Where we avoid each other, we can find our power, too.
“We are pressed, pressed on each other / We will be told at once / Of anything that happens.” In this short stanza written in 1968, the poet George Oppen spoke to our current condition, now thrown into sharp relief by a pandemic.
When rushed, if not forced, into so-called “social distancing,” we should reflect on the standard proceedings of social proximity. At which junctions, through which quotidian flows, do our breaths and spits mingle and our individual bodies reveal their porousness? The subway, the airport, the office, the meeting, the classroom, the dance party, the restaurant, the conference and, at best, the protest. These are my answers, and they are the answers of a person who has been granted—by the vagaries of nationhood and capital distribution—the choice of distance and safe isolation.
The shelter, the overburdened hospital, the workplace with no sick leave, the no-option but public transit, the crowded housing project, the prison and the concentration camp–wherever bodies are reduced by force to just bodies, their porousness cannot be escaped.