On a cold blue morning, she will sit
on a crowded rattling train,
antibacterial gel in her pocket,
avoiding other people’s faces,
sneezes, coughs and stares.
She might fidget on her seat,
watch the burgeoning greenery,
the fresh flashes of fields and trees
as she hurtles towards the city:
crowds of strangers, with their mouths
and noses, suspicious eyes, and masks.
She has never seen a sea of masks,
in a hospital or nightmare: will she be
debilitated by contagion or anxiety?

Kim M. Russell, 4th March 2020

Image result for free images coronavirus
Image found on the website of the British Society for Immunology

My response to Poets and Storytellers United Weekly Scribblings #9: Contagion

Magaly says that If we have access to any kind of news, the word ‘contagion’ doesn’t fill our hearts with the warmest of feelings. I’m taking a five-hour train ride next Monday, part of which is on the London Underground, to get to my daughter and grandson to celebrate his second birthday, and I’m anxious.

Thank you, Magaly, for channeling my anxiety into ‘ink-infused hope’, new poetry or prose inspired by the idea of ‘Contagion’—social, metaphorical or biological.

22 thoughts on “Antibacterial

  1. It would be very hard not to be anxious at present. I am soon going from my country town to a big city to look after my grand-daughter for a couple of weeks while her parents are away; can’t help thinking it’s not a great time to be going somewhere so much more densely populated.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I so relate to this one, Kim! It’s natural to feel anxious especially now when there is threat lurking around corners. Wishing you a safe and pleasant journey. 💝💝

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve been wearing a mask, while riding buses and trains, for a couple of years now. My immune system just doesn’t seem to recover before something else hits me. I’ve had surgeries and complex treatments, a combination that leaves the body’s defenses struggling. But you know what I haven’t had in the last two years? A cold.

    I wash my hands like an OCD worshiper and have made my mask wearing almost a fashion statement. Every now and then, I find a person that is made anxious by the mask. Some even ask if I’m wearing it because I’m sick–New Yorkers aren’t shy, lol! I always tell them that it is because my immune system is nothing to write home about, and I don’t want to catch something it couldn’t handle without help. It’s so good to see the anxiety melt from their faces.

    I think honesty might bring a bit of balance–you know, a middle ground between anxiety and contagion awareness? If most of us, who wear the mask, would let others know that we are just trying not to get attacked by bacteria or viruses on top of our existing ailments, other people might breathe a bit easier when in a crowd… they might even be more careful when they cough or when they touch–I’ve seen it happen, and it’s a good feeling. Every time my friends and family (and pretty much anyone who knows me and interacts with me) wash their hands and faces before hugging me, I remember that they care, that they listen.

    And now that I’m done with my very long explanation, I should say that your poem describes the sense of anxiety so well. I can almost see the preoccupation in your speaker’s eye, smell the hand sanitizer in the air… She will be all right. I can feel it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Magaly, for explaining what life behind a mask is like for you. I also wash my hands thoroughly and frequently. I agree that honesty is best, and hope that governments and hospitals will be honest about the coronavirus. Up here in Norfolk, I haven’t seen anyone wearing a mask, but we are somewhat insular and it might all take while to reach us.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. A little anxiety can be a good thing, if it gets us to wash our hands and take other precautions. But being debilitated is never a good thing. I’m trying to keep things in perspective, even as I know my country’s government is quite likely to bungle the response.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, OK, well the symptoms have been explained very thoroughly here. Let me share the link.
    Magaly is a special case and needs to wear a mask all the time anyway, but for most of us there is no need to wear one if we are healthy. But washing hands is indeed recommended. Soap is better than hand sanitiser, as soap removes the fatty layer on the surface of the skin, where bacteria might linger; but sanitiser is also good.
    Hope that helps.

    Liked by 1 person

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