UPDATED 29 JANUARY 2022 

Today’s poet is AndyRew

What’s in the news today?  Rather prominently in the UK, that the Sue Gray report is “imminent”.  We do not propose to make any form of political comment at this moment, except to note that our poet AndyRew, on this Day 679 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS EMBARRASSMENT has invited us to “share this rubbishy rhyme which popped up at the time of his election” …

Bullingdon

Begone, you Bullingdon Club buffoon
you wordy, philandering liar.
If you’re prime minister we’re all doomed –
should’ve left you on that zipwire 

AndyRew

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It is 28 January 2022, and Covid restrictions are eased today in England; mask wearing and working from home advice are among those restrictions being removed.  Many people, however, are not so sanguine about the cessation of mask wearing, and will continue to wear them in shops and on public transport, for the protection of themselves and of others.  Our poet today, Pamela Scobie, wrote this Otley poem during the Lockdown, but on this Day 678 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS STAYCATION it still fits quite nicely with our current mood of continued caution. But hey, let’s enjoy ourselves …

Lockdown in Otley

Tonight I shall wear something glittery,
and put on a bit of a show.
I tell all my friends I’m in Italy,
except that it’s spelled with an “O”.

I might get quite tipsy and tittery
while sipping a glass of Merlot.
It tastes just as good as in Italy;
it’s just that we’re spelled with an “O”.

Poetical licence, admittedly,
but it’s where I was planning to go.
The Latins speak Latin so prettily,
and everything ends with an “O”.

But now an east wind’s blowing bitterly,
the death toll’s a million or so.
And everything’s turned out so shittily,
we might just as well be in Italy,
except that it’s spelled with an “O”.

Pamela Scobie

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What’s in a name?  The etymology of place names can be fascinating and surprising.  ‘Wivenhoe’ for example, has naught to do with the mythical Wyvern but is a derivation of the Saxon ‘Wifa’s Hoe’ or Wifa’s Promontory.  Not far from Wivenhoe is the town of Manningtree – or ‘Many Trees’ – the birthplace of Sir Harbottle Grimston.  Today, Day 677 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS NOMENCLATURE, is 27 January 2022, and it is the 419th anniversary of the birth of Sir Harbottle, who was born in Manningtree and who became MP for Colchester in the Cavalier Parliament.  Now there’s a name to conjure with – Harbottle Grimston – how the Goons would have loved him!  And our poet Tony Oswick revels in the street names of Wivenhoe’s near neighbour, the bustling seaside town of Clacton-on-Sea.

Clacton’s missing street name?

Clacton-on-Sea’s a traditional town
whose road names commemorate men of renown.

Jackson and Ellis, and Watson and Hayes,
pioneers all in Victorian days.
But one special hero is honoured like this,
a man oft remembered because of a kiss.

Two hundred years past was a tyrant fellow
who caused us in Clacton to build a Martello.
The Emperor Napoleon – on the attack!
But who would rebuff him and send the foe back?

Horatio Nelson was the man of the hour,
repelling bold Boney, eclipsing his power.
So acknowledging all of the Admiral’s feats,
you will find here in Clacton four Nelson-themed streets.

Nelson, Trafalgar, St Vincent are three;
and Collingwood too – they’re all near the sea.
But there may be a doubt at the back of your mind;
one name is missing – there’s one you won’t find.

For when Nelson fell and was breathing his last,
he summoned his captain, “Come quickly, come fast.
Please, kiss me Hardy,” the brave Nelson said,
“My time is now over and soon I’ll be dead.”

So was Clacton Council exceptionally tardy
in failing to recognise loyal Captain Hardy?
The answer is no! For Hardy’s good name
needs no road to recall his importance and fame.

For he is remembered everywhere here,
on promenade, sea-front, on beach and on pier.
His memory lingers – let’s be grateful for that –
every time that you pass a kiss-me-quick hat.

Tony Oswick

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It is Day 676 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS INEQUALITY and in the UK there is political turmoil over the Prime Minister’s birthday cake.  Our poet Pete Langley finds that there are more things in this unequal world to be concerned about than cake.

Eco Man

Galbraith, his name is.
I met him at night school
He is an economic guru.
He makes eminent good sense of nonsense.
You want a new motor car?
You`ve got a new motor car!
You buy enough Yen, then dump Dollars
at the right time.

There is a wheatfield in Kansas, newly planted.
The farmer`s name is Jack
and he yearns for a good yield
for his toil,
but about everything
depends upon the weather.
Jack`s new car is waiting
if it rains
at the right time.

There is a man in Wall Street
whose new car is assured.
He bought Jack`s wheat last week
while the shoots were still underground.
He sold out yesterday,
as the first spears of growth
peeked through.

Yeleni Kabala is nineteen,
with a dying yearling child.
The new car did not come today.
Neither did the wheat truck.

Pete Langley

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It is Day 675 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CALEDONIAN and tonight is Burn’s Night.  Even though we are based in East Anglia, we should really try to mark the occasion with some verse of a Scottish nature.  Scotland’s national poet Robert Burns was born on 25 January 1759 in Alloway.  It is no surprise that Poetrywivenhoe is unable to call upon a poet of anything like his stature, but we have persuaded the curmudgeonly Gorgonius to vouchsafe some recollection of his time as a general practitioner in eastern Scotland, in this scrap of flimsy doggerel.  It’s no the Lallans, but Gorgonius is keen to point out that the miners were lovely guys. It was the teacups he couldnae thole …

Coalfields of East Lothian   

I was called to see a miner
in the coalfields of East Lothian;
he had a nasty cough
and it might have been pneumonia.

The narrow wynd was grey with soot
the door was grey and grimy;
the patient’s worried brothers
were there to welcome me.

The brothers all were miners,
their skins engrained with coal dust;
I went up to the bedroom 
where the patient lay unfussed.

The room was grey and grimy
and the sheets were grey as well;
the brother in the bed was grey
and certainly was ill.

I made a diagnosis
and I wrote prescriptions three –
the brothers were so grateful
they invited me to tea.

It was a kindly offer
but the cups were grey and greasy
I declined their invitation
I admit it was not easy.

I spurned their gentle offer
and excused myself from tea.
And ever since that visit
I drink only strong coffee.

Gorgonius

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The World Health Organisation has warned against the common assumption that the pandemic is drawing to a close and that the Omicron variant is simply a a milder form of the coronavirus.  It behoves us to remain on our guard.  Do not throw caution to the winds.  While we remain concerned about the way things are at present, on this Day 674 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ORNITHOLOGY our poet Gordon Hoyles observes the insouciant comings and goings of the birds in the airport of his garden.

Parallels

Mrs. Brown, the Blackbird,
finds the ground on runway two
then hurries to the terminal
with fat balls on the menu.

Mr. Pidgeon textbook lands 
on the green of runway one
and nodding to the pecking order
just refuelled and then was gone.

Then our Robin, dropping in,
bobs along to have a snack
just before tuxedoed Wagtail 
and those Sparrows by the stack.

They say of this diurnal flow
no one knows full why it’s so.

Gordon Hoyles

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Russia is amassing troops at the Ukrainian border at this moment.  On this Day 673 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ENCROACHMENT our poet Brian Ford takes us back to an historic border crossing.

At the border crossing checkpoint

Me and Wahlid was on duty at the border crossing check point
when this family arrived.
Dad, Mum and little kid,
a baby really, about a year old,
happy little feller.

Mum wasn’t much more than a kid herself.
He must have been her first.
Dad was a bit older,
worked with his hands, I reckon.
They certainly weren’t well heeled.
They were fleeing from persecution in Judea,
somehow the kid had upset King Herod.

Now, I happen to know that the aforementioned monarch
is a monumental pile of psychopathic equine excrement,
if you get my meaning.
Though how a one year old managed to upset him is beyond me.
I says ‘Look chum, if it was up to me,
I’d let you through.
But I am a loyal soldier of our gracious and glorious emperor
and I must do my duty and obey orders.’

The bloke draws me to one side, 
produces a leather bag from somewhere in his robe
and pulls out a large piece of the yellow shiny stuff.
‘Will this help?’ he asks.
Now, I’m looking at three months wages,
but I didn’t want to seem too excited.

‘It might,’ I says.  ‘If you have something similar for my colleague,’
pointing at Wahlid,
who is playing Peep Bo with the kid round his shield.
Well, you’ve got to look after your mates, haven’t you?
Out comes another gold piece.
I reckon if I’d asked for the same again
the bloke would have coughed up.

But I’m not greedy,
and I felt sorry for them.
It’s a poor old life if you can’t help people in need.
I says ‘In a little while before we go off duty
we’ll meet our replacements in the guard house 
to complete the handing over formalities,
if I hang things out a bit,
you can slip across.’

So that’s what happened. 
I took my gold piece to Dodgy Ahmed,
after a bit of haggling, 
he gave me a hundred for it,
it was worth at least fifty more
but I had no choice.
How’s a squaddy like me going to try to spend a gold piece like that 
without being arrested?
I don’t know what Wahlid did with his,
sent it home to his mum probably.
Most of mine is going into my pension fund.

So –
Thank you Joseph, Mary and Jesus from Bethlehem.
Here’s to you and I hope you find refuge here in Egypt.
You may have upset Herod but you’ve done me a good turn
My round

Brian Ford

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Things going on at the seat of government in this country seem more bizarre by the day.  It is now Day 672 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS UNBELIEVABILITY and blackmail allegations are surfacing.  Our poet Colin Hopkirk has been writing to his MP.

I write to my MP when I get bored

I write to my MP when I get bored
or feel particularly aggrieved 
about another episode of lying
another boat of poor souls drowning
yet another bit of sleaze
Sometimes he writes back
on yellow House of Commons paper

It’s always platitudes
and I doubt it’s really him
Everyone gets the same letter
I got the latest yesterday
on the same yellow paper
It was quite a difficult read
It’s clear his office printer
is running out of ink
Maybe that’s a good sign

Colin Hopkirk

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“Go now, go now” sang the Moody Blues in 1964 – famously leapfrogging Bessie Banks’ original version to number one in the singles charts – “before you see me cry …”  Well, that was 58 years ago; one might imagine it was prescient; but spool back to the time of Homer, or even the pre-Greek Mycenaean religion, and the belief that Atropos, the third of the Fates, was the cutter of the thread of life. Would her powers extend to cutting the thread of a political life?  That remains to be seen – after the Enquiry.  Meanwhile, on this Day 672 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS INEVITABILITY our poet David Slater brings us this brief evocation of the Remorseless One.

The Moirai

3. Atropos

Remorseless one – 
Perhaps that is your pad upon the stair.
I see the scissors glint.
I will be gifted to the wind,
As at last the thread is…..

David Slater

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Yesterday in Parliament, former cabinet minister David Davis used the words of Oliver Cromwell “In the name of God go!” to urge Prime Minister Boris Johnson to quit.  Today, Day 671 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS NEMESIS, we continue poet David Slater’s theme of the Three Moirai, or Fates.  The middle sister Lachesis is the one who measures the thread of life that is spun on the spindle held by Clotho.  She is  the decider of a person’s destiny.

The Moirai

2. Lachesis

Between, all is yours, as far as – 
Thus you span your hands

‘Make him a man’, you said
With no spark of triumph.

