Little Robins, Pandemic-Born
This year, April is half pear tree, half wood bee,
all flutter, all violent with virus.
The street folk huddle in their homes,
leaving tulip buds and lilac to blossom in quiet.
In my yard, petals drift on a tempered breeze,
swirling cotton-in-a-windstorm, joyously untouched.
Inside and dull-eyed, I daydream schools of fish
into the blue sky aquatic.
On my windowsill, a mother robin has built a nest.
Each dew-kissed morning,
she feeds her babies earthworms,
round to bursting. Her little ones,
still with their egg teeth, smile Cheerio grins, unafraid.
As days pass, they get their feathers. Their eyes open,
jam gooey and blinking. They sing to clover patches,
ruddy bricks, wisp clouds, and katydids…
They love this world that seems so lonely.
One day, they will fledge into the unfamiliar Spring,
and I will fledge with them, all green, all warm, all happy.
Until then, we wait together.
Little Robins, Pandemic Born was a winning poem in Love the Words’ poetry competition in May 2020, on the theme of Hope. Over 200 poems were submitted by writers in all corners of the globe, with 30 finally being shortlisted for the anthology.
A few months later, the pandemic still ablaze, Toni Spencer and Bayo Akomolafe came together to discuss what happens when hope runs out – when the realities of a world riddled with social and environmental crises hits home.
When a star burns, it burns with hope. Part of its field is hope. When it splutters and dies and splits its guts into space, that’s hopelessness. And yet that hopelessness is generative; it is the generativity that makes us alive, human.
Through poetry and tender discussion, Bayo and Toni explored the theme of hopelessness – it being “one of the most fecund places possible, if we have just enough magic to surrender to it”; its ability to throw us head-first into the deepest, richest parts of our being. And, how ultimately, hopelessness is a necessary part of the human experience. As Bayo put it, “to hope absolutely is to deny a part of my being.”
In the Western, human-centric world, our first instinct when facing difficulty is to rush to a solution: to patch up the wounds, to carry on steadfastly with our “pursuit of happiness”. Yet Bayo and Toni talk about hopelessness - “the wound” - as a portal, to another way of being, a deeper sense of who we are, a place of truth and power. When allowed to, wounds and brokennness can not only offer us deeper intelligence, but draw us out of ourselves to community - inviting us to humbly meet each other in all our imperfection and vulnerability.
What to do with Hopelessness#
Toni ended the conversation with a beautiful summing up of ways to address hopelessness – responding instead of reacting, yielding the full potential of hopelessness as a vehicle of growth and rebirth within ourselves.
- Get to know hopelessness as if it were your lover, inviting you into more self-knowledge and truth. Lean into it, instead of leaning away.
- Know hope as “the shapes of longing that deserve witnessing. Know what you long for without any need or expectation for it to be fulfilled”
- Welcome anger. Julia Cameron wrote, “anger is a very, very loyal friend. It will always tell us when we have been betrayed. It will always tell us when we have betrayed ourselves.”
- Organise anyway. Despite everything, use the privileges you possess to help those who don’t, playing a small part in dismantling the systems that make injustice possible.
- Finally, love.
When there is no hope, make relatedness visible. Enact love in any way that you can.
To hear more, watch the full talk with Toni & Bayo here.