Poem

Maxine Beneba Clarke
generation zoom

in the third week of the pandemic

 

               schools started closing

workers were sent home

 

and they started to call the youngsters:

              generation zoom

 

named, of course, for that chat-app

all of them seemed to use

 

logging in for facetime

completing maths lessons online, dancing

tiktok feeds on loop, clicking in

to instanews, and everyone was asking:

 

              what on earth will become

              of whatsapp’s children?

 

     visiting friends

through cracked iphone glass,

and advised to stay away

              from their own mama’s arms

 

who weren’t allowed

to warm to touch

 

cause don’t you know

there’s a virus going round

and

     less is love, baby, less is love

 

parented

from one point five

metres away

 

 what hope the future,

 when a whole generation

 grew up this way:

 

 socially distant

 quarantined

                and self isolated

 

no giggly schoolgirl notes

tucked into the pockets

              of square-checked tunics

 

nor the exquisite

stomach-churns you used to get

when someone you liked

   stood

              close to you

 

but generation zoom

 

they saw the neighbours

              from two doors down

put a note in their letterbox

asking if they still had food

 

generation zoom

streamed bitter fights

              in supermarket aisles

over toilet paper

     and baked beans

 

 

but they also saw us learn

how to grow the world, from seed

 

how the cities, silent

were so beautiful

 

how, for the first time in so long,

                   dad was home:

and he vacuumed, and

forgot to act

      like dinner was his due

 

and all the family

    were on the same time frame

in the same house

 

              defrosting bolognaise, and

bickering, and bunking in

 

 

elijah’s boyfriend

              was finally allowed to phone:

even though mum was

‘still confused about the whole gay thing’

 

cause don’t you know

there’s a pandemic going on

and

     love is love, ma, love is love

 

in the end

we’ll be okay

cause generation zoom 

grew up this way:

 

learning stocks can be lost

              as fast as accumulated

 

that health is wealth

and love is gold

 

and life

 

 

        will find a way

Maxine Beneba Clarke is The Saturday Paper’s poet laureate, and the author of The Hate Race and Foreign Soil. She is a winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Poetry.