‘Call him English,’ you spoke as if
Working on a production line,

Icing with words each passing
Confection, this Malian, that Italian.

‘Give him love,’ you sniffed,
‘He won’t amount to much otherwise.’

David Slater

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This is Day 670 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS DESTINY and, as ever, the Fates are spinning out our lives with their thread.  The Three Fates – or Moirai – in Greek mythology are a group of three weaving goddesses who assign individual destinies to mortals at birth, each having a different task.  Clotho is the one who spins the thread of the lives of all mortals.  Our poet David Slater here gives us the first of his three vignettes of the Fates, while on this day in particular Clotho is spinning her thread of destiny for a certain politician in the public eye. We wait for absolute certainty.

The Moirai

1. Clotho

I have so many questions, 
But so little time allotted.
Who describes the pattern
And pricks it out to follow? 

You? On what, with what?
What thread do you use-
Natural or synthetic?
(You may well say,

‘That depends on meaning:
I make it, but natural, yes:
Perhaps best if you think of it
As metaphor).’

What rules apply to now
And the hereafter, that shape
Your manufacture
As it glides from the spool?

Life begins with questions
From the first wave of tiny fists.
It ends at the point 
Of absolute 

Certainty.

David Slater

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On 18 January 2022, which is Day 669 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS JURIPRUDENCE, we read in the papers that there is a criminal courts backlog compounded by the pressure faced by crown courts during the coronavirus pandemic. It is proposed that magistrates in England and Wales will be given more sentencing powers in an attempt to tackle this backlog of cases waiting to be dealt with by criminal courts. At present, crimes warranting a jail term of more than six months have to be sent to a crown court for sentencing.   Our poet AndyRew gives a glancing comment on the concept of freedom in these Covid days. 

Freedom and Death 

Freedom said to Death one day
“You know you could stop killing?”
But Death replied “I’m not like you
as this is not my willing”

Death was bored so phoned Alone
“Would you like to die?” he said
Alone was so much on his own
he felt already dead

Meaninglessness asked Alone
“Would you like to come round?”
“I won’t” he said “You could ask Death –
me and Freedom are off to town”

AndyRew

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Yesterday’s poem by Denis Ahern was concerned with climate change.  Of course we should not conflate climate with weather, but today, Day 668 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS GRITTINESS, it is a frosty morning and our poet Adrian Beckingsale takes us to the beach. Sand gritty sandwiches, anyone? He considers the usual vagaries of the English weather, cold one day and sunny the next.  It’s the reason why the weather in this country is always a fruitful topic for conversation …

An English staycation

I took a visit to the beach,
the wind was chill,
faint misty dampness in the air
obscured the horizon
over the gunmetal sea.
Some hardy souls were camped
under the seawall
in their fortress of windbreaks
and with their children,
blue-legged and shivering from their paddling,
ate their sand gritty sandwiches
while bats and balls lay abandoned.
The gulls hovered
looking vainly for morsels,
holding station against the gale
then suddenly and effortlessly gliding away
the wind behind them.

The next day I came again,
the sun was out
the sea blue and dazzling with gold highlights,
the beach was full
of sand castles,
rounders and cricket,
coloured towels,
happy families and laughter,
ice cream abounded,
and life guards watched the sea
bubbling with squealing children
and bobbing Lilos.
The gulls had better pickings now,
a dropped crisp, a chip,
a momentarily unguarded biscuit,
an ice-cream cone,
then well-fed rose lazily
and headed out to quiet waters.

Adrian Beckingsale

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Wouldn’t you think it is time, on this Day 668 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CALAMITY that we had some good news?  Unfortunately good news seems hard to come by at present.  We promise to comb the news channels in the next few days for good news, but meantime we concentrate on climate change and air pollution.  The science is increasingly linking air pollution to a range of health problems, including dementia.  A recent study in China found that air pollution significantly increased the risk of infertility.  The burning of fossil fuels drives the climate crisis and causes air pollution, and according to a paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the two factors of air pollution and heat exposure are significantly associated with the risk of pre-term birth, low birth weight and stillbirth.  None of this is good news, but we shall try to lighten up tomorrow.  Today our poet Denis Ahern joins the chorus of woe …

Where did it all go wrong?

We’re in the soup and it’s bubbling.
The gas full on beneath us,
The odds against us doubling,
Our greed conspires to defeat us.

Our climate’s deterioration
Is a self inflicted curse.
Blind progress admiration
Made each improvement for the worse.

We know the answer we’re seeking
Though deniers still are scoffing.
We know the bad news is peaking
(A more apt term is ‘troughing’).

We’re evolution’s acme,
Stewards of this planet,
Too late fired up and angry
At how stupidly we ran it.

Ask where did it all go wrong,
Whence the dire imbalance?
What sends us hurtling headlong
In denial and somnolence?

The truth is, from earliest time
Doom’s been our destination
When blobs of primordial slime
Got ideas above their station.

Denis Ahern

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It is Day 667 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS INCOMPETENCE. Almost 500 years ago, on this day 15 January in 1559, Elizabeth I was crowned Queen of England; she became an imperious and powerful ruler.  Two days ago the Prime Minister of our United Kingdom was making grovelling apology to Queen Elizabeth II for indiscreet and illicit (allegedly) partying in No.10 Downing Street the evening before the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh.  How can he survive?  Lady Macbeth, were she around, might aver that all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this wine-soaked band, and it may well be that the PM is impotent to withstand the gathering tsunami of public opprobrium.  Pete Langley, poet of the day, has something to say about that.

Impotence

Sat,
this morning,
pondering
nothing particular,
realising
my lack of farseeing,
my impotence of pen,
I watch my cats
have superior insight
as they peruse
a bird
they know
they cannot catch.

Pete Langley

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It is Day 666 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS DEVILMENT.  The Number of the Beast, of course, in the Book of Revelations.  And what new revelations are we hearing today?  Why, stories of yet more parties in Downing Street during lockdown …  The Government is no longer able to keep evidence of those illicit parties behind locked doors.  Our poet Brian Ford submitted this poem quite a while back; now it seems appropriate to the day …

This door must be kept closed at all times

This door must be kept closed at all times.
It shouldn’t be here at all.
If you look at the architect’s plans
All you will see is a wall.
But the builders had run out of bricks
And they had a door to spare.
They reckoned no-one would notice
If they sneakily put it there.

This door must be kept closed at all times.
The hole behind it is fifty feet deep.
It’s the customer services department
where we bring those that make us weep,
shoplifters and those who abuse us,
ones we don’t want to see again.
Those who make impossible demands,
And those who continually complain.

This door must be kept closed at all times,
behind it there’s a world of lost things;
lost keys, lost earrings, lost phones, 
lost tickets, lost wallets, lost rings,
lost pens, lost memories, lost words,
lost tempers, lost ambitions, lost toys,
Lost loves, lost causes, lost opportunities,
lost hopes and dreams, lost boys.
Missed chances, missed appointments, missed goals
Missed targets, missed sweethearts, missed trains.
If you dare to enter, 
you’ll never come out again.

This door must be kept closed at all times.
it’s a portal that leads down to hell.
if opened the horrors released 
would be more than I can tell.
Wicked fiends and devils 
would quickly pour out of the place,
inflicting greed, selfishness and violence 
on all the human race.
So, it’s fitted with locks, bolts, prayers and spells, 
the best that we could find,
with booby traps and land mines 
laid in front and behind.

But the efficiency of these measures 
is seriously in doubt –
it seems the door was opened, 
and a bunch of politicians got out.

Brian Ford

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In the calendar of saints’ days you might struggle to find St Knut, but there he is, in Sweden and Norway anyway, on 13 January.  And England had a king of that name, King Knut (or Canute) who reigned from 1016 t0 1035.  King Canute is well known for his practical demonstration to his courtiers that he was unable to turn back the tide, showing them that secular power is vain compared to the power of God.  Also somewhat in the news today is the Palace of Westminster, where our Prime Minister is apologising for being at an illicit party in Downing Street during the Lockdown.  We don’t know yet what will happen to his secular power, but many expect that he too will be unable to turn back the waves that threaten to engulf him.  It happens that the place where the Palace of Westminster stands was once an eyot of the River Thames known as Thorney Island, a site which was first used as a royal residence by that very same King Canute.  It may have been at that spot on the banks of Thorney Island that Canute gave his lesson to his courtiers.  Today, Day 665 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CANIDAE, our poet Alan Sanderson finds himself in the beating heart of London, maybe even near Thorney Island, hearing the wild and plaintive cry of a member of the Canid family.

Greeting from the heart

“Wa, wa, wa! 
Wa, wa, wa, wa!”
At six o’clock, on a black December morning,
a persistent, urgent sound.

It’s there again.
“Wa, wa, wa!”
I’m puzzled at this wild and plaintive cry,
from the beating heart of London.

At eighty plus, I’ve heard many sounds,
some forced, some given, joyous or obscure,
but never one like this.
I get up, go down and look outside.

It is dark and still.
Grey clouds are flying from the west,
to greet the unseen dawn.
“Wa, wa, wa,” so close, I almost jump.

And now I see it, clear in the front-door light.
A young fox, uttering its complaint,
As it marks the wheel of my car.
We are linked, he and I, in this world’s frail existence.

Alan Sanderson

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12 January 2022.  It is 127 years to the day since the National Trust was founded on 12 January 1895 by Octavia Hill, Sir Robert Hunter and Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley.  There has been criticism of its “wokeness” by reactionary groups who dislike its recent policy of telling the history of colonialism and slavery at its sites, and who say they want to “steer it back to traditional objectives such as looking after the countryside”.  The National Trust cares for places and collections on behalf of the nation; many have links to historic slavery. The Trust has revealed how more than 90 of its properties have connections to slavery and colonialism. Today, Day 664 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS DESPERATION, our poet Simon Haines writes, not to examine the history of colonialism, but to explain why so many immigrants and refugees wanted to  come to the UK rather than other countries, and were prepared to risk drowning in the Channel to get here.    

From your ex-slave

You bought my labour at pitiless rates
My cotton, my tea and my spices
You sold me gunpowder, weapons and tools
At cruelly extortionate prices.

You made me obey your foreign laws
You brain-washed me with your religion
You taught me your manners, your etiquette
But treated me with derision.

You used me to keep my own people in check
The work was demeaning and hateful
You employed me for all your dirty work
And expected me to be grateful.

You forced me to learn your language too,
You hoped I’d forget my own
You hinted I could call myself British
If I kow-towed to your throne.

Now I want to come to your land.
It’s not safe for me to stay here
You don’t seem very welcoming
What exactly do you fear?

I’ll pay a fortune for that dinghy ride
It seems there’s no other way
Since you’ve closed down all the safer routes
I’ll take to the waves and pray.

So why do I want to live in your land?
I certainly don’t feel British.
But my brothers and sisters all live there.
And remember  – you taught me English.

Simon Haines

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At Rutland Water the fossil skeleton of a 180 million years old ichthyosaur has been discovered, 10 metres in length.  It turned up during the routine draining of a lagoon at the reservoir.  Today,  Day 663 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS EROSION, our poet Gordon Hoyles takes a look at the gradual wearing away, by the waves of the sea, of the cliffs at Walton-on-the-Naze (about 16 miles from Wivenhoe).  The cliffs are made of Red Crag, a two million year old sand and shale which teems with fossil shells and sharks teeth.  Where sharks once swam they’ll swim again.

