Writing the Distance: Sandra Porter

The Covid 19 pandemic is isolating Alaskan writers. We can no longer attend workshops or public readings. The coffee bars where we met with other writers are closed. To bridge these physical gaps, 49 Writers is providing this on-line forum for Alaskans writing the distance. Today, Sandra Porter provides a poem and photograph.

Not there

The day breaks, a cloudless Arizona scene,
Dry and dusty, punctuated by color
Yellow poppies dot the hillside
The cardinal flashes his red crest
And tiny emerald gems dart to our feeders

I scan my phone for Alaskan news, testing updates,
National headlines, posts, searching for anything good
Finding instead political, rants, denials, misinformation
The whispering, shifting sands of the day
I pry myself away and escape.

My healing ritual is our morning walk, early before heat
With binoculars, I peer into the budding mesquites,
Today’s spring arrival is the summer tanager
My husband and I don’t speak of what we are missing
We are fine, so fortunate to be here, away from epicenters

Still we are uneasy, unsettled
Social distanced from lifelong support and friends
Who write of break up, spring rains, slushy ski trails
Normal things from our once normal Alaskan life,
The cranes have returned, but we are not there.

We are here in the borderland, straddling two worlds
Later I stand in a line wearing my homemade mask
Six feet from others I might vaguely recognize
We collect ripe tomatoes, squash, peppers that would otherwise rot
Food chains, like our lives, are disrupted, at a stand still

Farther away, shortages force the unemployed into similar lines.
Where people, not the food, are being saved
Elsewhere more desperate lines are forming
Cars waiting for drive-through testing
Nasal swabs or finger pricks to confirm or alleviate fears

I sanitize my rescued vegetables and start dinner
We turn on the fan and make ourselves watch the evening news
On the frontline, nurses and doctors cry for relief
Death counts are reported amid graphs and projection charts
Statistically we are the vulnerable, old, overweight, pre-existing conditions

We take our wine to the porch to watch our emerald gems
Tanking up on their last drink for the day
We will sit in the warm, darkening evening, an alien combination for northerners
We are the privileged, healthy, secure tonight, together
We hold fear, guilt, longing at bay

Our greatest regrets are Alaskan friends and family we cannot see or touch,
Like the virus, out of sight but always on our minds
We embrace each other closer than usual and ponder how quickly life changes
For now, we cannot plan a return to our northern homestead
We are here waiting, still, savoring now


Sandra Porter is a retired English teacher from Susitna Valley High School and University of Alaska Mat Su Campus. She has lived and taught in Alaska since 1973, but currently spends part of each winter in Arizona, where she quarantined for Covid-19.

10 thoughts on “Writing the Distance: Sandra Porter”

  1. Lovely and poignant. I felt it all.
    So glad you are safe. (When did that line become a part of almost every message!?!). Sending love. Carol and Jim

    1. Said so well. Thank you for sharing. I think we all feel thankful for the moment…. but feel the silence pain. Love you Sandra take care.

  2. Thank you, Sondra for sharing your poem and photo. I enjoyed your words and description of our times. You are so talented. God Bless you and your family and I hope you get to return home soon.

  3. Rachel Harrison

    Just read your poem and marveled how well you painted a picture of your life far from home.
    Thank you,
    Rachel Harrison

  4. Charlie Sartor

    Great poem. I can identify with it since I also decided to stay in NM this summer

  5. Sondra
    On a whim I googled you and look what I found! Such a lovely poem from an ol (d) college friend. I hope this reaches you.
    Missy Williams

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