How Long Is A Month In Steps?

‘How do you live when the link
Between creativity
And survival
Can’t easily
Be discerned?
The answer to this question
Brought me here.
My fingerprints bloom
On the cream-coloured
Card.

I am standing, like most people, in a cats-cradle of my prior plans, a few tremulous fingers either way, from making something, or nothing, of the situation. Or so it seems, as my goals wink at me through the mirage of distance that stretches from 2021 into the unknown. The boundary shifting that Covid-19 has sent rippling through everyone’s private worlds has made planning an elusive ideology in this highly contingent state that we now live in. Here, I manifest myself into the ‘we’ of the lucky ones for whom instability, in a prolonged way, is a novel plague and not a constant in itself. That being said, we are all subject to our own states and I will only attempt to speak to you from mine. The past year has been one of pause. Not long after the new life of lockdown I made the unrelated decision to exempt myself from academia. I hit the PhD pause-button as life insisted that I be elsewhere, tending to matters of the type that can-not be prevented or evaded; only witnessed and withstood as best they can. Now that I am one month away from returning, I am trying to sift through my new set of realities, to find what it was that kindled my passions initially. 

During my time away, one of the things overly absent was my love of reading and my need to write. Both wilted. Without frequent social interaction, I think most people would agree, the fire to absorb and produce depletes. For me this was definitely the case, and as ever in crisis situations there is a more automated self which begins to pilot, rather than the emotional and creative person who usually has what passes for control. My new life did not involve books and critical thinking, and subsisted instead on a steady diet of 90s comedy nostalgia, nail art and furniture painting, along with any other available and suitably superficial distractions. I am grateful to each of them, as this year was not one to wade through deep pools of thought and I have been reliant on these stepping stones to convey me through the days and allow for what healing is professed to come from the passage of time. 

However, I am now worried. The well worn cloak of imposter syndrome was there waiting for me as the university buildings began to swim back into view; with the new added bitterness of being barred from entering. The community of people with whom I had grown screen weary, sharing small milestones and small failures whilst our keyboards became peppered with crumbs, have all now graduated or dispersed. I am forced to reassess whether I am indeed capable of original thought, which comes with its usual spiral staircase of self-doubt. 

If you have followed me this far, you are probably wondering why such a grey day need have more grey applied to it. However, I am writing this precisely because this is the grey day in which I have become capable of writing. And this, for me, marks the start of the mirage growing thinner; a move toward something like focus. The things that coax my imagination lolling from its shell are starting to become persistent. And this in turn brings me back to the PhD that I am supposed to be putting together. 

Today my delivery arrived. One of the women whose poetry I am writing about, or will continue to write about once I find my way back to the path, published another book. I ordered it without thinking, the way we acquire things that are necessary to us. In doing so I have begun to understand that her work has become necessary to me. Like all of the poets I have distilled down to, she is brown and a woman, she holds things in her body and preserves them, almost begrudgingly, onto paper. In her narratives about brown bodies, black bodies, immigrant bodies, displaced bodies, dissected bodies, unwelcome bodies and female bodies, I begin to centre. I can feel my brain articulating in its shell and unclenching from its state of flight. I am beginning to have faith in the community these women’s works create for me, however peripheral I may feel to the spaces they inhabit. It is reassuring to be able to search for a thread and reel myself back toward familiar thoughts, ones which provoke feeling and response, that re-justify the need to read and write in me. This is not a period in time where I need to over express for anyone the value of community. And I will end with the earnest wish that if, like me, you are somewhat unravelled, you can find your way back to those things that feed you. I am definitely going to persist in trying to wade back to them for myself. 

Like this?
It’s inky-early outside and I’m wearing my knitted scarf, life
John Betjemen, poet of the British past.
I like to go outside straight away and stand in the brisk air.
Yesterday, you vanished into those snowflakes like the ragged beast
You are.
Perhaps I can write here again
A “fleeting sense of possibility” – K.
Keywords: Hospitality, stars, jasmine,
Privacy.

By Loma Jones

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