The highly contagious coronavirus is killing not only our fellow - citizens but also our plans: travel plans, family reunions, Spring Break, Passover, Easter, weddings -- even those scheduled months from now. Going back to late February, a few towns (Venice but not New Orleans) cancelled Mardi Gras; nearly a month later, St. Patrick's Day celebrations were cancelled the world over. Even just hanging out has been cancelled. With cancellation comes loss, and with loss comes grief. As Scott Berinato explains,
"The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we’re grieving. Collectively. We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air."I am also thinking of one of my long - time, tried and true poetic standbys, "The Nose Poem," in which poet Lee Perron highlights the significance of plans:
"your mate dies, or parentsPlans, glorious plans! Remember Adela Quested (from E. M. Forster's A Passage to India)? "She loved plans." It's funny how just a couple of weeks ago, we thought our plans were up to us -- whether we went out for lunch or maybe dinner. But no! Turns out we don't get to decide after all.
or one of your other friends
there is nothing fearful in the death
the deadman is not the problem
his letters perhaps
some phrase he spoke that rings every after
the way he died, what the surgeons did to his brain, or kidneys,
what you & he would have been doing now
next week, all summer long as you always did
the deadman did not die
your plans died
and this is what is so upsetting
this makes us so sick we cannot even think . . . "
During this season of social distancing, Perron's final stanza seems more pertinent than ever. We may shake one another's hands, or not:
". . . in this beauty the car stopsContinued thanks to Jim Barnes for teaching me this poem back in 1977; and to Lee Perron for befriending my family back in 2003 after receipt of our fan letter.
the arm reaches for the doorhandle
and there is nothing left to it but the pulling up on the handle...
and one of you looks back through the car window
you may touch one another's lips, or not
it hardly makes any difference, so beautiful is desire"
Passages from "Desire a Sequence" by Lee Perron
Published in The Chariton Review, Fall 1977
Editor, Jim Barnes
So group hugs are temporarily
cancelled, but all is not lost.
We can all adopt this gracious custom:
Understanding The ‘Wai’ Thai Greeting!