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And All of the Flowers Have Lost Their Smell

By: Rosa Caines

About The Poem

I wrote this poem towards the end of the first lockdown just after restaurants had opened back up and we were navigating all of the change and strangeness. I was furloughed for a short while and suddenly had all of this time and space- things that you never seem to have in London. I worked throughout the pandemic in hospitality. This is about that time and how surreal it was and about how it made me slow down and look for the small things. It is about endings and beginnings. It is about loosing things and reclaiming power.

The Poem

white noise and tv static

the world is on pause

except it isn’t

(nothing ever stands still, not even for a second)


time starts turning tricks

it did this strange thing of sucking in in the middle and putting weight on one side to look longer, I think it learnt it from that photo of you


I go on long walks and fix up an old sewing machine

I try to start things up again with a boy that broke my heart

(not a boy, the boy)

I drink too much tea and get giddy

(I’m sensitive like that)


I stop watching the news after a while

everyone on it is sweating and lying and shaking their heads

doing nothing while death tolls rise

and suddenly it’s all numbers and maths and


I start to question the blood in people’s veins

I go outside and all of the flowers have lost their smell


I walk further out

I talk on the phone to the boy that made me cry more than anyone ever has

we laugh and share songs

I think about shaving my head, I think about mountains


soon I am back in a busy restaurant

stacking plates and gesticulating wildly because they can’t see my mouth

I keep saying

you can’t tell but I am smiling

and rushing here and there to bring dishes I could never afford

strange times we are living through

I say in my sing song service voice

the sentence gets stale on my tongue from overuse and tastes thick like coca cola or licking a jumper

must be good to be back to normal

they say with tilted heads

(the national sign for sympathy)


normal was never here

I wouldn’t know it if I saw it

now I read the news instead of watching it

they are still sweating


I scrub my hands red raw

I swear under my breath and no one knows


the boy makes me cry one last time and I stop talking to him

I decide to take control of this small thing and never see him again


I delete our conversations and when I find an old letter I recycle it

I cut my hair very short and I enjoy it when men stare less

my grandma starts telling me over and over about how in the war she would find shiny bits of shrapnel in the playground after an air raid and stuff them into her pockets

I start walking slowly trying to notice small things

I promise myself I will never grow so small again


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