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A Covid Poem

By Susan Kujawa
Posted: 12/10/2020
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From Sue Kajawa

I recently attended, via Zoom, a reunion of Durfee Foundation sabbatical recipients. I was one of the oldest people there. It was heartwarming to be among a group of passionate, dedicated young activists and to share with them our hopes and dreams for the future. At the close of the event, this lovely poem was read. It is written by Frances Phillips, a poet and program officer at the Haas Fund in SF.

For people my age, the second verse was not anything that sounded the least bit appealing to me! But it made me think about younger people and all of the parts of their lives that they are missing during this pandemic time. Maybe for older adults like me, the slowing down and drawing in are more natural reactions than for younger people who are meant to be out and about. At any rate, I wanted to share this poem that is so suited to our times.

The author explains that “ramai” is an Indonesian word that means busy, crowded, noisy -- in a
good way - a Ramai: of people (many) (a crowd).

One day, we will be ramai again, we
will elbow our way onto the 30 Stockton
snake through the rain-soaked crowd under awnings
excuse our way up to the coffee bar
tighten the squeeze of the ladies’ room line
‘Excuse me, excuse me,’ through the theater seats
moments after the lights have gone down.

One day we will be ramai again, we’ll
hoist the crowd surfer over our heads
and slip on the beer-slick floor, elbowing the
girl who knows the lyrics, we’ll
dodge bicycles, running down the block
with lucky numbers on a slip of paper
we’ll crush five of us across the back seat
designed for three. If necessary,
someone can sit on the parking brake.

One day we will be ramai again, we’ll
inhale something other than our own breath,
we’ll wait on line at the most popular restaurant
use the bathroom at the movie theater
pile on and crawl over,
bump shoulders, hug and shake;
we’ll be as slobbery as basset hounds
joyful as retrievers.

Maybe we can even be those small toads
covering the asphalt on a summer night--
body-to-body, voice-to-voice.
Did I say we’ll sing? Yes, we’ll be singing.


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