At Walton-on-the-Naze

The sea is working with the moon
to make itself more living room
and with the help of wind and sun
it hopes to get the job done soon.

The stated aim is just reclaim
of how it was before we came
insisting that it’s only right
where sharks once swam they’ll swim again.

Gordon Hoyles

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Some years ago – it seems a lifetime away – your Editor visited the town of Croom, on the River Maigue in County Limerick, in that most beautiful country Ireland.  He reflects now on the notion that the limerick, that well-known poetic form, is said to have originated with the Maigue Poets of Croom.  Today, when quite frankly there is not a lot going on to raise a smile, on this Day 662 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS LEVITY we turn to our esteemed limerick maestro Adrian Beckingsale for some erudite musings on the Coronavirus.

Variants!

A young man with a Classics degree
got Covid and phoned his GP.
He said: “Why do I swelter?
Have I Omicron or Delta?”
His doctor replied: “Well it’s all Greek to me”.

Adrian Beckingsale

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On Day 661 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS FRAGILITY there does not seem much to be cheerful about, but our poet Paul Allchin finds a way for us to appreciate what we have despite Covid.   His poem, he feels, encourages us to appreciate our lives and make the most of them.

Fragile

Fragile is this life of ours,
of love, of grace, of transient powers.

Fragile is this time of ours,
moments that build the Self’s mirage.

Fragile is this spirit of ours,
here today and gone in a passing kiss.

Paul Allchin

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For goodness sake, get a grip!  Apparently 08 January is “National Bubble Bath Day”!  What?  Must be only in America, I would imagine.  More interesting is that today is the 85th birthday of Dame Shirley Bassey – diamonds are forever (bubble baths not so).  And, had he still been with us, David Bowie, the man who sold the world, would have been 75 today.  Let us, on this Day 660 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS FASCINATION give rein to our inner romantic and, along with our poet Pamela Scobie, listen to the crazed whispers of our own desire …

Reductio ad Absurdum

He chose close hold. I thought: Poor, lonely lad,
dancing the tango in an upstairs room
with an old broad
on a wet Sunday afternoon.
Absurd and sad.

No doubt some simple error had occurred
(so generous the young, and so polite).
He’ll not stay long. Unseemly and absurd
this pairing. Yet he held me very tight,
and whispered in my hair such words!
They scorch me still. Absurd. Obscene. Absurd!

Should I have stepped away or slapped his face?
This isn’t how we dance, it’s not allowed!
Or was I grateful just to be embraced?
His young man’s body, eloquently hard,
rendered me helpless to resist.
Who would believe me anyway? Absurd!
A woman twice his age? A fantasist!

Was I abuser or abused?
I’ve never been the one to make a fuss.
I was ashamed of our lewd interlude,
and yet I could not bring it to a close.

So we danced on. The rain danced on the roof,
and no one chose to notice or to care.
And he was gone. Since, then no lovely youth
in error or in hope has climbed that stair.

I wonder now if what I really heard
were the crazed whispers of my own desire.
They whisper still. I think they’ll drive me mad,
mocking my fallen face and faded hair.
A love-struck pensioner, absurd and sad.

Pamela Scobie

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It is Day 659 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS INSTABILITY and, let’s be frank, things are not going too well; so it is quite appropriate to post this scary poem by our poet Simon Haines today.  

On a ledge

We know we’re living on a ledge
It’s dangerous and scary
In peril on the very edge 
We’re permanently wary.

They rang the siren long ago
When we were sitting pretty
Relaxed and going with the flow
Snubbing their subcommittee.

When clouds appeared in a distant sky
We took umbrellas with us
We told ourselves they’d keep us dry
And wondered why the fuss.

Now as our ledge begins to crack,
We feel regret, but can’t go back?

Simon Haines

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Yesterday was Twelfth Night, and today 06 January, which is Day 658 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS  MANIFESTATION, is the Feast of the Epiphany.  This important Christian feast day celebrates the revealing of the infant Jesus to the Three Wise Men.  Often depicted as three kings, they were probably Zoroastrian scholars from Persia.  That was two millennia ago – but hey, do you remember what happened on this day just one year ago?  Yes, it was the storming and desecration of the US Capitol by supporters of Donald Trump.  Couldn’t happen here, could it?  Now this website has on the whole steered clear of political controversy, but perhaps on the anniversary of that disturbing event in the USA we might allow our poet Stewart Francis to vent his spleen over the antics of another Lord of Misrule closer to home, in a poem admittedly written several months ago … 

Legacy

With ‘Number 10’ mired in corruption, 
sunk in sleaze, more rotten and seedy than
Hamlet’s Denmark, Britain is mis-led by a Prime Clown. 
The prize of the premiership made his eyes light
up. He grabbed the biscuit of beckoning Brexit’s
clickbait and swallowed this tawdry tit-bit.

On his watch ten thousands died.
He should have hung his sorry head in shame
and cleared off. But he doesn’t do decency.
Instead, he basked in the boffins’ vaccination
blaze. He’s like a firefighter who grasps acclaim
from his too little too late dousing of tiny flames,
which he crassly let in by border ineptness,
swollen by a multitude of other incompetencies;
the flames mushroomed into a conflagration
that engulfed the whole nation.

The narcissus-clown lied from a love-me maze  
and sold to the many-headed crowd ‘Our Success’.

Stewart Francis

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05 January 2022 is Day 657 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS MISRULE and tonight is Twelfth Night or the Eve of the Feast of the Epiphany.  Historically Twelfth Night has been an occasion for revelry, and in Elizabethan times it would be enlivened by the antics of a Lord of Misrule.  So switch off the fairy lights, discard the Christmas Tree, open a jar of marmalade and enjoy the homely verse of AndyRew our very own Lord of Misrule! 

What is normal?

‘Back to Normal’ doesn’t make sense
it doesn’t ring my bell
‘Through to Newness’ sounds intense
you know it might not sell

‘Back to Normal’ sounds insane
it doesn’t get my vote
‘Through to Newness’ could cause pain
you know it’d get their goat

‘Back to Normal’ didn’t arrive
but got lost in the post
‘Through to Newness’ came alive
and served marmalade on toast

AndyRew

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We are in the first week of the New Year of 2022 – an opportunity to look to the future and test our resolve, but some of us may also be looking back, wondering “how ever did we get here?”  Our poet Tim Cunningham, on this Day 656 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS RETROSPECTION, recalls a school playground, he recalls building sandcastles, he remembers a dancehall, a tunnel, an oratory.  He remembers, as so many of us do, a history, a life.  And the baton has been passed. 

An old head

In his head,
There are few plans for the future.
That baton has been passed.

But there is a school playground
With a symphony of laughter,
Screams and conversation.

There is a dancehall
Where the showbands play
And love keeps changing partners.

There is a World War II field hospital
With a nurse and chaplain
Writing letters for amputees.

There are children
With buckets and spades
Building impregnable castles on sand.

There is history
Casting shadows of hunger and war,
Generations ‘taking the boat’.

There is a vacuum
Where despair rules supreme
And hope waves the flag of surrender.

There is a city
Where every morning
Brings the dawn of creation.

There is a tunnel
To a sanctuary
Of poetry, music and art.

There is an oratory
With thanksgiving candles for nature
And the parcelled gift of life.

In his head,
There is a vast hall
Of distorting rear-view mirrors.

Tim Cunningham

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Our poet of the moment, Gordon Hoyles, dissects the recent year’s August Bank Holiday in this breezy verse.  Having gone past the point in time of that holiday five months ago, we decide to feature it today, Monday 3 January 2022, because that is a substitute bank holiday for New Year’s Day, as well as its being unseasonably warm (for the moment) … so Kiss Me Quick on this Day 655 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS JOLLITY.  On second thoughts, don’t!  Keep your face masks on!

August Bank Holiday  2021   
Walton on the Naze

The perpetual sneeze
of the sea,
teased by the breeze,
is climbing the beach
and playfully tickles the groyne.

Birds flutter and cackle.
Rides rattle

and arcade machines 
bickering,
flicker and titter
attracting the coin.

The season’s
the reason
they gather
and yet
never speak
never meet.

Covid avoided
face masks
litter the street.

Gordon Hoyles

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It is the turn of the year, and it is Day 654 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS TUMULT.  As we look back on that turbulent year 2021, your Editor recalls a moment when he was self-isolating at home, which gave him time to muse on the enforced separation for so many preceding months from his middle daughter, who lives in residential care, in a facility for assisted living.  The poem is metaphorical, of course.  And strictly speaking, it is not new.

In isolation

At home in isolation 
there is little to hold me

close to the world in which 
we once lived

now existence is virtual
but the the poetry

can lift my soul 
and when I dream

I dream of mansions
I swim in gilded pools

and I dream of you dancing
laughing

in the place where you live
in your mansion of gold

it must be of gold as you are there
and I am in exile at home

Peter Ualrig Kennedy   

published in the collection ‘Songs for a Daughter’ Dempsey & Windle 2021

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So:  it’s New Year’s Day 2022, Day 653 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS SUCCESSION and we can cast away the old year with all its burdens.  Two centuries ago poet John Clare was expressing his thoughts: “The Old Year’s gone away / To nothingness and night: / We cannot find him all the day / Nor hear him in the night … But times once torn away / No voices can recall: / The eve of New Year’s Day / Left the Old Year lost to all.”  Well, be that as it may, John Clare, our own poet of the moment Colin Hopkirk has been looking back at the flotsam of his own late father’s bits and bobs in a folder found beneath the stairs.  Time now to straighten the shoulders, chin up, and move on.  It’s another year.

What you find

In a folder
beneath the stairs
my father’s papers
useless insurances
receipts for several powerful cars
dwindling bank statements
nursing home bills
a lapsed funeral payment plan
his pastor’s business card
and in a section of its own
a letter
confirming his membership
of a right-wing party

Colin Hopkirk

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31 December 2021.  It is Day 651 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS HOOTENANNY, and tonight is the Night before New Year, it is New Year’s Eve, it is Hogmanay.  Traditionally it is a party night, but the Omicron variant will be putting a damper on many good folks’ plans; the idea of a hootenanny in No.10 is probably on hold.  Our poet Adrian Beckingsale writes that “recent news has been dominated by Governmental indiscretion and that prompted me to look back at a draft poem I have based on ‘Twas the Night before Christmas’.  Possibly too political for the ANTI COVID poetry marathon but I hope you find it amusing.”  We do, Adrian, we do.

Christmas Lockdown or A Number 10 Party 
(with apologies  to Clement Clarke Moore)

‘Twas the Night before Christmas and all through the town
not a person was stirring, they were all in lockdown.
The bars were all empty everywhere
for fear that Covid might soon be there.
We had just settled down to a lonely night in
when we were disturbed by a terrible din,
from across the way there arose such a clatter
that I sprang from my chair to see what was the matter
When what to my wondering old eyes did appear,
But a Number 10 party going full gear.
Through the windows I saw there was plenty of drink
if this gets out there will be such a stink,
and I watched it unfold as if in a trance
there seemed not a vestige of social distance.
Then they all left shouting “Twas only a meeting”
and they gave to each other a Seasonal Greeting.
But I heard them exclaim as they wove out of sight –
“Happy Christmas to us, we’ve had a good night”!

