‘For you. Ireland is standing still’: stirring words of Covid poem provoke huge reaction

Poet FeliSpeaks says reaction to spoken word piece ‘lovely’ and ‘unexpected’

Felicia Olusanya is a spoken word artist who goes by the name Felispeaks.

Felicia Olusanya is a spoken word artist who goes by the name Felispeaks.

 

Poet Felicia Olusanya has said the reaction to her spoken word piece on RTE’s The Next Normal programme on Thursday night has been both “lovely” and “unexpected”.

Olusanya, known as FeliSpeaks, recorded the piece – named Still – for the special Prime Time broadcast which took stock of six months of the Covid-19 crisis in Ireland.

Speaking to The Irish Times on Friday, Olusanya said RTÉ commissioned the piece “to aptly describe and capture the country’s reaction to the deadly virus and to put forward the reality of our current uncertainty.

“I wrote it to remind the Irish people that none of us are going through this alone. It is touching us all in different ways and different degrees but the only thing we can do for each other right now is to remain as still as possible. It is our collective responsibility. It is how we will save each other.”

The stirring piece begins by tracking the pain of the first Covid peak in Ireland, saying it “ate through limbs of every family tree” and “rendered hearts bruised and persons forgotten”.

She details the enthusiasm with which people approached the initial lockdown period, noting that many “closed into ourselves” and “found fun in the walls of our homes”.

She mentions the struggles of frontline workers, children and lonely minds who had to persevere while Ireland stood still.

She ends by arriving at the Ireland of now, six months into a pandemic and increasingly fatigued with restrictions.

“But tomorrow, when our knees get soft with impatience and the gates of our homes swing open, Which way will our legs go?”

Olusanya was born in Nigeria and moved to Ireland with her mother when she was seven years old. They spent six months at the Baleskin direct provision centre in Dublin before settling in Longford where their application for refugee status was accepted.

She studied English and sociology at NUI Maynooth and now regularly performs at spoken word events around Ireland, including THISISPOPBABY’S RIOT show, the Theatre Stage at Electric Picnic and opening for Kate Tempest at Dublin’s Vicar Street.

Still by FeliSpeaks

Still.

Covid came.

And Ireland stood still.

Shocked at how much could gather at our doorsteps – like dust.

We wrestled with what we might, What we may, How life would continue, the ways it must.

Stood still.

The virus ate through limbs of every family tree,

It choked out the lives we’d built roots around,

It emptied out purses; cutting money by the foot,

Rendered hearts bruised and persons forgotten, Left us breathless. For dead.

Still.

We closed into ourselves.

We folded behind lock and key, Inhaled through the fogs of uncertainty,

We found fun in the walls of our homes,

Made it work, Fashioned it for play,

Carved out sections we can fill joy with,

So we can hold it firm on the days we didn’t know what we next, what could happen.

Still.

For those whom age had known beyond a golden jubilee,

whose eyes glaze with film reel memories,

whose daughters have vowed to love them in their sunset,

whose sons have kissed them in their sunrise.

We want your vision of us in full colour.

Stood still.

For the Frontline workers armed with nothing but faith,

For the emerging minds that must dare to dream in high definition,

For the lonely minds that are glaring at love through a screen,

For the bodies that create homes in cardboard shelters.

Still.

For you. Ireland is standing still.

But tomorrow, when our knees get soft with impatience and the gates of our homes swing open,

Which way will our legs go?

Which path does our heart know?