While we are otherwise engaged

In the solitude of lockdown
and the peaceful safety
of a village on the Broads,
news
drips
in
slowly.

If it wasn’t for social media
and local TV news, we might forget
for a minute that the sea
is
creeping
ever
nearer,

destroying sea defences,
toppling homes from cliffs,
and eating up the coast
while
we
sit
tight.

Kim M. Russell, 10th November 2020

House on edge of cliff after erosion from Storm damage, North Sea... News  Photo - Getty Images

My response to dVerse Poets Pub Tuesday Poetics: Poetry as Witness

Peter is hosting from Australia this Tuesday with poetry of witness (a.k.a. documentary poetry or information poetry).

He reminds us that some of us live in difficult circumstances and all of us live in times of change. He also writes about local changes, historic houses being demolished, and trees cut down for road-widening.

He wonders what’s a poet to do. He has found some answers in poems by Jane Hirschfield, Wilfred Owen and Urdu poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, as well as a preface to a poem by Russian poet Anna Akhmatova.

Peter challenges us to bear witness in our local neighbourhood, to look at our local papers, find publicly reported events, tree plantings or tree fellings,  dam openings or landslides, something we have witnessed personally – and write witness poems.

48 thoughts on “While we are otherwise engaged

  1. “the sea
    is
    creeping
    ever
    nearer,

    destroying sea defences,
    toppling homes from cliffs,
    and eating up the coast
    while
    we
    sit
    tight.”

    We wade ever so close to our own destruction. I love how you describe it, and how what we are engaging with now distracts us from other important issues.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Every day I wait for the local television news, hoping that there will be something interesting. But it’s mostly about the pandemic. The weekend before last, four police cars and an ambulance flew through our village with their blue lights flashing – we still have no idea why.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, the local news can be quite a drag, these times especially I think. You either hear the same thing about the pandemic or something just even worse about it (what else is new). That’s definitely weird though about the police cars. I wonder what happened.

        Something similar happened to me last night, but it was one police car and I wasn’t able to tell if they were near the neighborhood or on one of the main roads nearby.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh my! The image and the idea of the sea “destroying sea defences, toppling homes from cliffs, and eating up the coast,”.. is nothing less than terrifying. Powerful write.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Here, homes on the shores of Lake Michigan are in danger of sliding into the lake as well, and in my neighborhood a Fire Rescue Squad with flashing lights revealed the sad news that a neighbor has left this troubled world. I’m reminded of the old TV program “Naked City”. Remember the opening lines …. There are a million stories in the Naked City” …

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lovely piece Kim, I so like the four line refrain – and how it shifts down the poem – from drips, to ‘creeping’ – and the last ‘we sit / tight’ – and all the suggestions in that final word (‘fright’, fight, flight). – And what a great photo too – as if to underline the precarity of our situation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Peters. I would have like to have taken my own photo, but I’m shielding and won’t be able to get to the coast for some weeks yet. That alone is the weirdest feeling, but I know I’m safe in my own four walls.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Global warming and the Pandemic seem to trump all other things to “witness” out here on the trail. Miami and New Orleans are losing streets and neighborhoods, the Everglades are spreading out swallowing islets and cabins.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I don’t know how I can survive (or we can survive) without the news and updates via the internet. That sea is coming in so close, that house can topple over.

    Take care Kim. The lockdown will soon end (in the future).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. International and national news has taken over since the start of the pandemic. We don’t hear much about the local area any more. In the past , it was the other way round.

      Like

  7. I love the twin metaphors of the slow drip of news and time as well as the slow erosion of coasts. Funny how each of these things seem to just creep up on us, “eating” us. A wonderful poetic meditation, Kim.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This touches quite effectively on the claustrophobic impact of our strange strange world. Life feels like its eroding away. At my age and health, I wonder if I will ever again see a time when I am not deeply fearful to leave my home. We have all been permanently altered. The coastlines of our emotional mass are eroding. Fine writing Kim… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. My world has shrunk but not because of Covid. I am purposefully moving inward. Not sure if that is good, or unhealthy, or a cop-out, but it is where I am. I’m pushing the world to the side for awhile.

    Writing and reading poetry – to hades with newscasters – is all I need right now.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. The rising sea levels take back seat these days in the US to Covid and ridiculously and tragically and dangerously a president (notice the lower case!) who refuses to see reality and spews dangerous conspiracy theories as the world looks on aghast. Rising sea levels slowly, quietly, having their way.
    Excellent witness ineed.

    Liked by 1 person

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