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Church at Vik (M.A. Reilly, December, 2021)
Tuesday, March 31, 2020
Monday, March 30, 2020
I haven’t been able to grasp the fullness of this pandemic and what it means. I understand what a pandemic is and yet, I am not fully aware of the personal, financial, and societal implications of the pandemic. Concrete symbols seem to carry far more influence than the chatter I hear on news shows or the stories I read online.
The Javits Center is located at the end of the street where Rob’s family business was located on West 36th Street in Manhattan. I can remember parking the car in the narrow parking lot next to Rob’s business and walking down the street to visit the Javits Center during the annual Book Expo, a conference that Rob and I went to.
|Book Expo at Javits Center|
Symbols matter. It’s the familiar places that have been transformed that most allow me to catch a glimpse of the pandemic in ways that unsettle the calmness I try to pull around myself.
In a similar manner, I was talking with a colleague who was working in a NJ hospital and she said that the most terrifying change in NJ hospitals was the recent introduction of refrigerated trailers, that are intended to operate as temporary morgues.
I see these trucks and I think Walmart delivery, not a temporary place to store bodies. This shocks me and in doing so, the bigness of what we are in and what is before us flickers a bit and I see clearly for a moment.
I think now that no ones really lives through a pandemic. Rather, we live each moment of each day and those days accumulate into weeks and those weeks will later be chopped up and assigned labels such as: beginning, apex, end. The neatness of naming will undermine the vast uncertainty we have felt.
For now, I know that time is surely relative. Since March 5th, there has been no 24-hour period that felt like a day. Where I work (which is actually in my home now), the pace is relentless, frantic. On weekends, the work continues even when I swear it won’t. I know I am not alone, nor am I in a critical field where life and death is being determined.
A field hospital sits on the lawn in Central Park where normally young, healthy bodies play sports, rest and read books, and picnic and chat. I have photographed there more times than I can count. The parking lot of Bergen Community College that sits opposite the high school I went to is now a drive through COVID-19 testing site. The Meadowlands Convention Center in Secaucus will open as a field hospital within a week.
All these symbols represent the seismic shift states are undertaking to better prepare for the massive number of sick and dying.
It is these shifts, these repurposing of familiar places that most help me to grasp what this pandemic is at this moment.
|Rain Coming. (M.A. Reilly, 2020)|
Today there was lightning and thunder. A deep, angry rumble that signaled what had already begun somewhere else in the region. Rain falling hard. A flicker of lights. A loss of power.
Today I heard 100,000 to 200,000 people will likely die from COVID-19 here in the United States. I understand those numbers as everyone I have ever loved who has died. 200,000 moms. 200,000 dads. 200,000 husbands. 200,000 brothers and sisters. 200,000 childhood friends.
Grief alters us. Well before the coming death, we feel anticipatory grief. “The name given to the tumultuous set of feelings and reactions that occur in some people who are expecting death in a loved one. These emotions can be just as intense as the conventional sort of grief felt after a death" (from here).
In the weeks before Rob’s death as I watched him slip further from life, I was mostly terrified. I found reasons to drive alone. I can still hear myself screaming, still remember how the sound was like something wounded, something dying and it filled the whole car until out of breath the sound lessened to cries and then whimpers and breathing and finally blessed silence.
Today, we are wounded and terrified as beyond us, a wide void is opening. The incalculable loss of spouses, children, parents, siblings, friends, and of selves will fill it. A crypt we cannot name. A stone we cannot engrave.
Who I was four years ago ended in profound ways with Rob’s death. Knowing how that loss still shapes me, I find tonight that my body cannot hold the calculations of death before us.
It cannot compute the pain.
It cannot fathom the emptiness that such loss will produce.
Waves upon waves of sorrow will rain down on us.
This is the history we fail to record when mass horror happens. We simply cannot bear such burden.
Four years later, I still feel the coldness of Rob’s hand between mind. I still hear the silence that grew louder between his rattled breaths.
I still know how a heart that stops sounds.
Sunday, March 29, 2020
Saturday, March 28, 2020
|Untitled (M.A. Reilly)|
- Kevin Young
The honey bees’ exile
is almost complete.
You can carry
them from hive
to hive, the child thought
& that is what
he tried, walking
with them thronging
between his pressed palms.
Let him be right.
Let the gods look away
as always. Let this boy
who carries the entire
world in his calm
barely walking, bear
us all there
From: Young, Kevin. (2018). Brown: Poems. New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
|The Burden (M.A.Reilly)|
These are the people who are important. They have always been important. We don’t pay all of them though as if they are important.
Public transit workers.
Governors, their staff, and cabinet.
Mayors and their staff.
These are the people who are not important and yet they pay themselves exceedingly well, better than most of the country.
Everyone working on Wall Street.
These are the people who should be important, but have epically failed.
GOP Congressional Representatives.
Trump’s VP, and cabinet.
The White House executive staff.
Lt. Gov. of Texas
Friday, March 27, 2020
Thursday, March 26, 2020
|Memory is the Diary We all Carry (M.A. Reilly)|
"...memory, including cultural memory, is always permeated and shot through with forgetting. In order to remember anything one has to forget; but what is forgotten is not necessarily lost forever” (Assmann 2010, pp. 105–6).
After Rob died I could not see a possible future. I don’t mean this metaphorically. I was stuck, waiting for him to rise, like Lazarus, so that our lives might resume. Our lives, like many who have wed, were entwined. Rob was my partner for nearly my whole adult life. I did not know then that what rested in my hands all along was responsibility for my very life.
