Sunday, June 14, 2020

Chalk Revisions

My new routines include posting a poem every morning in June in three ways: in chalk on a chalkboard beside my front stoop, on Instagram, and on Facebook. 

What I’ve discovered is that I make chalk revisions, adapting the poem to how it looks and feels on the green chalkboard, how it fits there. This causes a few changes in line break and word choice. This surprised me but was oddly appropriate to the “now” we are living in, containing constant changes in a kind of suspended time that makes me constantly attentive to the present moment. So, moments ago, yesterday’s handwritten poem about the lavender-colored clematis blooming in my yard was adapted into chalk without the word “clematis” in it and with a line that has colors at both ends.

Tiny Meditation

I gaze at a pale
purple bloom on a white
trellis made of thread
upon a wooden fence.

In all its versions, it reminds me a bit of the William Carlos Williams poem with the white chickens. Probably because of brevity, the color white, and the word “upon.”

Another new routine involves masks. I have two masks, both handmade by volunteers, one provided by my workplace, one requested from a friend before I went back to work. It’s good to have two, so I can wash them after each day’s use and leave one to hang dry while I wear the other. I have two little fabric bags for carrying them, and these I also wash after each use. I can carry my mask in the fabric bag in the car, on my way to the grocery store, or in my hand as I walk to work in a scarf or bandana, tied and arranged to be pulled up quickly if I meet someone on the sidewalk as we cross Sugar Creek together and can’t step six feet politely aside.

No lipstick. It would get on the mask. Lipstick in Zoom sessions, to help you read my lips.

We all wear masks at work in the closed library. We wash our hands frequently and use hand sanitizer. I feel like a doctor or nurse now, walking into the room and washing my hands first thing. I had my annual wellness appointment with my doctor, as well as a previously scheduled dental appointment, following the new protocols. Temperature at the door, a series of questions to answer, masks. At the doctor’s office, the nurse gave me a heads-up to keep my mask secure, the doctor is a stickler (yay!), and I made sure my glasses secured my mask above my nose. At the dentist, the hygienist wore her usual mask and face shield but had adapted the cleaning to avoid excess water spray. The dentist did his usual handwashing but not his usual handshake! And wore a mask.

One of my daily chalkboard poems was about masks. So was another, one I chose not to put up, as it seemed too harsh and might upset the mail carrier. But you can probably handle it:


If you don’t wear a mask         
you reveal who you are

in more ways than one.

It is a little mean and glib. (And, oddly, it reminds me of a line from one of the Batman movies.) But, really, that’s what’s going on around here, out there, many people not wearing masks, thinking it’s all over, we’re all OK. Friends and co-workers are experiencing it out in the world and are worried. My parents decided not to go to an outdoor restaurant with friends when they saw how crowded it was, how few people were wearing masks, how some were sitting indoors… I’ve only seen my parents four times since March 13, in their back yard or their huge great room, six feet apart. A friend from Chicago came to town, and I visited with him outdoors and at the proper distance, no hugging.

Sigh… Yes, constant chalk revisions of our very lives. Chalk circles now on park greens to designate areas to sit in the sun. Pink chalk hearts on the street to show where to stand for the Pride Month Pulse memorial event.

But don’t be fooled, the virus hasn’t been erased.

1 comment:

Sue Thornquist said...

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

*I taught this poem for so many years and even had students write an imitative "so much depends upon" poem to create an evocative image. They were delightful.