Hand Sanitizer By Marina Harris

Hand Sanitizer

I never knew
That hand sanitizer
Would be a central feature
In my life.
That my existence
Would be made up of
Masks, screens,
And warding people
From getting too close.
Agonizing over decisions
To leave my house.
Stumbling over
The grief I feel.

A grief that walks behind me
Barely noticeable
Until it floods me.
Grief for my friends
And family
Who are so close
Yet so far away.
A Grief for
In-person connection
That I miss so desperately.

I go through my new life
Looking through screens
At the people I love.
Breathing through a mask
That simultaneously protects
And suffocates.
Distracted, disorganized
Unsure of time and space
Such a distinct feeling
That we’ve named it “COVID time.”

I’m forced to accept
That we can’t be together
Without a cloth barrier.
The hugs that soothed
Are now gone.
And the fumes of hand sanitizer
Nauseate me.

I never knew
That eight months in,
My grief would still follow me
Like a shadow
In the wake of my old life.
And that I would be holding others’ sorrow
As well as my own.

And for now,
I will continue forward.
Not a new life,
But a modified one.
One that honors others’ safety
And my need for connection.

Although hand sanitizer cleans,
And surfaces are sterilized,
My grief remains, unconstrained.

But this sadness reminds me
Of my humanity
And the collective grief I share
With those I care about.
I will continue,
in the face of my despair.

COVID cannot sanitize me.

By Marina Harris


I am a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and aim to promote hope and healing in my writing. My writing has been published in several publications, including Better Humans and The Startup on Medium. I typically write science-backed, empathetic tutorials of psychological skills. As a therapist, I know that words can greatly impact how people feel and foster a sense of shared community. I wrote this poem in response to my own grief and hope it will offer others the experience of our shared humanity during this difficult time.

2 thoughts on “Hand Sanitizer By Marina Harris

  1. Thanks for sharing. We have lost so few people in the country I live yet still we grieve for our world and the situation that is unfolding. Lives lost, income and jobs lost. May a silver lining come soon.

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