JAR 15 April (Bilbao, Spain)

Jennifer A. Reimer
I haven’t been writing here, but I have been writing here.  Just in my head.  I realized that I was feeling guilty for not getting words down here and I wonder if that’s just another way that I have internalized capitalism’s drive for production.  I also feel guilty for not working on an academic manuscript–even though I am not currently affiliated with any institution of higher learning.  I feel guilty for not working on anything creative. [Sidebar: bookmarked for someday when I feel like writing about the differences between myself and my European partner when it comes to daily productivity].
To be honest, I have lost track of the days.  Has it been more than a month that la cuarantena has been in effect?  Is this week 5 or week 6?  Days slide by, one much like the other.  Only deadlines and Zoom meetings with my freelance clients make a day different from the one that came before, the one that will come after.
Over the weekend (and hear I echo the Dowager Countess of Downton Abbey who famously said, “What is a week end?”  Indeed, Your Ladyship, indeed), I was texting my brother in Los Angeles about metaphors.  After a long rant about American society, I texted: It’s as if we are watching the metaphor of a self-destructing and broken humanity become real before our eyes.
Metaphors matter.  Diseases, viruses, pandemic, contamination, containment…all metaphors that have been used to describe various groups of people, particularly immigrants.  It’s interesting to see the reverse happening.  Instead of slapping metaphors onto “undesirable” bodies, our bodies have become “undesirable, alien, foreign” under “attack” by a real life virus that (in and of itself**) doesn’t differentiate between the bodies it occupies.
**The higher rate of infections and deaths in African and African American communities (New York, China, eg) are proof that social structures and organization, such as access to health services, tests, protective gear are not at all equal and result in the disproportinate numbers we see in so-called “minority” groups.  But the virus itself is, to use that odious term, color-blind.
So I guess I am thinking about what it means when the metaphor ceases to be a metaphor.  What language are we using now to describe the pandemic?  What images are we turning to?  How will the poets (in the classical sense, ie, the culture-makers) memorialize this moment?