The Quarantine Quatrains: part 2: Zoom

The kind faces of my colleagues at college

Here is the second ‘episode’ in my occasional series of Quarantine Quatrains. In the first I opened out the apparent prospect of real leisure and comparatively unmeasured time, which was how I thought the quarantine might develop, and how it seemed to start. Of course I soon discovered, like most of us, that it was potentially as busy as ever though in a more fragmented, haphazard, but nevertheless demanding way. Especially as our organic and nuanced encounters with one another in real life, in real time and place, are usurped by a flat onscreen exchange. In these quatrains I muse on the the ambivalence of our zoom-life, on the genuine sense of relief and connection it brings and yet, at the very same time, the way it emphasises and underlines our loss. It teases us with absence and yet it keeps connection and hope alive.

Quarantine Quatrains pt 2

Some days you are diverted by a call

The soft computer chime that summons all

To show a face to faces that we meet

Mirages, empty mirrors on the wall.


Alas that all the friends we ever knew

Whose lives were fragrant and whose touch was true

Can only meet us on some little screen

Then zoom away with scarcely an adieu.


We share with them the little that we know

These galleries of ghosts set in a row

They flicker on the screen of life awhile

But some have left the meeting long ago.


We used to stroll together on the green

Who now divide the squares upon the screen,

The faces of our friends, so far apart

Tease us with tenderness that might have been


Some day we’ll break the bread, we’ll pour the wine

And meet and kiss and feast beneath the vine,

Till then we’ll sweeten solitude with verse

And yearn through pain, and watch each day decline.

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Filed under Poems

20 responses to “The Quarantine Quatrains: part 2: Zoom

  1. Malcolm, I am happy to read a “positive” take on the Quarantine, and yet there is melancholy. I was aware of how this might be affecting the speaker by the last line, “and yearn through pain and watch each day decline.”
    I think it is getting to all of us. Thank you for shining the light.
    We are out here to reflect it back to you!
    ; )

    • malcolmguite

      Yes there is certainly a tinge if melancholy there. I don’t think we can express or even grasp the hope if we are not also honest about the sorrow

  2. David C Brown

    Yes, it’s all strange, and there is a melancholy, and, as you finely understate it, “some have left the meeting”; but I have been reminded of, “And he said to them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place and rest a little”, Mark 6:31. Maybe the Lord is putting us on hold for a time!.

  3. “Mirages, empty mirrors on the wall”
    Yes! I think being limited to digital communication is suddenly making it so much more evident how real it isn’t. We’ve been so used to taking digital as equivalent to real that it feels strange to experience/realize the absence of the real in it.

  4. Dr J.P. Cornthwaite

    Beautiful – thank you very much.

    Yes, “Some day we’ll break the bread, we’ll pour the wine”…

  5. Christine Wright

    Hi Malcolm I sent a message a few days ago asking if you had any large print copies of your books, or an Audio version that I could buy for someone whose eyesight is not so good. I wonder if you spotted it? The birthday is imminent and I would like so much to buy some of your wonderful words for this lady. Thanks, Christine


    • malcolmguite

      Dear Christine I must have missed the first message. I don’t have large print but I do have a CD of Sounding the Seasons so send me your address and I’ll send you one

  6. Malcolm,
    Thank you for putting to spoken word what so many of us are experiencing. Since 1998 or 1999, I’ve been making small interior spaces that have most recently evolved into a group of cast “art boxes” and stereoscopic photos; the words you’ve used to describe our quarantine experience go so closely with words I’ve used to describe this idea I’ve been exploring: of how we each occupy space, but we inhabit that space differently. For some, solitude = desolation, while for others it can be full of a refreshing golden light.

    As you share your poetry, I offer my small boxes and spaces as yet another way for us to connect in times when the expense between us seems too large to overcome… Thank you for your work to keep us connected, both now, when we are feeling separation so keenly, as always, when we are, perhaps, less aware of our “separateness.” In either condition, we need your creative work. Thank you for making it and for sharing it.
    Yours Sincerely from Central Virginia, USA,
    Leslie Banta

    • malcolmguite

      Thanks for the encouragement and it was interesting to see your work. We certainly need art more than ever in this time

  7. That last stanza ia beautiful. But then, your work always is – it somehow manages to carve out a larger space in my heart for love and beauty. Thank you. I look forward to the day we meet on the other side.

  8. Henry Lewis

    Many thanks Malcolm. I’ve shared this with so many people. You have touched on the significance and the deficits of video conferencing in this time. But is it the church (methodists/anglicans/catholics) not the pandemic that is getting in the way of the relationship of holy communion?

    • malcolmguite

      Thanks. You were right to see that the final first is indeed a yearning to resume holy communion

  9. Thank you for putting into words, and into poetry, an experience that I, with all of us, am struggling with. At the beginning of the lockdown I was energised by the task of maintaining a connection with my parishioners. I was excited by what Zoom could enable me to do. Now as I prepare for the seventh Sunday of a Zoom eucharist I long to see and touch once more and to be in the churches and stand at altars.

  10. Pingback: The Quarantine Quatrains: The Complete Poem | Malcolm Guite

  11. Pingback: Lockdown Anniversary: The Quarantine Quatrains | Malcolm Guite

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