Keeping Tabs

Ninety-four Google Chrome tabs
line up across the top of my screen.
My eyes caress them – I cling to each one.
They reveal my pre-pandemic life. If the tabs
are gone those parts may be forgotten.

I open the earliest tab. A lifetime ago
I searched for how to remove a turmeric stain
after dripping curry on my favorite swishy skirt
from Uniqlo.

The tab for Travelocity feels like
that winter-day search for cheap airfare was
a dream. Will I ever imagine flying
to Copenhagen again?

I start toggling down the line, suddenly
feeling sad. One tab makes me laugh out loud:
how to do a credible Scottish accent.
Well, now you know I read my poetry out loud
in a poor Scottish accent to see if it’s any good.

Where is Wuhan, marks exactly when life
changed for us all. Apparently, I hunted
through my cupboards because there’s
a tab for recipes with canned salmon.

I have no memory of why I have an open tab
for I Snuck into a Celebrity Wedding on Palm Beach,
and I Would 100% Do It Again. How did that tab
find a place in my line? Was I sleepwalking?

You know what? Some of the other tabs in
my previous life seem meaningless now,
like I’d had my priorities wrong. I shuddered
at Tiger King, preferring the gentler shocks
of rhymes and quatrains, so
I turned to poetry.

There’s a tab for Downpour because rain
makes me happy. I didn’t realize I’d be reading
a poem about the names of deceased friends
Billy Collins had written down on the back
of a shopping list before he went shopping
for linguini. I think of the thousands
we deeply grieve around the world, bow my head
and say yet another prayer. I’m not crying now.
It’s just raining on my face.

One of my remaining tabs holds the horrific
image of George Floyd dying beneath the knee
of Officer Chauvin – a name that sounds like
a villain straight out of a Victor Hugo novel
but who is, in fact, the apparent villain from
our current real-life nightmare. Suddenly,
even the pandemic feels passé.

There’s a comic strip in my next tab: how to
dress protectively for a protest. Thousands
of people find it relevant. Rubber bullets and
tear gas are less likely to hurt if you have
long sleeves and goggles and wear a bun
so no one can grab your hair.

The last tab: Julia Child in a tube top,
(Bon Appetit Magazine) reminds me of bygone days.
Yet, as hard as I look I can’t see what and who
those days were glossing over. They weren’t quite
what I thought they were. Those black and white
photos have a lot more white than black.

I hover the cursor over the powerful
red dot in the corner of my screen
and with one click
I close them all.

“Keeping Tabs,” by Gwendolyn Soper.


Poetry & Covid, a project funded by the UK Arts & Humanities Research Council, University of Plymouth, and Nottingham Trent University

WOMEN WRITING HISTORY: A Coronavirus Journaling Project, a project of the National Women’s History Museum

  • [Legal Disclaimer and Short Explanatory Message required by NWHM to accompany works in this project: The terms of use specifies that whatever physical or digital assets you submit to us, those assets are being freely given to the Museum as a donation for the organization’s use. You will not be limited from owning the originals of any part of it. That said, a number of writers and screenwriters, for example, have indicated to us that they plan on using portions of or revised excerpts of their submissions in future projects, and that they will include a disclaimer for any portions that they may have previously submitted to the Museum that reads, “An earlier draft of this piece was submitted to and belongs to the Women Writing History: A Coronavirus Journaling Project, a project of the National Women’s History Museum.”]

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