Glass Hands: A Eulogy on the Anniversary of the Pandemic

El Jones

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Hands pressed to glass

 

On the fence across from the long-term care home families leave memorials for auntie, kokum, baba

 

Ink runs in the rain and half-mast flags

 

A table set with no guests to ask

 

Like bells ringing in classrooms calling eternal recess

 

Bless those who grieve

 

Unable to even leave kisses on foreheads

 

Bless the nurses as they move from bed to bed

 

We've scrubbed our hands until they cracked and bled

 

We read page after page of death announcements in the newspapers

 

Our elders, repositories of wisdom went first but then the rest of us

 

Living and dying through this curse

 

Coughs in lungs and final gasps

 

Some days feel like we are the last on Earth

 

Too fast we say, too fast

 

We didn't even have goodbye

 

And the wind blows over winter grass

 

My mother's mantra: this too shall pass.

 

Ours is not a funeral mass

 

We learned to mourn on Zoom

 

Christmas spent in empty rooms

 

We'll meet when the pandemic is through

 

But month after month and still the cases rise

 

In gloom loneliness intensifies

 

I no longer know your face behind the mask so I learn to know your eyes

 

But it's not enough.

 

And we try to bring to mind our last conversation

 

Amid the devastation we find hidden seams of human kindness

 

Bless the grocery bringers to quarantine

 

The minimum wage labourers who clean

 

The developers of the vaccine

 

The bus drivers and hospital workers at hour sixteen of their shift

 

Bless those who believe they will not be missed

 

It's the vulnerable ones most likely to be lost unseen

 

This is a lesson for we who have too long turned our heads at inequality

 

Believed in austerity

 

Now we understand the severity of policies that leave too many behind

 

Oh now we have learned to cry together.

 

Let us forever remember those who cannot come in from the cold

 

We should never again allow the deaths in shelters

 

In cell blocks, at home alone

 

No, let us make a promise in the now for the future beyond this

 

May we never again value people less than profits

 

Let us speak our love before the coffins

 

Let us pause not seldom, but often

 

May our hearts soften

 

Let us visit those living in isolation

 

Let clean water flow from the taps of First Nations

 

We can re-learn how to care for each other

 

We can re-learn how to share with each other

 

Let us honour the dead by committing to the living

 

Let us honour the dead by committing to giving

 

We are not broken though we are diminished

 

We still have time and this is not the finish

 

There is faith, and hope, and it's within us

El Jones, "Glass Hands: A Eulogy on the Anniversary of the Pandemic". Copyright © 2021 by El Jones. Reprinted by permission of the author. 

Source: First appeared on CBC's The Current. (El Jones 2021)