How will casual touch be changed by the pandemic? How will people adjust emotionally to these changes and learn to convey all of what we used to convey with our fingertips without touch?

I created this image when I was exploring how touch changed for me after spinal cord injury and surgery, when I understood that my personal parameters and comfort with touch had radically changed and were no longer in sync with the community norm. How could I communicate not wanting to be touched without alienating or rejecting people?

This piece explores my journey with these boundaries, and how they came into focus for me. The poem rose from a recent mediation about this collage in the context of continuing to navigate the world with a progressive spinal cord injury and a pandemic. Some of the behavior changes I adopted to protect my body from unwanted touch after surgery are now common to every one in this strange new world.


Dina Stander is a poet, artist, end-of-life navigator, and founder of the Northeast Death Care Collaborative. She has been experimenting with the photobooth as a palace of expressive interaction since childhood, and continues to collect and curate photobooth moments for elements of collage assemblages. Her first collection of poems, “Old Bones & True Stories” [2018, Human Error Publishing] will be followed in 2021 by a volume of collected essays, “Housewife Blues: dispatches from the garden of broken things.” Dina lives on a dirt road in the woods in western Massachusetts, where she is encouraged by a creative community that helps keep her lamp steady and bright.