The Pain of Distance by Transpoesis (c) 2020
Writing the poem, The Pain of Distance, saved me from getting trapped by my fears. The flow of words re-organised the inner chaos resulting from the stress of isolation. Creativity shaped a new sense of home and gave birth to a home-made video production, connecting homes (in Zurich, Chur, Abuja and Kigali1) as landmarks of a corona lockdown map of existence.
Putting our deepest questions and worries on paper can be a confession which is not done in front of a priest – a difficult undertaking nowadays anyway as many representatives of the holy duties have closed their sanctuary. My poetic confessions are more the expression of a truth-seeking soul:
“While I wake up during the night, I wonder if it is Corona fever or just fear. Gosh! Am I gonna die next?”
Poetry gives us a tool to navigate in a stormy sea and helps us to break through the feeling of isolation.
“Do I fear more the virus or the stress of isolation?”
But who is listening to us now?
Public space has shifted to the virtual world, leaving streets and places empty. Theatre halls and festival stages resemble deserted movie sets, waiting for the stars to arrive, but they got caught up with the movie called real life. In our desire to connect with others – which is our nature as human beings – #coronalockdown all over the world has created a not-been-there-before social media activism. It was intended to encourage each other, to keep speaking out and raise our voices against a new frightening chapter in the history of humanity. It seems that we end up living more and more in a world of Instagram and co., easily disconnected from spatial and real-life emotions. As a consequence of lockdown, we may learn new skills of social media communication, but by now, I eagerly wait for a re-conquest of space, a space that can be walked by with my two feet, a space that captures the sound of my voice and gives an echo, a space that allows me to feel the warmth of human bodies.
That space out there is also a beast. It can easily put us back into fears, another wave of worries flowing into our living rooms and minds. Hearts getting narrow, beating faster than what doctors recommend. For some, Labour Day was not a celebration of their right to have a job, but the day of being informed that their work contract has been cancelled due to Corona related adjustments in the professional world.
Confronted with that tremendous wall, I hear a young man say with faith, that God has another plan for him. With admiration for his strength of standing tall, I pray with all my heart: “God, stay close! Your children do not wanna deal with another pain of distance.” Confessions may have a different receiver, but they can nonetheless grow from the same depth.
1. The Pain of Distance with Kinyarwanda subtitles
Andrea Grieder is a poet and social anthropologist. She is the founder and director of Transpoesis, an organization based in Rwanda with the aim to empower through Poetry. Originally from Switzerland, she has a Ph.D. from the University of Zurich and Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), Paris. She is a lecturer at the University of Technology and Arts of Byumba (UTAB), Rwanda.