Pandemic Archive

The Invisible Hitchhiker

By Julia Jude . . .

The invisible assailant
Closed our Schools
Places of worship
Crushed movements
As countries rushed to close their borders

Catchy slogans cooked up by spin doctors
Poured on to our screen
Stay at home and protect the NHS
Stay and home and self-isolate
Stay at home and shield the vulnerable
Stay at home and keep safe
Stay at home had no limits

Hunt was on
To fill the cupboards
To step up to the challenge
To do our bit to protect our family and loved ones
To do our bit to protect the NHS
To be responsible and attend to civic duties

And those who cross that line beware
Be prepared to be humiliated
Those who tried to attend to their basic needs
Be prepared to be shamed and photographed for all to see

The bullies
Media Mafia stand ready to gang up
On what they called those ‘shameless and selfish shoppers’
Wheeling round trollies loaded with loo rolls and sanitizers
Thoughtless heathens
Roared the press
Morals have been abandoned
Maybe Hobbs was right

Now what
Streets are quiet
No cars
Few buses
Windows transformed by children’s painting of rainbows
Melancholy is the new urban landscape
Air is cleaner
Birds can be heard tweeting
No longer drowned by urban living
Spring has arrived
Bringing with her a carnival of colours
Red, yellow, pink and purple
Bluebells paint our woodlands
Greeting sunlight
Before the arms of nature
Reveal their foliage
Forcing a hasty retreat.

The warmth of April sun
Release the pungent smell of nature
Wisterias show off their dazzling clumps of lilac petals
The senses are tingling
Thirsty for a touch of nature
The greenery of the local parks
Beckons its resident
Life has not lost its sweetness

Mind, soul and body nestled in the arm of nature
Heartbeat gentle
Fear recedes and withdraws
A stillness
A pause
A release of tension
A rainbow appears
Hope dips its toes and comes out to play
A horizon of plenty appears

Bodies feel the urge to flea
In this wonderland
like the swallow that guilds through skies
Visiting worlds far and near
Not hampered by passports or borders

The touch of air and wind
Moves around me
Greeting me softly
Like water I feel its presence
But it refuses to be captured
It’s not for sale.

This moment treasured is no idyll
My hour in the park has come to an end
Like Cinderella, I scurry back home
And bid farewell to nature for another day

In retreat
I long for solace and shelter in the countryside
The intimate spaces of city dwelling no longer desirable
Lockdown in city blocks has become a site of claustrophobia

Nobody is safe from the invisible killer
But it does not stop urban dwellers
Dreaming of country living
Silence descends
Loneliness hits hard
Joy and hope retire
The pandemic beast comes back to roam
Seeking souls unprotected by the spirits
Bodies touched by alcohol
Bodies unshielded
Bodies unprotected by loved ones
Bodies weighted down by illness
All prey to the beast
Whose claws
Spares no mercy

Those distant, near and far
Look on powerless
As space looking aliens
Care for their loved one
The invisible hitchhiker
Stands guard ready to rip out lungs of bodies
Leaving loved ones unable to mourn their dead

Stay at home and protect the NHS
What if homes are the taker of life
An ugly space where abuse reins
Behind closed doors
Where voices are muffled and drowned
Movement restricted
By a look of the eye,
By clenched fist
By kitchen knives
Tools regulating response
Allies of tyrannical bodies

What if home is deprived of space
Not fit for purpose
Bearing witness of empty food cupboards
Deprived of outside spaces to retreat to
Deprived of technology
Dependent on electrical meters
Top up schemes to keep family connected
What if homes used to rely on food banks
To bring food to the tables
What if home no longer feels like home

Stay at home and save lives
Whose lives?
Where does the moral compass lie?

The invisible hitchhiker
Touring the globe
Unveils the naked truths
Of the haves and have nots
Of the Oppressed
Ghosts of slavery
Poverty and slum clusters

There is disquiet as it moves slowly
Over the suspension of the care Act
The enormity of loss suffered
Loss of not being able to physically touch
Loss of not saying goodbye
Your photographs remain as evidence of your existence
Stay with me in my grief
As I retreat in my inner

Alone once more
Wandering around each room
In search of your presence
Empty head robbed of your companion
The salty sea tears touch my mouth
Oh, this grief is hard to bear
Bring me love and hope
Bring me kindness and compassion
Relieve this torment of mind and body
Heal the past and restore faith in future

Let there be a tomorrow
But when tomorrow comes
How will we recall these moments?
When a vaccine puts this pandemic to sleep

I want to hold on
To compassion
The thank you notes placed on the bins and letterboxes
I want to remember friends that I kept in touch with
I want to remember my baking that
saved me when soberness took control
I want to remember my friendship with nature
The weekly applause for front line workers
That lifted our spirits and connected us to a sense of community
That we did not know that we had

I want to remember the empty spaces created
To reflect and do things differently
I want to remember the vulnerability of BAME communities
The voices that got left behind
I want to remember the importance of being present with
Another human being
Want to remember the importance of staying hopeful even
When you feel that you can’t go on
Maybe this will give me a new sense of direction
Remembering the past to imagine a new future


3 thoughts on “The Invisible Hitchhiker

    • I was immersed in the rhythm of this writing as I read it.
      I moved with the beat.
      I could hear the sounds described, smell the smells, feel the emotions.
      Sometimes I wanted to move with it; sometimes pull back.
      The mixed emotions of these times.

    • I also want to hold on to being able to imagine a better future. It feels like an act of survival and a political statement. But getting through these times for carers is hard. Harder still in world confused by government messages about safety. This is a very strong and moving piece, Julia. Sometimes I feel the invisible hitchhiker is a hidden profiteer, friends of those in high places.

    • “The invisible hitchhiker….Unveils the naked truths” I am moved to tears by your writing this morning, Julia, and by its truth. Thank you.

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