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Pen-demic by Mary Egan Campbell

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Shooting Star - sunset

Mary Campbell

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Putting pen to page over the past six months of uncertainty and fear has been a struggle. With a barrage of bad news filling my head there was little room for imagination. On top of that I had to learn new survival skills and keep them foremost in my thoughts as I went about my daily routine. Fear is a strong force that suffocates all other emotion and alas my creativity too. The book abandoned and the paper blank.

I tried to put my errant thoughts on paper and keep a diary of each strange new day of this Pandemic, but even the words I sought in order to create the narrative were elusive to me. Reading became impossible too. Not all reading. Of course like everyone else I scoured the daily news reports on my phone and soaked up all the social media commentary that is humanly possible, but to actually read a novel that might sweep me away into another less cruel world was a task I have found nigh on impossible.

My writers group meetings which were my rock before all this started were also taken from me. We tried the zoom thing for a bit which I will have you know is not only incredibly invasive but also a huge barrier to relaxed and real communication. Aside from poor internet connections and normal family interruptions like the family dog or warring children there is something uncomfortable about talking to people you know and love through such an artificial medium. Beggars can’t be choosers I know but when it comes to sharing your words on screen there is something vital lost in translation. Needless to say those meetings soon fell by the wayside. I found some comfort however in online collaborations by musicians and poets so at a time like this I daresay there is some merit to technology and Kudos to all the many artists who put themselves out there to share with us during these challenging times.

With great determination to crack the dry spell I tried to focus on my emotional responses throughout the course of this nightmare and dark as they might be I have found some words to describe my darkest moments of this time. While I have been extremely lucky to have a job that let me stay at home and keep my family safe there have been many times when I have been touched by this virus through the suffering of others close to me and my only therapy was unleashing this anxiety onto the page.

For me a change of scenery always helps. I was confined to home for so long these past months that I badly needed to get away. So when the opportunity arose I gathered up my brood and headed to the seaside in the hopes of some revitalising sunshine and soothing walks on the shore. My heart has always been by the coast and it is where I am at my most creative so the brief staycation in Sligo has definitely gone a long way towards healing some of my anxiety and helped to clear the fog between my ears.

I lost someone dear to me this week whom I had lost touch with long before the Pandemic disrupted our lives and the guilt is weighing heavy on my now as I write this piece. I lead a busy life but it is no excuse for not keeping in touch with the people from my past that I really cared about and that is something I now have to live with. The poem below is a testament to her and all who lost their battles with this sadistic invader who shows no mercy for young or old and threatens our very existence.

The past few months have been a cruel awakening for me but now that my eyes are opened wider I can see the world in all of it’s myriad colours. Good and bad there are a trillion shades of dark and light and I must forge my path forward through this mire and keep hope in my heart that somewhere over the rainbow my words will flow freely again.

Shooting Star

And the light went out
Having flickered bravely against
the wind and rain
So many times before the flame
was reduced to embers
But it always found breath
from somewhere and fanned
to life again
With stoic strength
you stoked the fire
Warming all who ventured close
Illuminating even the passers by
A gentle flare that neither
flashed nor sparked
but softly danced in beckoning glow
It was all you had to show
for almost two score and ten
A mere twinkle in a flashy world
of neon and Freon and other
artificial glare
Though your torch was sometimes
lost in the darkness all around you
I still found your beacon of hope
when I was low
Guided out of the gloom by your
shining light
And rekindled by your warm welcome
I danced again
Bathed in your gentle smile
And yet
Generously you watched me leave
when I was whole again
Gracefully illuminating my way
With no thought to halt my progress
Should I have lingered,
stayed a little longer,
been a better friend?
How could I have known
how this would end?
How your light was growing dimmer
by the hour
Could I have been a shelter
from the storm?
To block the winds that tore
you down and doused your
flame
A flame none could hold a candle to
Nor match such ethereal beauty
and grace
And just like a shooting star
that briefly lights up the sky,
blazing a trail for all to see
Your sparkle gilded all in its path,
beaming brightly and then passed
Quenching far too soon
Burned out
Your last breath carried away
on a cruel, cruel breeze

(c) Mary Egan Campbell

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