Adrian Beckingsale

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It is 30 December 2021 and this benighted year is drawing to its close.  On Day 650 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS OPTIMISM our poet Sylvia Sellers looks back to a grey mid-September day when her mood was lifted by the golden Rudbeckias – the Black-eyed Susans – stars of her late summer balcony garden.

Mood lifter

They’re holding on 
in the last of their summer finery,
swaying in the gentle breeze,
shining bright on an over-cast,
grey mid-September day,
against the back-drop of still green trees.
What are?

Those 28 carat gold Rudbeckias 
with their over-sized, almost black,
rough domed seed heads;
splayed stalks has them spread-eagled 
right outside my patio door 
on my first-floor balcony.

After two months of keen observation 
from first planting,
there they are, still strutting their stuff
still glowing gold, though droopy,
and amongst them the second lone sunflower
in its early death-throes
preparing to feed the birds in Winter.

Sylvia Sellers

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Day 649 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS MUTATION on 29 December – our poet of the day Jenna Plewes examines the shape-shifting virus that has caused this dreadful disease Covid-19 and finds something to admire in its ingenuity.  It is a work of art.  Its ability to mutate so quickly means that it will cheat us all.  It is here to stay.  On a more hopeful note, Professor Paul Hunter of the University of East Anglia, said yesterday that this is “only one virus of a family of coronaviruses, and the other coronaviruses throw off new variants typically every year or so, and that’s almost certainly what’s going to happen with Covid. It will become effectively just another cause of the common cold.”

Coronavirus                                              

What have you got against me?
Have you looked at a single cell
of mine, each ball like a tiny world
studded with flutes and pipes?
I’m a work of art, a creation.

I’m an extrovert, I need to be out there, 
making a splash, getting the party going,
know what I mean? and I’m on a roll,
they recognise me everywhere, I’m 
making an impact all over the world.

Now you’re turning against me, saying 
I’ll be eradicated, a thing of the past.
I’m not going anywhere, I can shapeshift,
I’ll not be ignored, forgotten, I‘ll cheat
you all, I’ll not be rubbed out like a stain.

What is death anyway? You die because
you have no ingenuity, don’t think outside
the box as I do. I’ll mutate, something
 it’s taken you millions of years to do;
I do it in seconds, I’m here to stay. 

Jenna Plewes

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December 28: the Feast of the Holy Innocents, remembering the massacre of young children by King Herod in his attempt to kill the infant Jesus.  And it is Day 648 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS THROWAWAY, when our poet Brian Ford examines the phenomenon of discarded face masks.  It is an unfortunate fact that disposable face masks could be releasing chemical pollutants and nano-plastics into the environment, but on the other hand “we’re still here and masks are cheap enough” – so, as is so often the case, we remain on the horns of a dilemma.  “It’s not over” …

Discarded masks

They lie on pavements, in gutters, 
on footpaths, in hedgerows.
We thought they were no longer needed.
Obsolete shields,
discarded weapons. 
Litter.

Our victory celebrations were premature,
battles have been won, 
yet now we know
it’s not over.

But we’re still here
and masks are cheap enough.

Brian Ford

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Is there a certain sense of ennui the day after Boxing Day?  As we clear away the dishes and the glassware and the wrapping papers, is the mournful riot of a Christmas tree still sitting there dropping its needles onto the carpet?  Are we making appointments for a booster vaccine?  On this Day 647 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS AFTERMATH our poet Cathra Kelliher interrogates the Third Wave …

The Third Wave

the slow erosion of faith
what it must have been like for sailors’ wives
getting on with the everyday
trying not to gaze at the horizon
the mournful riot of a Christmas tree

the way custom retreats
into the long generations
becoming something quaint and distant
like the misty place of childhood
remember when we used to sing?

no longer what we are trying to get back to
how practical we have become
the laws of physics now the mantra
crowding out all else by sheer volume
as though we never lived by another thing too 

false jollity pales through blind exhaustion
familiar questions fading backstage
like an eccentric teacher who never followed the syllabus
but who we loved for the gift they planted
no longer allowed 

tipping into the grey
each day the blank horizon, and on 
our old ways now an intimation
an intimate disturbance, stirred
somewhere and gone

Cathra Kelliher

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On this Christmas Day of this benighted year of our Lord 2021 it is Day 645 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS NATIVITY. We turn to a tale of Victorian times, by the writer Eleanor Farjeon, translated into poetic form by your Editor …

The glass peacock     
(after Eleanor Farjeon)

In that Christmas of her childhood
the small glass peacock
in the dusty window of the old shop
was the object of her greatest affection,
the magical, unattainable
paradise of her desires, there –
a tiny peacock, all of spun glass,
sat on a bare twig of a faded Christmas tree.
She admired it so, the glass peacock,
on the other side of the dusty window.

On Christmas morning, oh – by what angel’s spell
did she find perched on a branch
of the Christmas tree in the front room 
of her very own house –
the glass peacock.  She took it down,
she stroked its iridescent wings
and its fine spun glass tail.

She stroked and admired 
and cared for the glass peacock
all through that Christmas Day.
But her little brother
had broken his own present
“I want your peacock”, he sobbed,
“let me have your peacock.” 
“You can have it, of course you can”
she said, “here it is, my pet.”

She lay in her bed on the far side of the room,
as her little brother cried himself to sleep
clutching the glass peacock.
In the dark he dropped the glass peacock.
She heard it go “pop” as it fell
and broke on the wooden floor.

All night long the pungent scent
of the Christmas tree was in her nostrils,
and the tiny crickle 
of its dropping needles was in her ears.

All night long in her dreams
she could see the soft sheen
of the beautiful glass wings,
the magical crystal wings,
of the glass peacock.           

Peter Ualrig Kennedy 

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Today is the eve of Christmas, 24 December 2021.  There is little chance of it being a white Christmas, except maybe in parts of Scotland.  So for today’s poem, on this Day 644 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS VIGIL, we shall look to a fable of snow – a fable composed a while back by your Editor, and which was generously published in The New European (January 11-17, 2018) …

A fable of Christmas Past, Christmas Present

The wintry day was closing fast
and through the streets the snows had crept;
the Town Hall steps were rimmed with ice,
as there a traveller slept.

That ragged beggar blue with cold
had not a penny to his name;
yet many people passed him by
with eyes cast down in shame.

I gave that ragged man half a crown;
sleep down huddle down under the snow
and all the bells of Heaven made sound
for Christmas morning there below.

The huddled man no longer sleeps 
down by the empty Town Hall door;
a Big Issue vendor vigil keeps
outside the Co-operative store.

I took the vendor by the wrist
and in his hand I pressed five pound.
He wished me *Craciun fericit
and the Christmas bells rang through the town.

   * Romanian for Happy Christmas

Peter Ualrig Kennedy  

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’Twas the countdown before Christmas, when all through the house …  Yes, the anticipation is mounting …  Now who of you, on this Day 643 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ANTICIPATION, remembers Fry’s 5 Boys Milk Chocolate?  Never mind – having been around since 1902, it was finally withdrawn in 1976.  But the sequence of the boy’s expressions on the wrapping remains branded on the brain of many of us who were around as youngsters during the days of its existence: “Desperation, Pacification, Expectation, Acclamation, Realisation – it’s Fry’s.”  Or maybe “it’s Christmas”?  Our poet today, AndyRew, in his seasonal jingle ‘Off with Christmas doom!’ seeks to cheer us all with the anticipation of some festive promise! The big message surely is “off with doom and corruption, and keep love alive”.

Off with Christmas doom!

A rubbishy Christmas? What? No fear!
Though it’s been another extraordinary year
when “back to normal” hasn’t arrived,
and it seems even Santa might have skived –
so off with doom, corruption and dread,
and on with some festive promise instead!

For the hope that we’ve felt,
through the kindness we’ve shared,
proves that love is alive
and need never stay scared.

AndyRew

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Today is Day 642 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS HOSPITALITY and our poet Sarah Nichols is enjoying table service – “bless him” – in the little café in Firstsite in Colchester.

Mother love

It’s his first day
the lady at the coffee shop till explains,
as she instructs the young boy, patiently.
I’ll bring it over to you.

At my table, she repeats
It’s his first day, he’s my son.
I smile and nod understandingly.
One mother to another.

I do not mention 
that my requested Americano,
Just one shot, please
has arrived disguised as a hot chocolate

Sarah Nichols

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The sun has yet to rise as we type this message on Tuesday 21 December, and that is because it is the Winter Solstice here in the Northern Hemisphere.  It will be the shortest day of the year, as the North Pole tilts away from the sun.  And this leads us to post today’s poem ‘Solstice’ on this Day 641 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS INCLINATION – its author is our poet Jennifer A. McGowan who sadly has been suffering the effects of Long Covid, on top of a disabling connective tissue disorder.  Let us hope that healing hands have helped to alleviate her symptoms.

Solstice

i’ve hired his hands to heal
they move       over broken bones       torn cartilage

            muscles strained past bearing
the first miracle                       he does not say
                                                            i don’t know how you function

i’ve asked him to go deep       and he teases              apart
fibres trying to calcify             to solidify into bone
            he removes the effort  involved          in moving

long     painful sweeps the sun
reaches meridian         light returns
the dead          begins              to wake

Jennifer A. McGowan

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It is 20 December in this strange and benighted year of 2021, and it is Day 640 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS DESERTION.  Lord Frost jumps ship, not liking its direction of travel.  Has he seen rocks ahead?  Meanwhile our poet Anne Symons recalls a certain rat from a past time in her life (in Sri Lanka, as it happens).  He was a smooth operator …

Bedroom company

He was the first rat she ever knew;      
she’d led a sheltered life,  
but there she was at twentytwo
sharing her room with him.

He shimmied up her walls
scampered along beams,
watched her in bed
with black shining eyes.

A smooth operator – one night
she woke to find him on her pillow
grooming his whiskers. 
She didn’t tell her parents. 

When the polecats took up residence
in the space above the rafters 
rat left without a word. 
That hurt. 

The newcomers were noisy;
kits scrabbled and quarrelled
chasing each other
disturbing her sleep. 

They peed through the ceiling 
in the corner of the room, 
alarmed by the damp patch
she pretended it was rain.

Anne Symons

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Covid cases are rising sharply throughout the country.  The coronavirus is stalking us.  Plans for a family Christmas will be disrupted, as people begin to realise that any travel carries some risk.  Samuel Taylor Coleridge knew this.  “Like one, that on a lonesome road / Doth walk in fear and dread / And, having once turned round, walks on / And turns no more his head / Because he knows a frightful fiend / Doth close behind him tread”.  Your Editor knows this, and his family Christmas will be a virtual one.  On this Day 636 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS SECLUSION our poet Gordon Hoyles knows it too, and will be taking cover.

I’m hiding

I’m hiding from Covid this Christmas,
wearing masks so it doesn’t know it’s me.

I see that it’s changed its hair do
to look like a bauble on the tree.

It’s a fit with the spirit of Christmas
but there’s no way that it’s kidding me.

So, I’m hiding from Covid this Christmas
and that’s why you won’t be seeing me.

