Public message (1) Covid-19

Joke van Leeuwen
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‘Social distancing’ is what Corona experts advise, but ‘social nearness’ is what we aim for with our literary events. Passa Porta wants to keep connecting authors with their readers. Over the coming weeks, we will therefore be asking writers, from home and beyond, for a personal “Public Message”.

Below you can read the contribution of Dutch-Belgian writer Joke van Leeuwen. She was due to take part in the now postponed Dead Ladies Show #2.



1. It is the grass between the sparse relatives of a dearly departed everybody knew.

2. It is the magnolia (not regarded as a compelling reason to leave the house) that is jubilant just around the corner.

3. It is the courier who parks his bike and takes the cube of food he doesn't even like from his sweaty back.

4. It is the bruise on the face of the nurse who wears an overly tight mask the whole day long and has two children.

5. It is the mannequin in a famous shopping street, showing a glittering evening gown to three sparrows and a stray cat.

6. It is the moss between café terrace tiles that have waited all winter for the first proper spring day.

7. It is the teacher who keeps on digitally reading the book she started in the classroom, because who doesn't want to know how something that has been started ends.

8. It is being alone amongst patient furniture and books of forgotten sentences and talking out loud to yourself, even when you don't expect an answer.

9. It is the memory of the newspapers a grandfather tore into toilet paper, and of children's bottoms wiped with world news.

10. It is an early bird in the city centre whose song is not drowned out.

11. It is finally tidying up a cupboard and finding something that you thought was forever lost.

12. It is the empty till in a deserted shop, full of fragile crockery displays.

13. It is the old lady who can’t understand what is keeping her grandchildren, because she has got them, hasn’t she?

14. It is a balcony becoming a stage for a song, so that neighbours can sing along.

15. It is noticing in the evening that your front door has been bolted for the night all day.

16. It is the family that suddenly no longer fits comfortably into one house.

17. It is the empty church in which Go forth in peace still echoes between the pillars.

18. It is the last government-sanctioned hot kiss still tingling on the lips.

19. It is


Joke van Leeuwen, March 19th 2020

Translated from the Dutch by Stephen Smith

Joke van Leeuwen