sign up the week before, not just for ‘track and trace’, but also so that every parishioner could tick boxes affirming things like ‘I’ve not experienced xyz range of symptoms in the last 14 days’, or ‘no I have not been in contact with anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 14 days’, ‘no I am not shielding’, and ‘I agree to be contacted by the church and for the church to hold on to my details for up to 21 day’.
Goodbye to popping into a church for a quiet moment of prayer.
The place and the service looked and felt alien too. We were masked*. The capacity is now maximum 40 people because of social distancing. Chairs were in formations of ones, twos, and fours. No singing allowed**, no toilets, no moving around in the church, no children, the vicar was masked and communion could only be taken in one kind (the bread) – no drinking wine from one cup. No coffee and chat after the service – except outside in the drizzle and at 1 meter + apart.
This, they say, is the new normal.
Well, c’est la vie. I would love to say that nothing surprises me anymore but I’d be wrong.
P.s. *Hubby and I were masked. I was ticking people in on an iPad from the track and trace registration list and Hubby was ushering them to seats depending on their party size. We had to explain the health and safety rules. At the moment, we can only ‘recommend’ that parishioners where a mask or face covering, but we cannot make them wear one. It will not surprise you to hear that one man refused to wear a mask. On arrival his words to me were, “All this for a hoax!” To which I replied, “I don’t think it’s a hoax, but certainly, it’s going to be a bit strange until a vaccine is found.” “There is no way I will be having any vaccine!” said Mr Refuse-to-wear-a-mask.
P.p.s. **I actually did realise at some stage that I was singing along quietly behind my mask to Amazing Grace. There was one musician playing the piano on the stage up from and I was right at the back of the church alone with Hubby so I think it was safe. But being tempted to sing, and finding your self singing without realising, is definitely a real thing.
P.p.p.s. The picture on the left is our scarecrow doing his job on the allotment. He will be fired forthwith. He will of course say that he didn’t see the magpie nesting on his head. Photo sent to me by an allotment neighbour.