Gordon Hoyles

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13 December 2021: We have all seen images of the terrible destruction wreaked by deadly tornadoes on Kentucky and neighbouring states in the USA.  President Joe Biden has declared a major federal disaster.  So in a spirit of solidarity, on this Day 633 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CALAMITY we publish a poem by R Gerry Fabian from Pennsylvania USA.  We have retained the American spellings and currency.  Covid itself remains a huge disaster.

Covert Covid exercises

The urge to leave the house is overwhelming.
Grabbing my jacket and disposable mask,
I decide to walk into town.
As I walk, a kerchiefed woman in her front parlor
waves from her window.

This woman promises 
stolen sections of tomorrow – today –
for only $20.00 a visit.
I wave back but continue on.
It is not a good climate for fortunes.

The high school parking lot is empty
except for the custodian’s car
on this March Tuesday at 2:07 pm.
I resist the urge to visit him.

As I near town,
two teenagers in a parked car
secretly slide down their masks to kiss.
There is always danger in romance.

Farther up the dirty sidewalk
my heart shivers to see The Village Bar and Grill
shuttered and closed with a layer of dust
coating the windows.

The last straw is as
I turn to walk home
a neighbor who is coming my way 
quickly crosses the street
head down 
and no words of greeting spoken.

R Gerry Fabian

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Look – the party didn’t happen. And if it did (which it didn’t) no rules were broken. Hah! Our poet Sarah Nichols on this Day 629 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS PREVARICATION quotes Bob Dylan: “Chaos is my friend”. Nuff said.

With friends like these

Bob Dylan once said “Chaos is my friend”.

Worry quite often comes for a sleepover
then insists on keeping me up all night
and never leaves early enough.

Anxiety only turns up every now and then
but has a habit of knocking very loudly
to make me jump.

Regret always leaves something behind
to remind me of the visit
and what went wrong during it.

Panic never warns me of arrival
until the very last moment.
and gives me no time to be ready.

Calm keeps promising to visit.

Sarah Nichols

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It is 02 December 2021, International Day for the Abolition of Slavery.  This marks the date of the adoption of the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons.  The focus of this day is on eradicating contemporary forms of slavery – an estimated 40.3 million people are in modern slavery, including 24.9 in forced labour and 15.4 million in forced marriage.  That is something to think about.

Here at home in NE Essex, on Day 622 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS HORTICULTURE there are other concerns.  Our poet Adrian Beckingsale reports that his garden and plants have been struggling with the frosty wintry nights.  While I suspect that Adrian wrote his sonnet early in the year, I hope that by transposing it to December will not cause too much confusion.  That second wave of Winter struck him as a metaphor for Covid, which gave rise to this sonnet, looking forward to the green shoots of the coming Spring …

A second wave of Winter

The freezing, biting cold North wind now speaks
of snow, while sharp hail stings and reddens cheeks,
the early blossoms shrivel, brown and fall
the trees now barren stand in Winter’s thrall
but hardy plants shake off the morning hoar
and promise future crops and flowers galore.
Spring interrupted finds her feet again,
snow flurries hurry back to gentle rain,
warmth returns as now the sun grows stronger
dawn comes early, evenings stay longer,
breath exhaled forms no damp and misty shrouds
and black storms turn to light and silver clouds.
So now our hibernation starts to end,
green shoots appear, the land is on the mend.

Adrian Beckingsale

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25 November:  Day 615 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS HOTPOT, and who can deny that in these frosty days of impending winter we could all do with some comfort and warmth?  Our poet this week, David Winfield, leads us towards the kitchen, where the winter casserole bubbles in the oven.  Mm-mmm.  Enjoy …  (Readers who may be fortunate enough to lay hands on the Winter 2021 edition of Wivenhoe News will be able to read another of David’s poems ‘The Horse Chestnut’ on page 18.  Well done David.)

The season of comforting casseroles

Pile the dumplings high
Season them with scented herbs
Dice the vegetables and let them sweat
While the pulses thicken the jus

Choose your meat, or none at all
Add some spices
Savoury, aromatic, spicy, or mellow
Let the winter casserole bubble in the oven

The cut and come again salad leaves
Have withered in the first frosts
A time for soup and bread
And winter warmers every day.

Darkness advances by the hour
The sun has turned its back on us
Arcs across another’s sky
While we move closer to the board.

David Winfield

Wivenhoe News is available from the Wivenhoe Bookshop   https://www.wivenhoebooks.com and from other local outlets.

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18 November: One week ago it was Armistice Day 2021.  One hundred and three years ago it was Armistice Day 1918.  Here on this website it is Day 608 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS REMEMBRANCE and our poet Gordon Hoyles reminds us of the brutality of the First World War in this clever and acerbic villanelle.

  11,11,11.

“Your country needs you,” the Field Marshal said.
So, take the kings shilling, shilling a day.
There’s nothing to fear, it’s bang and you’re dead.

Honour and Glory will smile on your head
when all the excitements blow you away.
“Your country needs you,” the Field Marshal said.

To counter the bouts of desperate dread
as light relief there’s a fireworks display.
There’s nothing to fear, it’s bang and you’re dead.

They say we’ll remember the ones who bled,
but do we still mourn the Flodden affray?
“Your country needs you,” the Field Marshal said.

If you run from them, we’ll kill you instead.
As law will apply the final touché
there’s nothing to fear, it’s bang and you’re dead.

With legs and gizzards on fields poppy red
it’s hard to believe they’d have a replay.
“Your country needs you,” the Field Marshal said.
There’s nothing to fear, it’s bang and you’re dead.

Gordon Hoyles

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November 11th. The eleventh day of the eleventh month – it is Armistice Day 2021 and your Editor stands at his gate at the eleventh hour in remembrance of his Uncle Jack whom he never knew – Sergeant John Henry Culverwell, 87 Squadron, Royal Air Force, died 25 July 1940.  And death shall have no dominion.  Now I have searched in the files on this Day 601 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS COQUELICOT to uncover, if I can, a poem with at least some connection to this particular moment; I have only been able to find one of my own … a recollection of my daughter Sophie walking amongst the poppies of Markshall Estate, near Coggeshall in Essex.

Sophie in the poppies

red red poppies
      spread
blossoming
         a maze

of flowers
      Sophie
tall       beautiful
      floating

waist deep 
      in the    shimmering
flowering
      distance

a heat haze        rises
         the woods stretch 
dark
         into the high sky

they were asters 
      Sophie says 
not poppies
        there were cornflowers too

but no heat haze
        I answer
it’s called
poetic     licence.

Peter Ualrig Kennedy  

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Today is Day 594 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS TRIBULATION. Urgent debates on climate catastrophe proceed at Cop26 in Glasgow. Our poet Moira Garland wonders about the disordered weather in this clever villanelle. Should we be planting cactus, lavender, or reed?

Gardeners’ Question Time

Can we expect sunshine, snow, or downpour?
Should I be sowing onion seed?
Is this the season we’ve been waiting for?

Confused, should we grow more
cactus, lavender, or reed?
Can we count on sunshine, snow, or downpour?

Yesterday in the garden I wore
my shorts but all the time I’ve fretted,
is this the season I’ve been waiting for?

The tomatoes will not ripen now, or
that’s what Monty tells me to believe.
It’s rained again – d’you reckon there’ll be more?

Is it too late to stop the Arctic thaw?
Must we simply watch the ice recede?
We can’t ignore it any more.

Grumpy gardeners lament Oh, manure!
Our earth so discontented!
Can we expect sunshine, snow or downpour?
Is this the season we’ve been waiting for?

Moira Garland

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Today is Day 587 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS THRENODY and sadly we are marking the recent death of a dearly-loved friend in Wivenhoe.  St Mary’s Church was packed for the funeral and Service of Thanksgiving for her life.  Here our poet Sylvia Sellers writes her a tender farewell.

Stillness
remembering Wendy Thomas

Early this morning,
stillness hit me 
as I filled the kettle and looked out.

It was as if the earth had died in the night,
frozen but not frozen –
and there had been no frost;
nor from my kitchen window 
could I hear the passing cars.
Only their headlights announcing their passing. 

I’ve been to Wendy’s funeral today
and I imagine her now, as still as those leaves
on my trees, my tall yellow and purple flowers
poking this way and that on my balcony,
stock-still in the silent misty morning air.

And I think of Wendy’s passing,

lying still in her wicker resting place 
beneath beautiful flowers 
remembered forever. 

Sylvia Sellers

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Thursday 21 October: it’s been a bit of a slow start today for Poetrywivenhoe, for procedural reasons, and it was another rainy night. Robert Browning: “The rain set early in to-night, The sullen wind was soon awake, It tore the elm-tops down for spite, And did its worst to vex the lake:” (‘Porphyria’s Lover’). So it is fitting, on this Day 580 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS PLUVIALITY for us to feature this pretty poem from our poet Jenna Plewes … although we are in October just now, the imagery makes me think of the painting ‘February Fill Dyke’ by Benjamin Williams Leader.

After a wet night

Grass leans across the narrow track
with its burden of rain
the dog laps from a flooded wheelrut
her tongue muscling the surface. 

Seedheads trail across her back
scattering sparks of water
as she pads ahead of me.

Our world washed clean
shakes itself  dry
thousands of mirrors
splintering in the sun.

Jenna Plewes

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Now here’s a fine story.  Our poet this week, Rik O’Shea, had taken it upon himself to explain to some young fella how the Editor of this noble project might go about choosing a poem.  Rik suggested he might first look at the news of the day, or else might research what that day stood for in history, and then find an appropriate poem from his stock of submissions – or even compose one to fit.  Rik took an arbitrary date as an example, which happened to be Thursday 14 October.  So here we are, on 14 October 2021, Day 573 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS SERENDIPITY, which is not only the 955th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, but is also World Sight Day

1066 and all that

On a hilltop near Hastings, King Harold the Two
sat high on his horse, in a dither;
while each Norman archer in the valley below
was taking a shaft from his quiver.

These bowmen were keen to let fly their darts
and to shoot them aloft, then and there;
Duke William of Normandy, well-versed in the art,
told them all “Aim straight up in the air.”

The arrows flew thickly, and came down like rain;
King Harold looked up to the sky –
a tragedy really – he had battled in vain,
and was kiboshed by one in the eye.

Rik O’Shea

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06 October, Day 565 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS STAG NIGHT.  It would be a shame to miss a rather special anniversary for your Editor and his lovely wife – even if the poem is not a new one.  Sixty years ago this evening, your Editor was on the town in Bootle, just him and his best man, while his bride-to-be was jiving with her bridesmaid in her parents’ parlour.  We certainly knew how to enjoy ourselves, back in the day. 

Stag night in Bootle

it’s stag night in Bootle 
me and my old chum
my best man

drinking bottled ale
with the scousers thereabouts
trippin’ from bar to bar

this is as good
as it gets
are you thinking of me

of me and my old chum in Bootle
on the bitter ale
in the dark October night

you are in your parents’ parlour
all lights on
jiving with your best friend

to Bad Penny Blues

Peter Ualrig Kennedy

The poem gained Second Prize in Essex Poetry Competition 2014 (Judge: Hannah Lowe)

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There have been some particularly warm periods this September, but as we write, on Day 557 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS YELLOWNESS, the temperature has dropped.  Don’t want to worry you, but viruses tend to survive more effectively at colder temperatures, allowing them to spread – so keep on being careful.  Our poet Anthony Watts has a much warmer outlook than that, this day, reminding us of summer and the sun’s sacrament.

