Boab tree, Kija Country, Kimberley Region of Western Australia


For the Branches and the Bronchi

A poem for Coronavirus times

by Sarah Laborde

There is a virus, riding

the illusion of our separation.

We stop

and check that this breath is full,

with a watchful intent 

that is new to our lungs. 

As we inhale deeply, 

many of us feel grief.

To grieve

for our human family members

with the ghostly flowers 

in their lungs;

For the last breath

of a loved one, neighbour, stranger;

For those who have nowhere to go;

For those who already had nowhere to go,

four months ago.

To grieve

for the broken dream of control, 

of docile and linear lives;

For all the breaths forsaken, 

the unwept tears, 

the unmet eyes and unheard cries;

There was no time for them

in the haste

of our race 

to nowhere.

To grieve also,

for our collective lungs:

The branches and bronchi

reaching outwards, within,

and choking in our wake;

Dammed river, clogged artery;

Ravaged forest, motionless chest;

Panicked beehives, lost nerves and minds.

These dendritic lifelines

that we have failed to love,

And instead tried to rule, and straighten, and flatten,

with side effects now growing to swallow us:  

Rising seas, raging storms,

Infernos once faraway

and virus highways.

Beneath the grief,

Once we’ve dug ourselves in a little,

we unearth love.

Love for the family, friend, neighbour, stranger

and for these breaths of ours and theirs;

Love for these old-growth forests

and free-flowing rivers. 

We remember


and an impulse to care:

For the family, friend, neighbour, stranger,

And for the patterns and rhythms 

of Life itself;

Its deep heart,

the one that knows the dark

and makes the soil, and the springs,

and the trees, and the mantis,

and the light in your eyes.

In these “times of the virus”,

let us love together as we grieve;

And feel the bonds

to family, friend, neighbour, stranger;

and to soil, water, air, 

plant, microbe and all.

For without them, what is Life?

Have you thought of your soil, y_our_ water, your air?

Before it gushes from your tap 

or breezes through your room?

Now is a good time to ponder:

Do we support or hinder

the ways of the river and the deep aquifer,

the dance of minerals 

and the genius of plants?

In these “times of the virus”,

my wish is for the lover, 

to take the hand of the hoarder in me;

To acknowledge the fear,

to feel the grief for one and all,

and then to breathe, deeply, 

and thank the soil, the plants, the water, the air, 

and the family, friend, neighbour, stranger -

for their gifts of Life;

Stepping, finally and with trust,

into the communal unknown

that cannot be grasped, 

but must be cared for.