HOPE (poem) – a constant in these unsettling times

It’s nearly a year now that as a country we have been battling the coronavirus. In some respects, it feels like a lifetime ago when Boris made that first announcement to put life on hold, and yet it feels like only yesterday.

We have certainly been through a lot, all of us, in one way or another. And we’ve learnt a lot too, things we maybe never thought we’d need to learn about – how to wear a face mask properly, how to pass someone safely in the street, how to cut our own hair…??!! (Some better than others I hasten to add!!)  Some people have lost loved ones or watched family members be very sick from afar, learning to use Zoom or other digital technology to keep connected, not a substitute, but a make do.

Some of us have got fit, walking, biking, exploring and learning about what’s right on our doorstep – an area perhaps overlooked for greater things before. Some of us have learnt a new skill – there have been many loaves of banana bread baked, musical instruments dusted off and brought back to life.

Through all the ups and downs the last year has thrown at us, ‘Hope’ has remained a constant, even sometimes when we think it’s gone or every last part of you feels like giving up, it’s been there. Hope is getting the children’s dinner, it’s putting out the bins. It’s logging on for the next online remote school lesson, it’s getting the school uniform back out of the cupboard and dusting off the school shoes. But it’s not always easy to recognise, especially when you’re tired, fed up, bored, sad, resigned.

Jude’s poem (in honour of World Poetry Day 2021) reminds us how determined Hope is, that it’s there, quietly, stubbornly and resignedly. It’s the little things, that help us find a way to the bigger things that we can achieve if we can just keep hoping. (Sarah, Scheme Manager)


Here’s Jude reading her poem…

Remember hope this time last year?
How we drowned out the first chokes of fear
with banging pans
and clapping on a Thursday night,
singing while we washed our hands, and bright,
coloured rainbows in all our windows.
We learned how to queue two metres apart
and how to see who was in a queue. We started
applying sanitiser, Italians were singing
arias from balconies
setting us crying,
and we texted pictures of empty toilet roll shelves,
because everyone else
was panic buying…

It was frightening and new,
strange and heartless.
We could barely believe it –
wide-eyed and startled,
we shook our heads, ‘wow’
but we soon learnt how
to wave from opposite pavements,
step off the kerb to let someone pass.
“We can do this!”
we said to each other
and we started making masks,
and buying home haircutting kits.

We shared our songs,
despaired of our children, considered
new hobbies and learnt how to zoom.
We watched the news,
were shocked at statistics,
got to know scientists,
greeted without kisses,
and tried not to resent those
who actually did
learn new hobbies.
We purchased puppies,
drank wine, ate chocolate,
learnt the phrase ‘loungewear,’
bought bikes,
online shopped
and stopped
watching the news.
Our sentences began,
“When all this is through..”
because we thought we knew
that’s what hope would do.

And sure enough,
summer came, its sunshine faded
some of our pain
and we smiled again, wrily,
the flame of hope rose,
we shut eyes and held our
faces to the glow of its rays
some people looked forward
to holidays,
and some looked forward
to starting to grieve.
We bought garden furniture,
counted our friends,
met at the playground,
frowned, and wondered when
to take our – by now
rather tatty – rainbows down.

But then, summer passed too,
and nothing quite ended.
That curve started going up again,
and each time we thought we could get closer,
our separation was extended,
there were tiers and tears and fears again,
the temperature dropped,
another lockdown.
We tried to entice fate
by putting our Christmas decorations
up very obviously and early
in November, but
fate took no notice,
slender hopes were
dashed. Christmas promises,
broken, smashed,
rules were re-imposed,
and the day after opening,
schools re-closed.

January and February,
we were like rag dolls.
Resigned, wounded, limping,
all our scaffolds
taken away.
Even Captain Tom was fallen.
and the weather itself was mourning.
We did not go out applauding.
We let our heroes get on with their work
knowing they knew
and anyway,
we needed our energy
just to get through –
to hunker down,
hold out,
dig in,
carry on,
feed our children,
grit our teeth,
check on our neighbours,
and keep ourselves warm.
And I thought to myself,
where did the rainbows all go?
But you can’t make rainbows with snow.
At our lowest low,
we felt that we had lost hope,
But no. That’s when hope
came into its own.

Because hope is harder and hardier than that,
more rugged, more solid, more dogged,
more dog-eared, less puppy-eyed,
more experienced,
and possibly
more resilient.

Hope is quiet, stubborn, unshowy,
gutsy, gnarled, weathered, clinging.
Hope’s not the feathered bird singing, but
the pair of battered hands that, red, raw and dry,
still opens to let it take to the skies.
Hope was when we looked each other in the eye,
and said “I can’t do this any more,”
but I’m going to have to.

Hope was not the first glimmer of light,
it was the crunch of snow when, still dark as night,
it was time to scrape ice from your windscreen.
Hope wasn’t shoots of Spring green,
it was germs being turned into vaccine,
it was frost like a full stop before the next sentence,
and signing up for trials.
It was waiting when you were tired of waiting,
and felt so trapped. It was renewing your membership
of a dating app.
Hope was putting out the bins, and thinking,
there’s one thing that hasn’t changed,
hope was getting up and dressed
when you had no zooms that day.
Hope was walking slowly in the dark,
in sturdy shoes.
Hope was grasping the fact that a slow-down
in the rate of increase
which might show in the statistics
in three weeks’ time
was really good news.
Hope was hugging your tearful child,
when you couldn’t find ways to explain things.
Hope was fishing out a muddy glove
and sticking it up on a railing.
Hope is not the opposite of failing.
It’s the habit of knowing there’s a reason for not giving up.
And remember what extraordinary things
we achieve when we don’t give up.


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