More notes from a lockdown garden

No wildflower warms the heart like 
bird’s-foot trefoil,
its yellow-bright origami spun 
from the very stuff of summer.  It is the sun’s 
sacrament – the blood-flecked yolk 
broken and scattered amongst the grasses. 

Anthony Watts

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Now we have reached Day 550 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS PROVOCATION, we hear from our poet Pamela Scobie who – it grieves us to note – is gripped by a malevolent feeling of jealousy.  And we can see why …

Jealousy

I walked into a room that had no floor;
and hung there, helpless, treading air,
while she giggled and gushed about how sweet you are, 
how smart, how cute, how sexy, debonair,
and how she’d never for a moment thought
you’d meet again (no more did I), and such a wicked flirt!  
She babbled on, breathlessly unaware 
of dealing hurt.
She took me for a mentor, old and wise.
Another decade, she’ll be as wise as me.
It made it even worse that, in her eyes, 
I was past injury.

(Wait till he sees her arse. Those thumping thighs
 even blind Sampson couldn’t haul apart.) 
Brave little birdie! Trilling out  her heart!
Perched all the while 
on the bicuspid of a crocodile.

“What should I do?”  She chased me to the hall. 
“Go for it, girl!” I said,
and smiled, 
and wished her well.
And wished her dead.

Pamela Scobie

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Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day, while government swithers and policies change.  Our poet Sylvia Sellers, on this Day 543 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS HAPHAZARDNESS berates herself for carelessly breaking a flower bud, but is able to retrieve it, and she revives it in a shot glass in order to savour its beauty.

Careless beauty

I bent down to smell the Lavender
and heard the snap of the Iris bud.
I wanted to kick myself
because I have a habit of doing that.

All was not lost though because
I filled my optic glass and watched
the bud open up on my kitchen window sill
astounding me with its close-up beauty. 

Sylvia Sellers

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As we move through the beginnings of September we are experiencing a few days of an Indian summer, and on this Day 536 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS BALMINESS what joy it is to wander through a late summer wood.  Here our poet Anthony Watts expresses that feeling of entering the shadowy labyrinth.

The fullness of summer

Trees in the fullness of summer lose
their winter  idiosyncrasies, their 
skeletal identities – all swallowed 
in the tsunami of green suds.
To see the trees for the wood, you must first cross
the whispering threshold of leaves, must pass 
into the shadowy labyrinth.

Anthony Watts

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You just can’t keep a good woman down!  It’s Day 530 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS INDOMITABILITY, and it’s September 1st.  The year is starting to grow old, but our poet Jenna Plewes cocks a snook at the idea of bowing to the inevitability of ageing; she’ll kick up her heels when she feels like it. She’ll peel off every label they stick on her.  Top work Jenna!

When I am really old      (with apologies to Jennie Joseph)                              

I’ll be a glint of unexpected mischief,
an enigma, a woman of wise words,
a silver fox asleep in the long grass.

I’ll be a wrinkled nut with a succulent centre,
a weather-beaten dinghy with faded paint,
still afloat and watertight.

I’ll be an old nag in a field of buttercups,
my big yellow teeth crunching carrots,
kicking up my heels when I feel like it.

I’ll drink my wine from a mug, wear designer
glasses, and dangly earrings. I’ll have a dragonfly
tattooed on my right shoulder and wear leggings. 

I’ll peel off every label they stick on me, count 
my marbles, tuck a smart phone in my bra, 
and put the world to rights whenever I choose.

Jenna Plewes

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The Beatles’ last commercial concert took place exactly 55 years ago this day, on 29 August 1966 in San Francisco.  And it so happens that today, 29 August 2021, will mark the last of our featured poems in this daily initiative, after over 525 consecutive days.  Our intention, for a while, is to continue with an appropriate poem once a week (maybe on Wednesdays) so long as there are new poems to publish.  Your submissions are still welcome. And on Day 527 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS POESY our poet Pete Langley writes “Here is what is ostensibly a bird poem.  It is actually about writing poetry …”

The Thought Falcon
after Ted Hughes: The Thought Fox

I scan the land, searching 
the folds, dykes, ravines,
the ravaged flotsam of yesterday storms
for any sign of life.

The open land is a dearth of prospect
– I must look
in the hidden places
to catch my quarry.

I swoop in shallow scoops,
eyes sharp as pin nails,
hovering
over likely sources of sustenance.

Many times,
every day,
I glimpse what I see
from the side of my eye,

but to feed
I must focus
fold
and fall.

Pete Langley

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Day 526 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS JETSAM, Saturday 28 August and it is International Bow Tie Day.  Does anyone think this matters?  Bow ties pale into insignificance with the dangers that assail the world today.  Our poet Anthony Wade writes: “I have a poem for you, a somewhat angry one, written in late December last year, inspired by a visit to our favourite restaurant on the last evening before the restaurants were put back into lockdown.  I believe it expresses some of the feelings that others have had during this last awful period”.

Scouring the flotsam

With a wet winter wind
lashing the darkened glass,
I pause in my leaving among
the socially-distanced tables
before the bolts are thrown
on this last evening, 
perhaps the last ever evening,
ahead of the latest lockdown
ordered by the government’s
panjandrums who, with their
untouchable positions and salaries,
ever certain of their gold-plated
and inflation-proof pensions,
are shielded from the
dynamics of enterprise,
and who seem to pay small heed
to the troops and lesser ranks
of those who toil privately,
perhaps because their
personal bubbles are unlikely
to contain waiters, cleaners,
bar staff, or unstarred chefs;
the flotsam swept away by
the high tide of their concern.

Anthony Wade

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It is 27 August 2021: Day 525 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CALDERA; on this day in 1883, Krakatoa erupted.  The huge explosions destroyed the island, in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra, and dust from the eruption drifted around the earth, forming a veil that lowered temperatures worldwide by several degrees.  There were blood-red moons. Tides. Now, one hundred and thirty-eight years later, our concern is not with lowered temperatures but with global warming.  We are being battered by the coronavirus, and sad to say our poet, Jennifer A. McGowan, has been hit by Long Covid.  In her poem Packing New England the “dust of sanded hulls” may be seen as a small nod to the dust of a distant volcano … “Remember, I live on an island – anything I bring will be lonely.”

Packing New England

First the anaerobic breath of the marsh,
Then the blood-red moon. Tides. Next,
winter sunsets. The lighthouse beam.
All the local ghost stories fold up small,
fit in a shoe. I’ll pack granite,
the backbone of everything;
all the excess deer;
the coyotes’ afternoon slink.
In my jewellery bag, the clink of
lines against masts. Dust
of sanded hulls. Unseen tug-of-wars
of moles. The claw of a crab.

Remember, I live on an island—anything
I bring will be
lonely.

When I put my case on your bed,
you will wonder what junk food
I have brought you this time.

Jennifer A. McGowan

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What can we tell you to take your minds off the awfulness of current world events today, Day 524 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CAPRIOLE?  Here’s a piece of trivia for you, or you might say a seminal moment in the history of music: on this day fifty-four years ago, on 26 August 1967, Bobby Gentry’s first single, ‘Ode to Billy Joe’, topped the US singles chart for the first time, knocking The Beatles ‘All You Need is Love’ out of the top spot.  So now you know that interesting fact, we can ask our poet AndyRew to step up with this brief ditty about singing.  And about Joy.

Joy

Joy was often singing
occasionally too loud
It left her two ears ringing
and deafened half a crowd 

AndyRew

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So much is happening in this world today that it is difficult to pick on one particular aspect that our poetry might counterpoint.  On Day 523 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS VARIATIONS we find our poet Sylvia Sellers musing on the deep emotional effects produced in her soul by music and by Nature’s canvas.  Flying at thousands of feet in the air, or contemplating Persian art in Pakistan stirs her soul like nothing else … but can the feelings last?

Emotions

The music plays and I shiver
my stomach turns over in tune
Nature’s canvas has the same effect
the sun so warm
the sky so blue.

Looking down on clouds
from thousands of feet
in this giant bird
with its throbbing beat
they’re like cotton wool or pristine snow
flying west a long way to go
flying home east by the light of the moon
one minute silver then gold through the gloom

Persian art in Pakistan
stirs my soul like nothing else can
the domes, the tiles, the shapes, the colour
just perfect and again I shudder 
the toil of man and lives that were lost
for the sake of beauty and perhaps a god.

But where does this leave me
when the moment has passed
I’m at one with something
why can’t it last?

Sylvia Sellers

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Dreams have featured in several postings on this site, and today on Day 522 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS IMAGERY our poet Pamela Scobie is wrapped in a waking dream of desire.  The discerning reader of course knows that at any juncture we can each of us be caught up in such sweet musings.  Go back twenty-five centuries in time to Greek philosopher Aristotle: asked to define hope, he replied, “Hope is a waking dream.”

Cheri

You take the staircase three steps at a time,
scattering laughter like petals.
The mirrors catch and fling your images one to another 
…………….. upwards
until you arrive at the topmost landing,
flushed, but not even slightly out of breath,
to find the last and grandest of them all
waiting to celebrate you, 
…………….. luminous with delight.

Pamela Scobie

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April 1958 is a long time ago.  Your Editor was still at school when he heard ‘All I have to do is dream’ for the first time; one of the truly great popular songs, made famous by the Everly Brothers.  Issued as a single, with Chet Atkins playing guitar alongside Don and Phil.  Well, the Grim Reaper catches up with us all sooner or later; Chet went first in 2001, Phil Everly died in 2014, and now we hear that Don Everly has died at the age of 84, at his Nashville home.  But their music will live on.  It is Day 521 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS MORTALITY and I have been searching around in my rattlebag of submissions to find some dream imagery; none there, so reader, you will forgive me I hope for lighting upon one of my own dreamscapes, faute de mieux.

Last waltz

In my dream we took my parents to the ball –
in the dream my wife and I did not recall
that my parents were late parents.
My father and mother looked newly wed,
they did not seem to be dead.

Dad was smart in a pearl grey suit.
My mother was chic, with a simply cute
fascinator perched on her dark hair,
and I was wearing a white tuxedo, 
double breasted, shoulders square.

To my wife of course it was no trouble
to be kindness itself to the elderly couple.
The first notes of a waltz began to soar
as my two dear parents took to the floor.
They danced with their well-remembered flair,

they waltzed round the hall with a grace supreme.
They danced as if we were all a dream.

Peter Ualrig Kennedy  

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On this Day 520 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ENWRAPMENT the summer seems non-existent here; rain is beating on the tiles, while elsewhere the world is in conflagration.  Today’s poet Stephen Kingsnorth writes of summers gone by, in dreams of the sixties, of carefree student years and of cling sarongs – two folds, but one in chrysalis, a swaddling band for pyre cloth.  Awaiting the dew on resting eyes, a serene ending,  

Swaddling

It was summer when she passed –
we knew come spring she would not last.

But as fresh buds broke from dead wood,
the tree stump bark cork cambium
erupted, unexpected growth,
we set our minds to recreate,
wrapped in those tie-dyes, student years,
free spirited, our crazy route –
wherever wheels led, patchwork quilt.

