Keeping our distance

by Anne Elvey

Keeping our distance
April 2020
We are waking in a nightmare
to the solitude of things that make
solace of necessity. Our simple tact
is tête-à-tête, a zoomed absence
named containment, while we withhold
a touch that livens ­– skin to skin.
Our words reach to suffice skin –
as our TVs show those nightmare
coffins stacked – & we hold
our grief as silence & make
the best of home, in the absence
of a body, with a piercing need for tact.
There are moments in the onscreen when tact
takes us to the threshold & skin
answers with keys’ tap, to the absence
of our friends. Kindness then contains our nightmare.
It is companionship we make
though flesh desires to enfold
a tender hand. Though we hold
back our embraces, our tact
exceeds that ethic: Do not harm. We take
our parts in solemn matter’s theory of our skin
while we are waiting on the nightmare
that gathers us in absence
to build a better presence
when armed conflict is withheld
& the arsenal of nightmares
is defused. There is tact
for common good – for naming kin –
when our stories make
their meanings & take
us past the absences
of world. Then akin
in our fragility we hold
close, as if intact
against the nightmare.
Are we waking from the nightmare that makes
contact with our absence
as distance holds the compass of our kin?

Poet biography:
Anne Elvey is author of On arrivals of breath (Poetica Christi 2019), White on White (Cordite Books 2018), Kin (Five Islands Press 2014) and This Flesh That You Know (Leaf Press 2015), and with Massimo D’Arcangelo and Helen Moore co-author of Intatto-Intact (La Vita Felice, 2017). She is editor of hope for whole: poets speak up to Adani (Rosslyn Avenue Productions, 2018), and managing editor of Plumwood Mountain journal. Anne lives on Boonwurrung Country in Seaford, Victoria. She holds honorary appointments at Monash University and University of Divinity, Melbourne.

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