Ellen van Neerven
social isolation is an act of love

we scroll the news

trying to figure out what’s to come

looking at measures placed on other countries


school closures

city lockdowns

individual freedoms we give up


where will we be a day from now

a week, a month

six months from now?


projections made onto bodies

hearts in mouths

we worry ourselves sick


looking outside ourselves

time to look within

go inside


we scrutinise the house

what’s not on our shelves

counting what we have left


with fresh eyes

we see shelter-in-place

it’s time to make a home


clean and mend what we have

make warm and special

it’s the only place we’ve got


rearrange the spice rack

tea cupboard

sock drawer


maybe find something

we thought we lost

retrieved from a locked place


pick up that book

finish that puzzle

rekindle an old thought


bake a cake

pick up a paintbrush, pencil or needle

rewire the self


host freshly picked flowers

light a candle

put on a favourite record


it’s okay to grieve


it’s not what we expected


ring friends and kin living alone

check in

with our voice


no mass gatherings at funerals

we send digital messages to the bereaved

the absence of ceremony hurts


the dog needs to be walked

we shuffle outside

there is no one about


butterflies surround us

the world shuts down borders

the birds carry on as usual


the world is a physical place

social distancing is hard

the virus is a living thing


it weaves separation

Dr Suan says to isolate is not an act of fear

it’s an act of love


how will we be in lockdown

will we sing like the Italians

cheer for front-line workers like the Spanish?


love our Elders

nurture affective relations

share our pasta

Ellen van Neerven is a Mununjali Yugambeh writer and the author of Heat and Light and Comfort Food. Their new collection of poetry is Throat.

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