This piece was inspired by a writing challenge in the Spring of 2020 and organized by Sarah Selecky Writing School – an online creative writing school that approaches writing as an art. Just the outlet I needed when we were hit by the pandemic. I had to do something other than sit in fear expecting the worst to happen, and which did happen to our community, the global community.
We had to write for ten minutes by hand starting with “there’s something I’d like you to know” from the POV of the atmosphere.
This is my contribution.
There’s something I’d like you to know. It isn’t easy to be light and invisible in the midst of pain, anxiety, confusion, lack of laughter and constant cries for a miracle. I am aware of your plight. But at least when you think you can’t go on any longer the phone is at your fingertips. You call someone, anyone, they listen, commiserate, and might even inspire a chuckle or two. Who do I have? No one.
I see you in your homes hunched over your keyboard fingers flying as you pour out your soul. I see the priest holding prayer services via Zoom; students squint at computer screens; teachers do the same with some doing double duty as parent and teacher. .
How can I help?
When you sleep, I stay awake, like the doctors and nurses – watching, waiting – hoping for a miracle.
You hold your head with both hands complaining of monstrous headaches, sneeze like there is no tomorrow, and coming up for air from behind the barrier of a tissue, you point a finger of accusation at me to declare with cruel finality – it’s the atmosphere’s fault.
Every time this happens your words strike at my heart, like poisoned arrows honing in on soft unsuspecting flesh. I shudder and hide my face.
Is it my fault that you have stolen my friends, stately trees whose only fault lies in their over-generous hearts? They give, never asking for anything in return. Did you not consider, even for a moment, what your reckless actions would do? You plant male trees that give out pollen but don’t shed leaves. What harm has the female tree ever done to you? Yes, they shed leaves, so what? Just let the leaves be, use them for mulch. Oh, I don’t mean to go off on a tirade. But that’s the truth.
There’s something I’d like you to know:
I am atmosphere, nebulous, intangible, yet ever present.
You look at each other confusion writ large on your faces,
Who is this buffoon? You whisper under cover of your mask.
I hear, I feel. Although invisible, I am ever present.
Listen – I am the sky and heaven, ocean and sea, stream and creek
I lurk within the murky depths of a poisoned well.
In each grain of sand is buried an atom of me.
I stagger under the weight of thousand tears of the homeless
And I bring sweet oblivion to those that seek eternal rest.
I am also blood flowing out of a writer’s soul.
Do you see the sun awakening in yonder east? I am there, as well.
Then, when it goes to rest making way for the moon to arrive,
I wait in the wings ready to appear when it’s time to do so.
Atmosphere is my name, and I am here to stay.
by Purabi Sinha Das
April 10, 2020