BY Margot Douaihy
COLLABORATIVE ANAPHORA POETRY TIME CAPSULE
After the pandemic, in the post-COVID future, what might seem like a wild memory? What societal, artistic, or emotional truths should be archived? Poets from around the world joined the Northern New England Review to collaborate, project future nostalgia, and write a collective anaphora poem time capsule.
Remember when we wore masks, every day, every night, even in dreams? Striped masks & cartoon masks & plaid masks & masks with bird beaks.
Remember when we had to test for the virus in our bodies by swirling soft sticks inside our nostrils, making it rain behind our eyes?
Remember when taps ran for twenty-second hand washings & we sang Happy Birthday to Me & the water drained into the sea?
Remember the lines that wrapped around the block for testing, for unemployment, for free turkeys, how every frame looked like a photograph from another time?
Remember when time collapsed and space expanded and we stood in the light of the refrigerator peeling another string cheese?
Remember when air travel ground to a halt & the sky over LA was clear as fused quartz?
Remember when you could misplace your sadness in the toe of your lace-up leather boots, in your travel-soap container, in the inner, zippered pocket of your red suede handbag, in the rococo spiderweb near the grill?
Remember when your spouse stayed home, and you could take your terrible dog on long walks in the morning together, marveling at neighborhoods you’d never seen before and taking time you didn’t have before to look for birds in trees?
Remember the dream in the bird-beak mask when you threw your body at the window over & over until you collapsed in a pile of your own flesh & feathers?
Remember how we didn’t see each other for an entire year except that one time on Zoom yoga?
Remember how we tried to write the end of the story & couldn’t & still can’t?
Remember meeting friends and colleagues across the country over Zoom, with wine glass in hand, near-laughing, near-crying, and all the time, feeling a loneliness you couldn’t recognize?
Remember when we measured our lives by yardsticks instead of time? By shopping carts & sagging couches & your tallest cousin you couldn’t see for the holidays?
Remember when all the television felt dated because of the constant touching?
Remember the poet friend who sent the collected stories of George and Martha and two stuffed, fluffy hippos for your children in the mail? Remember how the hippos held the morning and the tears and you during Zoom kindergarten? Remember your children taking turns to read to their hippo each night.
Remember the ceaseless sirens, the constant keening backdrop: Ambulance, Firetruck, Police. Banshees across boroughs, calling each to each, a whole season of them. A Spring cacophony turned to fugue while we listened and didn’t listen, heard without hearing.
Remember how there was no vaccine for the longing? Your absence a concave, living thing, an ear pressed to the heart.
Remember, none of us wanted to dig there, but after the first wave our only vacancy was the Sound. Remember: three high, two wide is the formula for turning pine out of crown.
Remember when suddenly everyone was like you, stuck at home, looking at time and space out the window?
Remember who suffered, who lost, who baked, who sewed, who healed, and remember how it happened, each agonizing disappearance, each plea from an epidemiologist, each moment in the dark, waiting.
Remember, at first, we couldn’t reassure our daughters and our mothers couldn’t reassure us. Then eight months later, we found solace in voices, in back yard fire pits. Your head asleep on my rising falling chest became a glinting gem. Every breath, a gem.
Remember the blonde giving way to gray, even beginning to like it and reframing the look as newly chic and sophisticated.
Remember space on the shelves, follow the arrows around the shops, hand sanitisers at the entrances, checking you had a mask before you stepped outside, walking on the road to avoid folk, extra awareness of how close folk were to you, your private space the length of an ironing board.
Remember yearning for a hug from your son who had just flown across continents to be home from university yet you had to stand meters apart from him, your smile hidden behind your mask, your heart beating the words “con ơi, mẹ yêu con” and you just wanted to tell him that everything was OK now that he was home but instead you went into the kitchen and cook him a soup which your mother had given you when you were a child and sick since this was the only way you knew how to make the world stop spinning and for peace to gather into the phở fragrance that rose from your fingers and would hug and caress your son on your behalf.
