Glass Hands: A Eulogy on the Anniversary of the Pandemic

Hands pressed to glass


On the fence across from the long-term care home families leave memorials for auntie, kokum, baba


Ink runs in the rain and half-mast flags


A table set with no guests to ask


Like bells ringing in classrooms calling eternal recess


Bless those who grieve


Unable to even leave kisses on foreheads


Bless the nurses as they move from bed to bed


We've scrubbed our hands until they cracked and bled


We read page after page of death announcements in the newspapers


Our elders, repositories of wisdom went first but then the rest of us


Living and dying through this curse


Coughs in lungs and final gasps


Some days feel like we are the last on Earth


Too fast we say, too fast


We didn't even have goodbye


And the wind blows over winter grass


My mother's mantra: this too shall pass.


Ours is not a funeral mass


We learned to mourn on Zoom


Christmas spent in empty rooms


We'll meet when the pandemic is through


But month after month and still the cases rise


In gloom loneliness intensifies


I no longer know your face behind the mask so I learn to know your eyes


But it's not enough.


And we try to bring to mind our last conversation


Amid the devastation we find hidden seams of human kindness


Bless the grocery bringers to quarantine


The minimum wage labourers who clean


The developers of the vaccine


The bus drivers and hospital workers at hour sixteen of their shift


Bless those who believe they will not be missed


It's the vulnerable ones most likely to be lost unseen


This is a lesson for we who have too long turned our heads at inequality


Believed in austerity


Now we understand the severity of policies that leave too many behind


Oh now we have learned to cry together.


Let us forever remember those who cannot come in from the cold


We should never again allow the deaths in shelters


In cell blocks, at home alone


No, let us make a promise in the now for the future beyond this


May we never again value people less than profits


Let us speak our love before the coffins


Let us pause not seldom, but often


May our hearts soften


Let us visit those living in isolation


Let clean water flow from the taps of First Nations


We can re-learn how to care for each other


We can re-learn how to share with each other


Let us honour the dead by committing to the living


Let us honour the dead by committing to giving


We are not broken though we are diminished


We still have time and this is not the finish


There is faith, and hope, and it's within us

Bibliographical info

El Jones, "Glass Hands: A Eulogy on the Anniversary of the Pandemic". Copyright © 2021 by El Jones. Reprinted by permission of the author. 

Source: First appeared on CBC's The Current. (El Jones 2021)


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