This morning it occurred to me that the whole world is really “waiting in the wings” if, as Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage.” Of course, that made me realize how much I miss the theater. “My” theater, one of my happy places, is being renovated during this unscheduled downtime, and I’m thrilled for the possibilities. I’m also a bit worried because I don’t know when we’ll be able to get another production on the stage, even though we do plan to. But plans don’t mean much right now, do they? Will our cue ever come? While we wait, though…
Like many I fell for a Facebook trend recently which consisted of posting your senior photo in support of this year’s graduating class. I don’t actually have my senior photo anymore because it was a few years ago, but I do have my old yearbook, so I pulled it out and took a pic of my old photo. And posted it with some encouraging words for this year’s seniors who are basically missing out on a pretty fun part of their lives while we take our corona break.
But I started thinking. Was that post more about me than it was the seniors? Probably. I mean, I looked good at 18. We all looked better than we do now, let’s be honest. I got a lot of nice comments on the photo, too, and those are always good. But how in the hell was it supposed to make today’s seniors feel better?
So, as an act of contrition, I wrote a poem, and not just any poem, either. An Italian sonnet, which is widely regarded as a difficult form. Here goes:
Humans, as a whole, have a difficult time seeing clearly beyond their own noses. I’m guilty of it, too. Some have a gift of empathy where they not only see clearly what is happening to others beyond their own experience, they feel it, too. These poor creatures are definitely the exceptions.
Look at what’s going on now. Here in southeastern North Carolina, we’re dealing with the restrictions that COVID-19 has placed on our entire nation, we’re watching the news and seeing the numbers tick steadily up—but the people around us don’t appear to be sick. Maybe some of them are, but their cases must be extremely mild. We know that there are more cases out there and we could be next. We know it, but we don’t, for the most part, actually feel it.
And so we go on about our lives. We’ve taken up new hobbies, returned to old ones. The kids go to “online” school every day. Some of us are chafing a little at the restrictions. My kids can’t see their friends. My oldest is missing the second half of his sophomore year at college. But over it all, right now (and it may be short-lived), I have a feeling of profound peace. I’m not rushing anymore. I’m not feeling guilty for devoting so much time to the theater work I love instead of making dinner for my family. I have time to fold laundry and wash dishes. I’m enjoying this unanticipated vacation.
And I know it shows a lack of empathy that I can feel peaceful right now. Maybe this is the end of everything, maybe it’s the ruination of our country, maybe it’s the apocalypse. Anyway…
Peace and Rubble (is this how we go?)
By Michelle Garren Flye
If this is the way we go, I think it’s the way I choose:
Family all around, safe in our home, with love as real
As the things I care about—the only things I have to lose;
Maybe that’s wrong to say but it’s the way I feel.
It’s an odd war we’re fighting, of that there is no doubt.
The enemy is hidden, you can’t even see the rubble.
There’s nothing to show on the nightly news, no bout
Of bombing or flattened buildings—maybe that’s the trouble.
Instead of fighting, we’re asked to sit still and quiet
Don’t go out, stay home with your loved ones, they say.
There’s a special joy in that if you’ll only find it,
A life you’ve not given yourself time to live—until today.
When this whole coronavirus thing started, I mourned the theaters closing down, the canceled basketball seasons, the silenced concerts. In my mind, art is what makes us all who we are, whether we make it, appreciate it or resist it. That’s why repressive regimes cut art funding. That’s why freedom of expression is the first freedom lost and the last to be regained. Art pushes boundaries governments don’t want to be pushed, and when it’s given up voluntarily as it has been in the Covid-19 crisis, I sometimes worry it won’t return easily.
Art is still happening. Theaters are finding ways tostream plays. Musicians are offering live stream concerts. Sports fanatics are getting their fix by watching classic games. And this got me started thinking. Art has always found a way. It always will.
Unstoppable (an ode to art)
By Michelle Garren Flye
It squeezes through the cracks.
Look there, at that wall, solid brick
Built to contain, to hold back, to keep out.
Sturdy and solid, at least eight inches thick…
But don’t lose concentration, don’t turn your backs!
I tell you, if you do, it will creep through the cracks.
It’ll ooze through the tiniest of the littlest of spaces.
And what harm can that do, I can just hear you ask.
What harm can a little bit do, even in the worst cases?
I’m glad you asked, because it’s likes poison in snacks.
It’s the sneakiest of things, when it slides through the cracks.
No one understands just how serious it is.
It will decay all our rules, promote thought and reflection.
That kind of thing will spell the end of all this.
Maybe it’s time we start to make tracks.
You can still stop it! Maybe pile sticks into stacks?
Or chew up some gum to stop the hole fast?
As a last measure, you can hold it back with your hands?
But you’ll feel it squeezing, creeping, oozing past…
There’s no way to keep art from getting through the cracks.