Isolation (Rose Lucas)

Isolation makes me

nervous                at the edge
how will I be             who
will I be    without you all

I am telegraphing these feelings
to you       hoping they get through
safe in your own living rooms

waving across the street
listen          something terrible is swirling
under our closed windows    it’s sticking

to grocery bags     our unwashed hands
an array of patterned masks wait on the kitchen bench
and I’m stretched thin as linen that’s worn

at the knees to unpatched airiness
and when I look in the mirror
I am naked and afraid and

my heart is       too      exposed
if you look this way
you can see its precarious beating

its scarlet     squeeze and push
isolation makes me    slow
right down      so I’m thinking about

you     in front of your mirror           thinking
about me and this weave
that stitches us together

even when we can’t touch
each other’s    paper    skin
isolation opens me

like a scalpel     like a deep
dive into cold         tannin-dark water
isolation makes me                  something different


Sharon Monagle, ‘Isolation makes me’, 2020


thinking of Fra Angelico

An ordinary girl      she looks up
                  not to see the sky                    split     a ripe
fruit disgorging celestial wonders     but

suddenly      ǁ             right here in her yard           a creature
                  neither male nor female               human nor
                                    bird           toes barely touching the scuff of the ground

a coronal glow of      somewhere else
                 somewhere not even glimpsed
warms her like           hope

filling her body           its secret
                 crevices                   feather and

carrying the future beneath the bones
                 of her chest                        fingers reaching up
through   thrumming         wingbeats of air


Sharon Mongale, ‘Alchemy’, 2016

‘Isolation makes me’ is from 2020 Shelter in Place: a year in poetry and paint, a collaborative exhibition by poet Rose Lucas and visual artist Sharon Monagle published by Liquid Amber Press, in which they reflect on their personal and shared experiences of 2020 in Melbourne. These poetic-paint conversations touch on the terrible fires of summer 2019-2020; the uncertainty of the autumn isolation; the short reprieve of winter; the lockdown of late winter into spring; and the tentative emergence and transitions of late spring into summer. It also points to ways in which crisis can lead to enrichment and reconnection. 

‘Annunciation’ is from Who do I think I am? Conversations about women’s lives in poetry and paint, a collaborative exhibition by poet Rose Lucas and visual artist Sharon Monagle, published by Liquid Amber Press. The exhibition, which was to have occurred in May 2020 at Kingston Art Gallery, was a victim of COVID-19, but the volume stands alone as a vibrant exchange in the languages of words and paint — poems responding explicitly to images, and images to poems. The book speaks to some of the challenges and richness of women’s lives, as the poet and artist have known them.

Feature image: Sharon Monagle, ‘A mask for every mood’, 2020 

Liquid Amber Press is holding an online poetry event, Lockdown: The Covid Long Haul, on 8th July. Register to attend at or see their Facebook page for more details. 

Rose Lucas is a poet and academic at Victoria University. She has five books of poetry, her most recent being This Shuttered Eye, (Girls on Key Poetry, 2021). Her first collection, Even in the Dark (UWAP 2013) won the Mary Gilmore Award. Rose is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Liquid Amber Press. Find more at her website