The golden beetle, sixties beat,
with petals painted engine end,
exhausted smoke, herbaceous mist
above tired tyres, poor tarmac grip,
we blared our Massachusetts air

Amongst pricked gorse of butter milk,
where heather bushed in purple rug,
and ling blushed swags for peewit wings,
we reminisced on heath surrounds
with lizard whips and butterflies.

We lay on turf, moss bed of peats,
shared sunbathe near an adder brood
and watched the glare drop from our earth
as cool pulled lower down the snake
in the question mark, our beading eyes, 
saw what we knew dreamt, hoped and felt.

May we stay here in cling sarongs,
two folds, but one in chrysalis, 
a swaddling band for pyre cloth,
await the dew on resting eyes,
a serene ending, all our days?

Stephen Kingsnorth

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Today’s poem by our poet David Slater was written during Lockdown, but on this Day 519 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ABANDONMENT, 21 August, our eyes are drawn towards the agonising scenes unfurling at Kabul airport of desperate Afghanis and their families struggling to find places on flights out of Kabul, fleeing from the Taliban who are now in the ascendant.  Some will find a passage out but many – very many? – will be left behind.  “I know in my heart that not all of this fits; but we have to start somewhere – where do we end?”

Lockdown

I think of the words unfurling like ferns,
unaccelerated stop-motion thoughts,
a drop of dew resting on each phrase, 
caught on camera at dawn, yet not 
so fresh. I think we must all be 
in the same place, apart. I know 
in my heart that not all of this fits; but
we have to start somewhere – where 
do we end?

  David Slater

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A quote from today’s BBC News website: “Wildfires have spread across Europe as many countries experience extreme heatwaves.  From Portugal to France to Montenegro, a look at some of the fires spreading across Europe – and the rest of the globe.”  And our poet Jan King, on Day 518 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CONFLAGRATION, writes, in her poem Burnt offering, “A terrible magnificence blooms in the scorching air”.  The planet burns.  What of the future? Is there a future?

Burnt offering

The planet burns
in flames of lambent tangerine
in billowing smoke of graphite grey
in fluttering cascades of yellow ash.
A terrible magnificence 
blooms in the scorching air
where leaves of every shade of green 
and flowers of every rainbow hue 
melt into scarlet, then to black.

How to atone 
for humankind 
which thought itself divine?

I will go out into the searing meadow
where palest asphodel still blossoms by the graves,
heap sulphurous ashes 
on my white hair,
ask nature’s goddess for forgiveness.

Jan King

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Today’s poem Losses comes to us from New York.  It is by established American poet Gary Beck and laments the effects of the plague Covid-19, in which context it has an exemplary sting in the tail.  But it also chimes with what is happening now, after the fall of Afghanistan to Taliban forces; now on Day 517 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS EXODUS many Afghan citizens can “no longer stay in the house where their family lived for many years”.  We in the UK must act with generosity and compassion to receive and re-house Afghan refugees.  And we will.

Losses

The plague has spread across the land.
I do not know where to go.
It is everywhere.
I can no longer stay in the house
where my family lived
for many years.
I will go somewhere
where I know no one,
so when they die
it will not break my heart.

Gary Beck

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Here is a quite luscious short poem on this Day 516 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS HEDERACEOUSNESS from American poet R Gerry Fabian, who writes to us from Pennsylvania, evoking the erotic nature of our very own English Ivy.  We know Hedera helix simply as “Ivy” perhaps not conscious of the fact that there is an American (or Boston) Ivy which to us is Virginia Creeper.  Here endeth the lesson; enjoy the poem.

Twilight moisture

The shutters close.

That bright sun,
French kissing
with a slow flame,
breaks away.

In a suburban shade
you grow all over me
with English ivy 
lips and legs.

R Gerry Fabian

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Good grief!  Today – 17 August, or indeed Day 515 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CONFECTION – is National Cupcake Day in Great Britain.  What does it mean?  What does it do?  I suppose it must be a good thing for commercial cupcake providers, and no doubt some of you readers of this website make excellent cupcakes, but do you need a National Cupcake Day?  Our poet Simon Haines is wondering what it’s all about, but with poetry rather than cupcakes.

What does it mean?

If you understand a poem,
Does it mean it’s mediocre?
And if you don’t,
Does it mean you’re stupid?

I like the sound of poetry
And its appearance on the page.
But some of it eludes me
The significance, I mean.

I’m writing poems now myself,
It’s easier that way
You can always understand them
Though other people may

Not

Simon Haines

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World events sometimes happen with astonishing speed.  The Taliban’s conquest of Afghanistan in a matter of days is a current example, on this Day 514 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS HYPERVELOCITY.  Was our poet, the curmudgeonly Gorgonius, being lawless or just careless when he smashed the speed limit when driving in Snape at 35 mph?  His real crime was a lack of observation of the relevant road sign, but he has made atonement by attending a Speed Awareness Course, and rightly so.

Speed Awareness

The breeze was in my hair
and my heart beat that much faster
as I swept around the bend
and sped towards disaster.

On a twisting road in Snape
I thought I was driving safely.
Some twerp in a sports car just behind
was itching to overtake me.

But I was driving at thirty-five;
I should not have done over thirty;
and lurking behind a thicket of trees
a speed camera was doing its duty.

Now that I’m re-educated
for doing thirty-five,
I keep seeing guys using mobile phones
with one hand while they drive.

I’m overtaken constantly
by hotheads doing fifty
but if I see the police go by
I immediately feel shifty.

As a speedster I am passé;
my re-education is complete.
I shall stick to the rules and let other fools
speed by and take the heat.

Clocked at a speed of thirty-five 
on a thirty limit road ?
I’ve since got out my wallet
and bought the Highway Code.

Gorgonius

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The idea of joy has been touched on in some of our poems within the last few days, but sadly there are very many areas of the world today where joy is missing.  There are whole populations afflicted by violence, earthquake, extreme weather, Covid, for whom joy is absent; here on Day 513 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS TRISTESSE our poet Pamela Scobie brings the loss of joy down to an individual level.  Something has happened to the daylight.

Please don’t tell your sister

Something has happened to the daylight
as if somehow the wattage has been dimmed.
I would not have believed you could do this to me.
And now, though everything is outwardly the same
something is missing:
joy.

I lie in the bed I made for us both
but I will not go to sleep before you do.
And I wake first, slip out, and peep through the curtains.
Something has happened to the daylight.

Pamela Scobie

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In Britain the weather blows hot and the weather blows cold.  In Mediterranean countries, temperatures are reaching terrifying all-time highs and forests are burning.  So for the time being, at least, we are the fortunate ones; but who knows what the future may bring in this age of man-made climate change?  Our poet Anthony Watts brings us, on Day 512 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ASSUAGEMENT, calming news from his lockdown garden in Somerset.  The flame there is a metaphorical one, emerging from the secretive axil of a leaf.

More notes from a Lockdown Garden 

An Iris flaunts its blowsy bonnet with
the big blue earflaps.  In a day or two
I’ll find it collapsed to a shrunken 
fist of lavender slime, which I’ll snip and let 
fall, my eye 
on the next furled flame emerging
from the secretive axil of a leaf.

Anthony Watts

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The world today is in a frightening state of confusion.  The tides of war swill around Afghanistan.  Covid-19 surges again in Japan – nothing to do with the Tokyo Olympics, naturally.  Wildfires ravage indispensable forests all round the globe.  Sea ice disappears at alarming rates.  Melting permafrost releases huge quantities of methane into the atmosphere.  How can we, on Day 511 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS INADEQUACY assuage our feelings of helplessness?  Our poet Jennifer A McGowan gives us a metaphor for our troubled Earth – we need to believe that it comes back every game despite itself.

Here

Have this basketball.
I’ve dribbled it from Caithness
to Kathmandu

dropped it off those high mountains

retrieved it from haunted trees
even owls won’t approach

clawed feet shifting
like small forwards during jump ball.

It has sunk, deformed,
but floats explosively upwards
remembering itself

how each dribble
rubs a bit of this earth on it
a heavy, glad burden

how it comes back every game
despite itself.

Take it. Remember
the ball is never fouled.
Just players.

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Today, for those who are able to take the opportunity, could be a day for walking in the countryside.  Feel the breezes, scan the flat lands and seek the hills, breathe the fresh air.  Our poet today, Jenna Plewes, on this Day 510 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS EXPLORATION, is Walking Dartmoor; she searches for the shape of a poem in the shadows racing across the moor.

Walking Dartmoor                                           

There’s a pace like a steady heartbeat
that carries you mile after mile
your mind ambles 
picks up a thought 
tosses it hand to hand
lets it fall.

An idea runs through the windswept grass of a daydream
and you follow the silver thread of the Leet 
climb through boulder strewn heather  
to stand on a clenched fist of rock 
searching for the shape of a poem
in the shadows racing across the moor.

Jenna Plewes

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Dear reader, it is today National Bakewell Tart Day.  Who knew?  People in Bakewell, perhaps, as it is said to happen “annually on the 11th of the month of August.”  Research into this admirable event shows that its inception was in 2020, so that today is the first day ever that the term “annually” is correct.  Bakewell is an attractive market town in Derbyshire, as your Editor can attest, and there are three shops in Bakewell that lay claim to the original recipe of the Bakewell pudding.  Further south, in the county of Essex, on this Day 509 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS KINDLINESS, our poet Brian Ford encounters human contact at the supermarket till.  He does not record the nature of his purchase.  Might it have been a Bakewell tart?

At the checkout queue

The elderly couple in front of me
(definition of elderly – older than me)
chatted happily to the woman at the checkout,
as they bagged up their purchases,
about the weather, holidays, friends etc, etc, etc.
She nodded, smiled and chatted with them.
When they had gone 
she apologised to me.
‘Sorry about that,’ she said.
‘They’re two of my regulars.’
‘That’s fine,’ I said, sincerely.
Glad that, in a Covid regulated supermarket
where you could enter, shop, check out and leave
without speaking to any other human being,
there is still human contact, friendship
and small acts of kindness.

Brian Ford

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“Procrastination is the thief of time” wrote Edward Young in 1745, in his long poem ‘Night-Thoughts’ – but lo: it is our own poet Linda Lines who has to ’fess up to the crime, on this Day 508 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS TEMPORALITY.  “Time won’t stay” she says, “so choose how to spend it, don’t lose or waste away this priceless commodity” – cautionary words at this moment in our lives when months of lockdown have worn away at our customary perception of the passage of time … 

Confession

I’ve only stolen time.
A heinous crime and not only mine,
I’ve stolen your time, yours 
and many others’ too 

I’ve wasted time more often than not.
I should be wealthy beyond my dreams
but I’m not, guilt came in, it’s time to pay 
back so I gave it away, then gave more

but time won’t stay you can’t stop it 
relentlessly ticking away, so choose 
how to spend it, don’t lose or waste 
away this priceless commodity

Time can’t be tasted or touched or saved – 
It can only be used wisely so don’t beat 
yourself up as you do more often 
than not – where’s the pleasure in that?

Steal it for precious moments – yes!
Give it away, your time or mine 
It’s never enough. I’m guilty of coveting 
more and more – A new wisdom found

I’ve learned to preserve, to write it down 
store it for those who deserve more time 
in the future when it’s no longer mine.
To give back what I’d stolen… for the very last time.

