Writing the Distance: Susan Campbell

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, Susan Campbell provides a poem and photograph.

Seven Weeks So Far: April 30, 2020

Fifty-four days ago we sat with friends,
shoulder to shoulder, laughing,
ladling soup, touching hands as
a basket of bread and a bowl
of salad were passed around.
The distance between us defined
by placemats and a jigsaw of
chairs scooted close to the table.
The next morning, a sink of
dirty dishes and echoes of
“Good-bye, see you soon,
our house next week.”

But the next week we were sheltering at home,
fumbling with a foreign vocabulary:
coronavirus, pandemic, social distancing.
We learned that six feet is farther than we thought.

Still, the boreal forest welcomes spring.
Each day, shadows lengthen across
scrims of snow slackening into runoff.
Will we still be sheltering by the time it all melts?
A distinctive croak yanks our attention from the
muddy road to a pocket of sky: four sandhill cranes
wheel into view, the taiga’s early migrants.

Tonight, we imagine them roosting in
Goldstream Valley, shoulder to shoulder,
the tannin-colored water sluicing over
shelves of ice slowly thawing.
We imagine friends, when they finally gather
around our table again, shoulder to shoulder,
fresh bread passed from one hand to another.
“Here, it’s delicious, share this slice with me.”

Susan Campbell, a resident of Fairbanks for the past 30 years, writes from her home above Goldstream Valley.

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