top of page
  • iamandrewwilson

IF WE STOP (14) // Zahra Dallilah & Julie Tomlin

In a series of numbered written dialogues Call Centre correspondents Zahra Dallilah and Julie Tomlin respond to their own prompt: If we stop: Flourishing. Nourishment. Lockdown.



my brother has to go in for screening

not in the hospital of course, the lepers are in there

some lepers come home at night

and are lepers in their living rooms too

not the OG lepers, the ones that seek to cure them

hospicing the incurable as a government hell bent on bouncing back to old hell

once fresh hell 'passes'

hospices late capitalism as it coughs and splutters its ways through its dying days

[But it can’t die, too many people rely on it, someone said to me…]

a government whose leader is a leper too

or maybe the government is the leper, in fact,

sick and incurable; to be avoided at all costs.

The sick are not the enemy

all too many knew this before

but somehow we're still headed towards screening.

Temperature guns so the young and fun

can frolic all night and not feel bad

if you're ill go home




shame on you getting sick in the middle of a pandemic

hide the sick

hide the old

hide the not that old but just to be on the safe side

hide the mobility restricted

hide the fragile lungs

hide the diabetics, the autoimmune deficient, the asthmatics

shout from the rooftops about the obese so that they hide themselves from sight and mind

The soil that grows our food is sick, the food we eat is nutritionally depleted; we are not sufficiently nourished, our guts are in a mess (or not messy enough). So many health problems may be traceable to these basic elements. But making us well would make the system sick, maybe finish it off.


shame on you for weighing down the NHS

[but not on us for ripping it to pieces, gut first, limbs later]

show only the pictures of bounce-back bodies

[So many people didn’t bounce back. Those that survived the virus could be living with the effects for years to come]

get beach body ready for the Kent coast

black out blinds in the hospital, don't speak of the dead

go out, eat out, help out, get sick, go home


shame you didn't make it in time

shame sales are still down

shame your temperature's above 37, you failed our screening.

We are all stuck behind screens

separated by screens

connected by screens

seen through screens

seeing by screens

screaming with laughter on screen


as to minimise interference

[How will this distancing affect us?]

Capitalism has done such a good job of making us individualists, before this, I was often amazed at how unaware some people were of others around them as they navigate shared space. Yesterday I was standing in a queue waiting to use a checkout and a young woman glided in front of me - she hadn’t seen me because I was two metres away down the aisle. I could see that the man on the next till was finishing off, so I didn’t say anything. I felt suddenly unsure of the ‘rules’ and I was wearing a mask.

and now when we need each other the most

cos the doctor's come back with the test results

'worst recession since records began

we'll need to move it to a hospice now'

all we have is screens between us

screenings separating the well from the to-be-forgotten

self-isolation to save us from a crisis of individualism

connecting less, from a crisis of disconnection

shame, confusion as we swim in the unsaid

pretending we didn't hear the doctor's conclusion

the unnamed dead stuck in our throats

as we sit smiling behind our screens

legs twitching, hands wringing

shallow breath,


Image: Andrew Wilson


bottom of page