Before the pandemic I attended community potlucks. I folded my anxiety into a handkerchief, something to fiddle with in my pocket, as I planted the seeds of friendship. After the pandemic the potlucks were cancelled. Some members came out anti-science and my seeds have all failed to yield anything more than broken confidence. Before the pandemic I made my first ever parent friends. We met at the park most mornings, shared meals once a week, and took turns filling oxygen tanks. After the pandemic the housing market got so hot they left the country to cool down. Parks and tanks are left empty now and my lungs are learning to adapt. Before the pandemic we had library and market days. Familiar places, friendly faces, comforting routine and connection. A safety net of welcome and belonging. After the pandemic we found desks, stalls, and smiles vacant. I stretch my anxiety around my neck, a scarf to protect against the chill, and let my husband do the talking. Before the pandemic I didn't have many friends to talk to, but I called my Granny every day. After the pandemic I watched her get sick. Her number doesn't reach her anymore. Before the pandemic panic attacked once or twice a year. After the pandemic it has learned to hunt in packs. Before the pandemic nausea, dizziness and pain meant I was coming down with something. After the pandemic they mean that I am awake. Before the pandemic my husband and I talked about growing old together. After the pandemic he wonders if I'll make it through the week. Before the pandemic I believed in a future. After the pandemic. After the pandemic. When is After the pandemic? Before the pandemic there was no Before or After. Before the pandemic I didn't need to wait for an ending to begin. Before the pandemic is gone. And all we have to work with is now. At least that much hasn't changed.
If you want to check out the visual version of this poem and a lot of other poems that haven’t made it on the blog yet, make sure to check out my Instagram account @amnotpoetry.