Oh. I coughed—instant poem

Photo of autumn flowers up close: begonias and straggly plants with small pink and white flowers
Autumn flowers in the Wellington Botanical Gardens: a good place to meet in a pandemic

Oh, I coughed

Oh, I coughed. 
Twice. As you do. 
Need a drink of water.
(So do you.) 
I wonder whether 
I'm anxious. 
I can't tell. 

Oh. I sneezed
when I woke up.
I always do.
I do it well.
Was it different?
Was it deadly?
I can't tell.

Oh. You need me.
You're lonely.
You're stuck.
I can tell.
Dare I meet you?
Where to meet you?
Are you well?

Oh, I see you
with your mask on.
Will I greet you
or repel?
But I need you
and I trust you.
All is well.

~ Rachel McAlpine


Photo of autumn flowers: an imitation wild-flower field in the Botanical Gardens. 

Wow, when I say instant I mean instant: I wrote this poem straight on to the screen changing barely a word. It took about ten minutes. And it is a poem, albeit super-simple. (So many full stops: they tell their own story.) Maybe tomorrow I’ll be mildly embarrassed by it. But now I dare to share.

It’s a good day when a poem writes itself. Don’t you agree? I think it’s obvious that when I cough (because my throat is dry) my first response is not to ignore it or have a drink of water. Instead I leap to the catastrophe all around us: omicron. You may be over it but here in New Zealand we are just getting acquainted.

My friend and I met at the Botanical Gardens and I don’t think either of us coughed once.

Photo of autumn flowers: an imitation wild-flower field in the Botanical Gardens.

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20 thoughts on “Oh. I coughed—instant poem

  1. I love botanical gardens! I’m glad you got to meet your friend there.:-)

  2. realruth says:

    I can so relate to this poem.

    I’ve just bravely been to the library, where the closest I was to a person was when the security guard checked my vaccine pass.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I can see where your priorities lie 🙂

  3. myrak says:

    Our frailties, fears and doubts are feasting in this pandemic. War and floods tragic. So glad you saw your friend, so glad you are not in lockdown. Hopefully just a few more weeks of this wave and your world will ease. Sending much love from Melbourne. Myra

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      True words. Thanks for your support, Myra

  4. srbottch says:

    Rachel, as a Senior man, sneezing or coughing takes me in a different train of thought than poetry🥴. I was thinking you were going in that direction which would have been humorous 😉. I still enjoyed it. Nice job.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Well you sure had me laughing so the humor snuck in regardless.

      1. srbottch says:

        Laughing, that does it, too😉.

  5. Judithhb says:

    Love stream of conscienceness writing. Good poem. Take care.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      That’s it, stream of consciousness. Thanks

  6. Love the poem. And the fullstops serve the purpose of the poem. Love the flowers too.

  7. I love such Rapid Rhymes as these and they deserve to remain as they are, unedited and raw. I hope the cough is just a cough (and there is the first line of a poem!).

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Rapid Rhymes is a far smarter label than instant poems. But then I might get distracted by rhyming.

      1. There are times when rhymes don’t rhyme
        so what d’ya call them then?
        I curse when verse is so much worse
        and so I start again!

      2. Rachel McAlpine says:

        Rhyme is sublime
        Free verse is perverse?
        That’s not what I think

  8. I loved your poem. John and I have cringed when we coughed or sneezed in a public place. Today I have a scratchy throat, and it feels like it will develop into a full-blown cold. I will wake up tomorrow and wonder if Oh My Omicron has caught up with me.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I’m sure this super-alertness is not good for our mental health.

  9. Alan Ralph says:

    I get coughs and sneezes when I’m at home, but that’s because I’ve not been venturing out except when I need to, meaning more change for house-dust to affect me.

  10. Anonymous says:

    A builder told Alex – once I would cough to cover a fart, now I fart to cover a cough!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      That could be dangerous…

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