Monday, 27 October 2014

The Things We Can't

As I queue for my flu shot,
I think about Ebola,
about international flight bans
and thermal guns to screen for fever.
I think of thirteen-year-old Bintu
frightened by every siren,
watching neighbours’ children die,
mattresses and bedding set on fire,
the dry-throated hunger of quarantine,
strangers trying to spray the virus
out of homes in Kailahun and Kenema.
I think of the pet trapped in the Dallas apartment
of a healthcare worker now in isolation.
I offer up my arm to the nurse –
here, a vaccination line moves fast.
Still, there’s no immunity to fear,
to Ebola or another deadly virus spreading.
The syringe’s silver slips through skin to flesh
easier than sunlight through glass,
and every bit as glinting.
But I know that this is nothing
to the ease with which a virus passes
from sneeze to hand, hand to another’s sleeve, cheek, mouth…
There are things that we cannot stop,
but that shouldn’t stop us from trying.
And while we’re trying, not forgetting
that every sliver of light
off a window, off a knife edge,
in the running of tap water
is a slice of life that is silver, so very silver:
each new day a piece of luck
that glitters in our fingers.

©Sarah James
Sarah James's most recent collection is Be[yond] from Knives, Forks and Spoons Press. Next year she has a narrative in poems, The Magnetic Diaries, out with KFS and, plenty-fish, with Nine Arches Press. She has a poem, 'That Night', animated in this year's Blackpool Illuminations. Her website is at

Some of the news links for this piece: 

Sarah James, poet and short story writer: website at & V. Press, poetry editor. 
Be[yond]poetry collection now out with Knives, Forks and Spoons Press (July 2013).
Into the Yellpoetry collection, Circaidy Gregory Press, 2010 - third prize, International Rubery Book Awards 2011.