The Holding

[Older poem from my 2012 Book Requiem, here published again in dedication to all the heroic frontline workers, nurses, doctors, cleaners, street sweepers, garbage collectors, teachers, food growers and retail workers, fire fighters, often risking their own lives. The wisdom of this pandemic and the summer’s megafires is to suddenly reveal the irrelevance of much of our useless work while at the same time ruthlessly revealing our utter dependence on the mostly ignored, underpaid, under-resourced, often female workers doing the hard, mostly invisible work of support and caring that underpins society. Can we mobilise to both keep the guaranteed minimum income many countries have introduced AND at least have this essential caring work honoured and recognised by much increased wages? The photo from Twitter is of exhausted Italian nurses.]

The Holding

There is no such thing as society.
– Margaret Thatcher

a mother strokes the hair
of her asthmatic child at 3 am
her nerves silently screaming
pain, love, bone-deep exhaustion
to a pale indifferent moon

a rain-soaked father turns
moth-soft eyes
& a smile of welcome
to his nine year old
dragging slow defeated boots
back towards him through
the football field’s sucking mud

a circle of twenty women
from under-funded welfare agencies
in a dingy church hall
blaring missionary posters
quietly report on business,
buttressing lives
on shrinking budgets,
sustaining each other
with soft voices
weaving silent nets of holding

the two men I greet
each early morning
carefully sweeping Corbett & Bong Bong
among bin-marauding currawongs,
the men who build our houses,
drive the community bus,
fix our cars, fight our fires,
repair our roofs & dunnies:
the heavy invisible work, deep
soil of the community tree

or: Penrose community hall, packed
to the rafters, anti-mega-dump,
sweaty words, pollies eeling their way out,
concerned residents fearfully
half-opening to a new threshold,
active citizenship, before the snail
pulls in its feelers again
& democracy back in its shell

or: the environmentalists, activists
standing concerned & forlorn
in rivers of rushing consumers
holding leaflets no one reads,
the public tree planters, green guerrillas,
the willing tools of our common future’s
mighty trees, crystal air, sweet birdsong
breathing through our children’s smiling
drawings & desperate, deadly dreams

~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on April 22, 2020.

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