This is the sound of our country.
Hands clapping each other
like carthorses through the lanes,
carrying our gratitude, its heavy load.
Along the road, old branches stoop
to touch the rag and bone man’s wares –
scrap metal, ventilators, hazmat suits.
Roots strain against the concrete.
Feel him clatter across their elbows and knees.
Up on our balcony we are clapping –
the sound returns to us
like seeing echoes
of our parent’s eyes in ours.
The solitary birch below us chuckles.
It has known isolation
all its life – everywhere
the sound of people
together has been solace and scourge.
The birch has never heard
anything quite like this clapping –
iron railings singing with it,
like tuning forks sounding back the note
in case we forget.
This new air is full
of the skin on skin of it
even when people are afraid
of skin, these days.
The birch lives now in the whispers
between its leaves.
We would do well to remember
the spaces between things.
First published in Acumen, September 2020