Can you please always remember this: that a yardstick can at first feel like a dowel until it becomes a churn making the butter swirl down your gullet which makes your harvest-moon dream have you become exactly that angelfish swimming through the veins of Covid and if only you find the right portal you (and all those you love and all the ones you have learned to love) will escape!
Remember your four-year old son asking, “What does ‘quarantine’ mean?”
Remember the charge of walking into a room, greeting beloveds, hugging, holding hands, rocking back and forth, whispering close. Remember singing in unison together, vibration. Remember practicing asana close to many bodies until collective breath fills the room. Remember the excitement of live transmission, when a poet speaks, and from within the same room something palpable is given, beyond word and page.
Remember when the best thing that ever happened to me and also everything else happened while I was in this same plush brown recliner in front of the computer? The room started spinning when I tried to get up. I held on and stayed put, so thirsty for faces in boxes and the play of other minds that only the antic calm of the sky or the thump of a package on the landing could call me away.
Remember blue hair, bikes, banana leaves? The boy in fishnets snagged on the gruff of a backhoe rumming down the cobbled street? How it all felt so close, opaque, a glimpse of the beforetime scrubbed off the French doors of Cafe Envie now locked against its usual audience of pigeons & pedestrians, a trashed mask limping across the sidewalk?
Remember how we couldn’t agree what was real, what was safe or threatening? How some of us stayed in our homes, alone or with family, working, surviving, caring for our bodies, our bodies carrying us through? While others gathered by thousands, unmasked and inflamed, and then slowly, how some of them grew sick, infected others, died? Remember how still others could not stay home? They went on working—they go on working, sometimes dying, for us all—and still we can’t agree what is real, what is safe or threatening.
Remember what is real.
Remember when you said guilt. When you said dirty laundry. When you said addendum, apology. I heard fear, raised my lips to its iconography. When you said silence, I was folding laundry thinking of mama who died without ever unbelieving homeland-food would bring your father back.
Remember when you washed your hands to “Happy Birthday” on your actual birthday.
Remember things do break. But God has not
run out of patience or mercy. A sudden coin
of light we will one day recognize
brought us to the far side—a lot was consumed by fire.
And the vestigial life beyond then is different.
Life is not gentle, but somehow it still is
Remember the tree outside your window, slowly putting on its finery, slowly letting it go.
Remember what is real?
Remember when you were here but I was there and we spent our time wishing each other to be elsewhere?
Margot Douaihy, Northampton, MA (Norwottuck land), USA
Jennifer Huxta, Philadelphia, PA, USA
Nicole Callihan, Brooklyn, NY, USA
Patty Seyburn, Newport Beach, CA, USA
Yi Shun Lai, Claremont (Tongva land), CA, USA
DeMisty D. Bellinger, Fitchburg, MA, USA
Troy Nikander, Brookline (Abenaki land), NH, USA
Andi Talarico, Brooklyn, NY, USA
Summer J. Hart, (Munsee Lenape land), Cold Spring NY, USA
Holly Painter, South Burlington (Abenaki land), VT, USA
Sarah Anderson, Exeter (Abenaki land), New Hampshire, USA
Joy Ladin, Hadley, MA, USA
Jane Seskin, NY, USA
Paul Brookes, Wombwell, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, UK
Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai, Jakarta, Indonesia
Edie Meidav, Amherst, MA (Norwottuck land), USA
Laynie Browne, Wallingford PA, (Lenape land,) USA
Susan Stinson, Northampton, MA (Nonotuck land) US
Hannah VanderHart, Durham, NC (Skaruhreh/Tuscarora and Shakori land) USA
Stacey Balkun, New Orleans, LA, USA
Julie Phillips Brown, Lexington, Virginia (Monacan land), United States
Callista Buchen, IN, USA
Alina Stefanescu, Birmingham, AL, USA
Linda Umans, New York, NY, USA
Tawanda Mulalu, Cambridge, MA, USA
Justen Ahren, West Tisbury, MA, USA
Amy Lemmon, Astoria, NY, USA
Simon Williams, Edinburgh, UK