THE PANDEMIC PROVES AGAIN THAT NO ONE CAN ESCAPE FROM THE WORLD

Rich folk live in gated communities or on private islands to escape from the world. Many well-off people send their children to private schools hoping to avoid having their kids come in contact with anyone who might make them doubt their parents’ beliefs or values. Many people try to escape the real world through alcohol, excessive drug taking, spending all day playing video games, purposely avoiding news shows and newspapers, conspiracy theories—the ways to try to hide from the world are endless.

Thinking about escape from the world, I conjured a poetic conceit: what if someone hid at the most remote points on the Earth: the most northern point, the highest point from sea level (which is different from the tallest mountain), the lowest point in the ocean, or the spot of land furthest from any sea or ocean. All of these locations experience terrible weather conditions, so even if you have hidden from civilization, you have not escaped from the sensations that define the world for all of us: sight, sound, smell, cold, wetness, exhilaration, pain. From these thoughts developed a poem, “The World is Always with Us,” which Evansville Review published about ten years ago.

The pandemic reminds me of the poem, because try as people might, it has been virtually impossible to escape the health, economic, psychological and social consequences of Covid-19. The plague is another proof that the world is always with us.

THE WORLD IS ALWAYS WITH US

Hide, hide, where can I hide?

At the north-most point of land,
birdless, seal-free bar of frozen silt and gravel
bobbing in and out of Arctic waves.

Away, away…

to the highest point,
a glacial hood conceals a stormy past,
pebbled whirlwinds batter yellow bands
of limestone ridges rising lifelessly beyond the pluck-line.

…from reminders of pain…

at the lowest point
below the ocean,
plant-like microbes gobble acid spewed from boiling vents,
soft-shelled shapeless microscopic beasties
float in hiss.

…remote from living things.

Furthest point from any ocean,
landlocked pole of inaccessibility,
tent-spotted desert
spider thirsty withered parched
and dry dry white white…

Hide, hide, where can I hide?

Marc Jampole
Originally published in The Evansville Review #20 (2010)

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