Henrietta Eghan’s Words for the Mind and Soul: Quarantine

John Lennon Quote

Hello Jet Fuel Blog Readers,

It has been a while and I am sure like me, you have been impacted by Coronovirus and self-isolation. Whether it is through muscle atrophy, emotional fluctuations, or the loss of a loved one, the pandemic has changed our lives and not for the better. The pandemic has made us take shelter inside the confines of our homes, scared and restless. As of now, it feels as though the world is becoming a worse place and the feeling of hopelessness increases with every passing day. And I am sure there will be a movie or a series made of this event, there always is. But it shall never capture the true realities and emotions felt during these trying times. From war to heartbreak to loneliness, poetry has helped people endure all manner of painful experiences.  The selections of poems below ranging from Philip Larkin to Maya Angelou, in some way offer comfort, small as it is during these trying times.

The poem “Vers de Societe” by Philip Larkin is a witty poem written about the difficulties about finding some quality time alone. While people around the world are self-isolated, the wish of Larkin becomes ironic in our 2020 context as no one wishes for isolation and not even the young are isolated freely, much to Larkin’s dismay.  

Vers de Société

BY PHILIP LARKIN

My wife and I have asked a crowd of craps

To come and waste their time and ours: perhaps   

You’d care to join us? In a pig’s arse, friend.   

Day comes to an end.

The gas fire breathes, the trees are darkly swayed.   

And so Dear Warlock-Williams: I’m afraid—

 

Funny how hard it is to be alone.

I could spend half my evenings, if I wanted,   

Holding a glass of washing sherry, canted   

Over to catch the drivel of some bitch   

Who’s read nothing but Which;

Just think of all the spare time that has flown

 

Straight into nothingness by being filled   

With forks and faces, rather than repaid   

Under a lamp, hearing the noise of wind,   

And looking out to see the moon thinned   

To an air-sharpened blade.

A life, and yet how sternly it’s instilled

 

All solitude is selfish. No one now

Believes the hermit with his gown and dish   

Talking to God (who’s gone too); the big wish   

Is to have people nice to you, which means   

Doing it back somehow.

Virtue is social. Are, then, these routines

 

Playing at goodness, like going to church?

Something that bores us, something we don’t do well   

(Asking that ass about his fool research)   

But try to feel, because, however crudely,   

It shows us what should be?

Too subtle, that. Too decent, too. Oh hell,

 

Only the young can be alone freely.

The time is shorter now for company,

And sitting by a lamp more often brings

Not peace, but other things.

Beyond the light stand failure and remorse   

Whispering Dear Warlock-Williams: Why, of course—

O’Meara’s “Untitled” poem was written as the coronavirus outbreak became a pandemic. A viral poem shared by the likes of Bella Hadid, the poem offers consolation in activities to help deter the mental deterioration caused by the pandemic. As cliche as it sounds, it offers a light at the end of the tunnel. 

Untitled by Kitty O’Meara (2020)

And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.

And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.

The poem “Insha’Allah”  by Danusha Lameris is a poem that lifts the spirits of people in trying times, whether it is in wartime or a pandemic. It illustrates that even when it seems that all hope is lost, humans will keep on praying for good things to happen. As of April 6th, the death toll of the coronavirus is 73,917, almost a million deaths. But people’s faith and hopes aren’t fading in fact they’re higher than ever. Churches keep praising and praying through the internet, celebrities lift the hearts of people through songs online, and everyone around the world comforts each other during these times.

 

Insha’Allah by Danusha Laméris (2014)

I don’t know when it slipped into my speech

that soft word meaning, “if God wills it.”

Insha’Allah I will see you next summer.

The baby will come in spring, insha’Allah.

Insha’Allah this year we will have enough rain.

So many plans I’ve laid have unravelled

easily as braids beneath my mother’s quick fingers.

Every language must have a word for this. A word

our grandmothers uttered under their breath

as they pinned the whites, soaked in lemon,

hung them to dry in the sun, or peeled potatoes,

dropping the discarded skins into a bowl.

Our sons will return next month, insha’Allah.

Insha’Allah this war will end, soon. Insha’Allah

the rice will be enough to last through winter.

How lightly we learn to hold hope,

as if it were an animal that could turn around

and bite your hand. And still we carry it

the way a mother would, carefully,

from one day to the next.

The poem “Good Bones” by  Maggie Smith was written a few days after an infamous gunman killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. The poem grapples with how to tell one’s children to love the world when it’s filled with such pain and injustice. People, and especially children around the world are dying and of no fault to their own. It is a tragedy, that no matter how close up will never be a comedy. 

Good Bones by Maggie Smith (2017)

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.

Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine

in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,

a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways

I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least

fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative

estimate, though I keep this from my children.

For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.

For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,

sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world

is at least half terrible, and for every kind

stranger, there is one who would break you,

though I keep this from my children. I am trying

to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,

walking you through a real shithole, chirps on

about good bones: This place could be beautiful,

right? You could make this place beautiful.

The poem “Caged Bird” by Maya Angelou describes the opposing experiences between two birds: one is able to live in nature as it pleases, while a different caged bird suffers in captivity. To cope with its profound suffering and to express its longing for freedom, the caged bird sings. It serves as an eloquent portrayal of the struggle to be freed from oppression. The poem perfectly captures a time before the Coronavirus and the current issue people are living with. 

Caged Bird by Maya Angelou (1983)

In a profound show of resilience 

The free bird leaps

on the back of the wind

and floats downstream

till the current ends

and dips his wings

in the orange sun rays

and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks

down his narrow cage

can seldom see through

his bars of rage

his wings are clipped and

his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings

with fearful trill

of the things unknown

but longed for still

and his tune is heard

on the distant hill

for the caged bird

sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze

and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees

and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn

and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams

his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream

his wings are clipped and his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings

with a fearful trill

of things unknown

but longed for still

and his tune is heard

on the distant hill

for the caged bird

sings of freedom.

Sources referenced:  “Poems.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, www.poetryfoundation.org/poems.

— Henrietta Eghan, Blogger

 


Henrietta Eghan’s Bio:

henrietta-masthead_orig
Henrietta O. Eghan

Henrietta O. Eghan is a Ghanaian geek, a book nerd, an otaku, and a sophomore at Lewis University. She is an English major with a minor in Computer Science with the goal of becoming a technical writer. Eghan writes for the Lewis Flyer Newspaper and works in the English department. She loves to read literature and watch films from around the world and across genres. Eghan loves to read Japanese, Chinese, African, Mexican and American books. Whether it is as a novel, a movie, Korean-drama, a manga, fanfiction or a literary magazine, her favorite past time is to read and explore different cultures.


 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s