I was white noise.Static.A boat slipped from its mooring.II.
We want to share possible futures, as such imaginings are reassuring. Even now, four years after my husband’s death I have forgotten much, and yet I remember the possible futures we dreamed.Three dominant memories remain:· The small city college life.· The wild coastal west of Ireland.· A small farmhouse in Vermont.III.A pandemic calls into question any possible future. Fear creates liminal zones; spaces suspended between remembering and forgetting. We stutter-step through the days, harboring ourselves in our homes as best we can. At night we imagine those suffering.Not far from here, people are dying. Mostly they are dying alone—sealed away from family and friends. Even four years later, the memory remains of holding Rob’s right hand between the two of mine as the pauses between his breaths lengthened until he breathed no more. I needed him to know, if by no other means than touch, that I went as far as I could with him. I was present.Not far from here there are people struggling to breathe, unaided by machines. At each hospital, doctors and nurses are anxious, waiting for the promised shipments of masks, gowns, gloves and the blessed ventilators that do not arrive.IV.The President of the United States is responsible for these hardship, sorrows, and deaths.
He told a worried nation to not worry. He told a nation that COVID-19 was a Democratic hoax, just like Russian collusion and the impeachment were hoaxes. He told us that there were just 15 cases and soon there would be zero. He told us the pandemic would go away in April like magic. He urged people to mingle and to go to work sick. He urged people to fill pews in churches on Easter.
He worried more about the economy than those people a few miles from here who struggle to breathe. He is deadly because he filters all events through a narrow, single lens: what effect do these happenings have on the life of Donald Trump? Nothing more matters to him.
He is neither boat, nor mooring.
V.A pandemic is unforgiving. Our responses to the uncertainty reveals what we value and fail to value.In the years to come we will not remember all the details of these days. We may turn to records and even then, the recollection will be filtered by how we have lived. Many details will fade.
Yet what we have forgotten will not be lost. The forgotten will find voice in the kind of country that gets built from the ashes.
Wednesday, March 25, 2020
|Sleep (M.A. Reilly)|
Where the two times meet, desperation. Where the two times go their separate ways, contentment. For, miraculously, a barrister, a nurse, a baker can make a world in either time, but not in both times. Each time is true, but the truths are not the same. Alan Lightman, Einstein's Dreams
I didn't mean to do this.
I actually hardly noticed at all, until the skin on the wrist where I normally wore the watch grew dry and tight from so much hand washing. It was the dry skin that signaled a passing of time.
On the first day of self-imposed isolation, I left my watch sitting next to the bed. Eleven days later, I can say that it hasn't been back on my wrist since.
Pandemics reorient us in time in ways similar to what grief does to a body. In each situation we attempt to lessen the entropy that is felt by heightening what the body feels.
It was body time, not clock time that oriented me to the world.
After the work meetings now conducted by phone or through ZOOM, or Google Hangout—I meditate.
Dinner is over.
Dishes are done.
The house settles like a contented cat around me.
There is nothing but a single word I learned to chant four years ago, until that word like time and space dissolves.
Tuesday, March 24, 2020
|After (M.A. Reilly)|
Tonight, I caught up on news. Panic seemed to rule, as did the obscene. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick told FOX News TV watchers that he preferred death over life if that meant getting people "back to work." Patrick told commentator Tucker Carlson,
“So my message is that let’s get back to work. Let’s get back to living. Let’s be smart about it. And those of us who are 70 plus, we’ll take care of ourselves, but don’t sacrifice the country. Don’t do that. Don’t ruin this great America.”
Patrick equates getting back to work, which in this case would likely create thousands and thousands of deaths, with getting back to living. He makes a dangerous proposition, one no one in service to the people ought to ever make, sound like a patriotic gesture that a John Wayne character might make in a film.
But this is not a film. Like it or not, this is a pandemic and we cannot control it by bluffing or bellowing like an idiot full of sound and fury. Patrick should step down. He is reckless, unAmerican, and his advice will get us killed.
Patrick's suggestion that America go back to work and ignore the Center for Disease Control's advice that the "best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus" reinforces the President's rambling nonsense about the cure being worse than the virus. Trump announced in a two-hour blab-fest that he would re-open America for business in “weeks,” not months.
So what happens if Americans go back to work like the President and Patrick are suggesting? What happens if Americans thumb their nose at COVID-19 and John Wayne their way back to work in order to boost the imploded economy?
See all that blood-red? That reflects the percentage of people who would likely be infected by COVID-19 by July 1, 2020 if we did as the President and the Lt. Gov. tell us we should do: Stop staying home and go back to work. Without control measures, the outbreak might sweep across most of the country by early May. By mid-May, it is estimated that new cases of the virus would reach 500,000 per day.
The America that Patrick claimed to love would be no more. The economy would not have recovered and would now be in even worse shape as the country would be faced with out of control health needs and too few options to actually treat the sick.
More people would die because the President and his crony thought tough talk would effect a virus.
Patrick's question, ‘Are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?’ is faulty. There is no individual in this scenario. His actions to return to work will affect scores and scores of others who will affect more and more people until the map of the United States is blood-red and our faulty decisions bleed that red across Canada and Mexico and from there it just travels on and on.
That is the nature of a pandemic. It doesn't respect borders or border walls. It behaves as viruses behave looking for opportunistic ways to proliferate.
The advice from Patrick and the edict from Trump represent the forward way for a pandemic to claim a globe.