A soothing poem about self-isolation

Photo inside very small apartment with view of yachts in Rushcutters Bay

A one-room studio apartment in Elizabeth Bay overlooking Rushcutters Bay: safe, quiet, neutral.

It’s World Poetry Day, and I’m going to read you an old poem that I find very soothing.

It’s about a different kind of self-isolation. Not for COVID-19 but for a bruised heart.

(Give the audio file a moment to load. It starts abut 12 seconds in.)

Here’s the back story: In 1982, when I was 42, I was feeling kind of frantic and confused — and then suddenly I became the first trans-Tasman Writers Exchange Fellow and I was whisked off to Sydney. The excellent people at Macquarie University took excellent care of me in every way, including finding me short-term accommodation in Elizabeth Bay. This marvellous event (a writer’s dream) meant I was suddenly transplanted out of my old house in Wellington, with its tangle of sad associations, into a simple, neutral, empty, impersonal, safe studio apartment in a high rise over Sydney.

And so I found myself living alone in another country for three months, without my family and friends, but also, without sadness or conflict. This was exactly what I needed at the time.

Because of my circumstances, this very blank studio apartment, which was like a motel room in a high rise, was infinitely beautiful to me. It was emotionally safe.

And in the time of COVID-19, that resonates.

I know, I know, this was not self-isolation because of a deadly coronavirus. It was an abrupt change of location and removal from friends, family, and routine. And so I see some tiny parallels that remind me to love what I can love and be grateful for small mercies.

I hope the poem will bring you a momentary escape into peace and safety and hope.

Be strong, be kind, and be OK.


14 thoughts on “A soothing poem about self-isolation

  1. This brings me wavelets of comfort, if that makes sense. Thanks Rachel.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      It does make sense. That’s what I hoped.

  2. Thank you Rachel. Stay well and safe!

  3. That was lively; and timely. xx

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thank you, Rachel.

  5. Thanks Rachel. I always find great comfort in reading over old poems. Not specifically for the content, language or subject matter, but more for the time and place the poem was written. My memory is not that great, but on reading a poem years later, I am amazed at how suddenly I am whisked back to the feelings, the emotion and the presence one felt at that specific point in time. You must have felt this too. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      That’s true, revisiting this poem was a real nostalgia trip. And so positive, which isn’t always the case.

  6. delphini510 says:

    This is a beautiful poem, I am totally taken in. You are mixing gentle humour with
    deeply felt emotions. Do you have it in writing too? I love your reading but would
    love to save the written version.

    Keep happy


    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Miriam, thank you, I’m so glad this is a poem for you right now. I will post a copy ttoday.

  7. Elizabeth says:

    “What a strange room this is with no screwdriver!” Loved it. Thanks.

  8. Such comfort to have read this 😭😭😭

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I am glad.

  9. Sush says:

    This is beautiful.. Glad I found it.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I’m glad too.