Linda Lines
This poem was read at ‘Caged Blossoms’ Launch Part Two, 22 July 2021 

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Yesterday’s poem had Mark J Mitchell, during his confinement in his closed room in San Francisco, singing the ‘Ode to Joy’ to his goldfish.  Today, on this Day 507 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS JUBILATION, following the relaxation of restrictions, we shall emulate Lord Byron, and with our poet AndyRew at the helm here in Wivenhoe, we sing “On with the dance!  Let joy be unconfined.”

Joy 

Joy fell through the ceiling
and square onto my cat
She hit him like a tonne of fun
so now he’s happy flat

AndyRew

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This day 52 years ago, on 8 August 1969, a photographer stood on a step-ladder in Abbey Road in London; a policeman held up traffic behind him while he took a photograph of four Beatles on a zebra crossing outside the EMI Studios.  This became, as the cover photo for the ‘Abbey Road’ album, one of the most iconic images in popular music.  On the album Ringo Starr sang lead vocal on one track, his solo composition ‘Octopus’s Garden’.  It is, I think, the only aquatic song in ‘Abbey Road’; however on this Day 506 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CONFINEMENT we have a lockdown song written in water by our poet Mark J Mitchell who sends us this thoughtful snippet House arrest from his closed room with closed windows on a closed street in San Francisco.

House arrest

He sang to his goldfish. The only tune
he knew – the Ode to Joy – had mangled words –
language meaning morning, that’s all. By noon
he sat, sung out. He thought his goldfish heard
his voice. His other pet – a silent bird –
looks down its small, gold beak. His closed windows
open on a closed street. He didn’t know
its name. His sentences so perfectly long
that fish and bird were his only show.

Someday, he’d discover an evening song.

Mark J Mitchell

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Off to Spain, off to Italy, off to Mexico – what is it with people, who immediately the restrictions are lifted, want to jet off somewhere exotic?  “We’ve been isolating for so long.  We deserve a break.”  Oh yes – well the planet needs a break too.  “What do you mean?” they’ll say.  To which you may reply “Air transport accounts for around 2.5% of global CO2 emissions, but its overall contribution to climate change is even higher” – and you think that’s going to change their minds?  What about the overarching risk of spreading the virus?  “We’ll be wearing masks.”  Perhaps.  Today’s poet Simon Haines, on this Day 505 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS SELF-INTEREST, gives us a poetic masterclass in heedless hedonism.

Amberlist

I’ve planned my trip to Amberlist
I’ve booked my Airbnb
I’ll be flying by Budget Airlines
I’ll be spreading my bonhomie.

Happy days in those sunny uplands,
No distancing or wearing a mask
I’m supporting the local economy
I’ve had the vaccine, so don’t even ask.

I’m chilling out on Amberlist beach
I’m sampling their food and their drink
They say squid is good at this time of year
Washed down with prosecco that’s  pink.

I’m spending my money so freely
Nourishing my cultural brain
I’m passing my nights with local girls
Sharing my Delta strain.

I’ll be making my way back home again
When all my money’s spent
I’ll make sure they don’t quarantine me
That’s a rule I will circumvent.

When I bid farewell to you, Amberlist,
I’ll shed a happy tear
And if you all survive my trip
I’ll be sure to return next year.

Simon Haines

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Twenty-five years ago today, on 06 August, 1996, the Ramones played their final gig in Hollywood.  You really needed to know that, I do believe.  And now, on Day 504 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CHORALE our poet Anthony Wade, who is writing from Ireland, from East Cork, a small village across the harbour from Cobh, brings us a more sedate message about the beauty of song.  “For some years” he says “I have been a member of a local choir and enjoyed that greatly, even singing solos when we held concerts at local nursing homes and hospices.  I have missed it, particularly that sense of joint endeavour …”  The poet counts his blessings, and hopes for better things to come.

Counting Blessings

Before, when we were free and carefree,
we had choirs where singers would arrive
to firm handshakes and friendly hugs,
the great choirs of the great churches,
choirs that filled the concert halls,
youth choirs, and choirs populated
by the active retired,
all with shoulders almost touching,
breaths mingling,
voicing the hymns and songs
that unite us, melodies that lighten us,
now all gone, now found only through a glass screen.

All we are allowed with our choirs
is to watch or to practise via Zoom,
a confusing term in a confusing time
when zooming once meant to hurtle
from one place to another
but we are unmoving in lockdown,
or to focus in close up
but now all faces are distanced.
Yet just a short decade past
we would have had not even that,
with only silence where once sound
would have been, merely memories
of once joyous union, and hope of release.

Anthony Wade

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The poem Notes from a Lockdown Garden by our poet Anthony Watts comes in eight small packages.  Yesterday he spoke of pleated baby oak leaves; in today’s small package, on Day 503 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ERANTHIDAE, he finds in the garden a green-winged angel.

More notes from a Lockdown Garden 

Green-winged angel of an early annunciation – 
goblet of gold in a leaf ruff – 
no metaphor could nail your essence, 
or cushion the shock of your otherness – 
that sudden realisation
that you are no precocious buttercup 
or errant celandine – 
but Winter Aconite. 

Anthony Watts

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Yesterday’s poem elided the life of man with the life of the oak tree.  Today, on Day 502 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS UNFOLDING our poet Anthony Watts sees the emergence of new oak leaves as the summer opens itself to our senses.

Notes from a Lockdown Garden 

Baby oak leaves, 
womb-damp from the bud,
coppery green, pleated like bats where they hang:
tomorrow they’ll be open to the sky – 
fumbling the wind in their millions.

Anthony Watts

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It is Day 501 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS DENDROLOGY and today our scribe is Dominic Gaines, a young poet with a deep love of nature and an affinity with the world of plants, as we may see in his sensitive poem The life of a tree man, in which he elides man with the acorn that becomes the oak, emphasising how all life is born of Gaia, our earth mother.  In the final analysis the hope is that one day he will find peace.  It is what we all need.

The life of a tree man

Changing with the seasons
a seemingly endless rhythm,
sunshine wind and rain
reveal what was lost again,

from bare soil life emerges.
A seed grows to a plant 
and turns to seed again,
an acorn falls from the sky,

is buried by a forgetful rodent,
one day to reach a spectacular size   
but no man will notice.
Great strength it takes to break the surface

everything comes with time,
he emerges slowly from the foetus,
with an arched back
a warm smile to greet us,

not long to reach his spectacular size   
soon to wither away and die,

to us he may seem slow and weary
often murmuring incoherently,
but he moves at nature’s pace
in the knowledge this is the right place.

He sends his roots down deep,
so that whatever he finds he will seek,
always with the hope
one day he will find peace.

Dominic Gaines

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Five hundred consecutive days of your poems.  Five hundred consecutive days of free verse, of sonnets, of sevenlings, of strict and not so strict rhyme schemes, of largely new and previously unseen poetry.  Five hundred consecutive days of your wise, amusing, uplifting and sometimes not so uplifting verse, all as part of the POETRYWIVENHOE ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS INITIATIVE.  It’s quite an achievement, and we thank you for it.  And on this Day 500 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS SENESCENCE our poet Gordon Hoyles is wondering “With not so far to go now do I need those smart new shoes?”  Surely the answer must be “Go for it, Gordon!  Buy those smart new shoes!  Keep up the good work, keep writing, fight the good fight and rage, rage against the dying of the light!”

Age Concern

With not so far to go now
do I need those smart new shoes?

And, as soon they won’t affect me
why address those pesky issues?

Just trust the other people
doing business over there

and thus, become less anxious,
more receptive, more aware

and enjoy the fruits of reckless
and indulge in things unwise

and test the strength of freedom
at the frontiers where it lies.

And I might as well just say it
when I know I’ll soon be gone.

What there is is what there is
and it’s not for lasting long.

As importance came and went
was it really worth the fight?

As it made so little difference 
best go gentle into that good night.

Gordon Hoyles

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It is Day 499 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS OLYMPIAD and we are halfway through the Tokyo Olympic Games 2020, in which Team GB has been doing phenomenally well.  Our poet Adrian Beckingsale writes “I’ve been watching the Olympics in awe at the skill and strength of the competitors.  Up until the age of twenty, when a knee injury stopped me in my tracks, I was considered a pretty good sportsman and until recently had considered myself quite fit.  But worn out joints and tired muscles are beginning to take their toll. This is, of course, the penalty one pays for the privilege of remaining alive.  I was once driven around the Blue Mountains in Australia by an old biker on a Harley Davison Trike. He was a founder member of the Veteran Motorcyclists of Australia and told me that their motto was ‘Grow Old Disgracefully’!  I am trying to grow old Graceful in Spirit even if no longer Graceful in Action.  I suppose that is what this poem is really all about. (I was surprised to find there were so many good rhymes for Crumble!)”

Olympic wistfulness

The gymnasts fly and spin and twist,
not one move is ever missed,
they vault and jump and catch and tumble,
as my old body starts to crumble.

The rugby players tackle hard,
go too high – a yellow card,
pass the ball and never fumble,
as my old body starts to crumble.

Dressage flows with dignity,
horse and rider gliding free,
sure of foot they never stumble,
as my old body starts to crumble.

Muscled lifters hoist and press,
arms of steel resist the stress
of massive weights upon the dumbbell,
as my old body starts to crumble.

The pole vault bar is very high,
sprint up, bend the pole and fly
land in the pit limbs all a jumble
as my old body starts to crumble.

In my youth I was so fast
but those days have quickly passed,
I’m still alive, I shouldn’t grumble,
as my old body starts to crumble.

Friends all ask me “How am I”?
I answer up without a sigh,
I’m alright they hear me mumble,
as my old body starts to crumble.

Time goes by and on life flows
some doors open others close,
still, I can l smile and remain humble,
As my old body starts to crumble.

Adrian Beckingsale

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Today is the last day of July, so we are just in time to post this tender July poem from our poet Amy Soricelli, who is a college educator from the Bronx.  Love is in the air on this Day 498 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ADORATION, and in those hot avenues and ways of the Bronx “When I say your name people stop and look down the street for you.” 

July 

I will spend the month counting you on
my fingers.
There are the first days with the sullen 
arms across its chest, the brown bag with
flat sandwiches and small fruit bruised on one side.
No one said my name but I whispered theirs
in the folded-up notes I stamped home.

I will spend the month finding kisses in the
air meant for someone else.
First, the dance shadow-girls who lived inside
their own hearts and then all the
perfect boy-souls, crushing glass into beads,
then marrying them away.

I will spend the month writing you in red ink.
Each moon shaped like a fish will get
torn between pages and broken art on
the walls will hang loosely by a thread.
My arms are dirty tools rusting in the sun.
When I say your name people stop and
look down the street for you. 

I will spend the month with you living in my head.
You are voices turned on low and whispered
in forests; the ground sweet with berries.
I can toss and turn you away but you are clay
then ghostly sand.
Each hour is a rock between my toes.
Each day is a hot swinging door where
nothing stays the same.

Amy Soricelli

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Moving ever closer – but not quite there yet – to a tally of 500 daily new poems since this initiative began in March of last year, it’s Day 497 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CONCUPISCENCE.  We have recently been concerned on this website with Nature, climate change, gardening, the sea, whales, migrants, travel and much else beside. We seem to have paid scant attention to sex and sexual politics.  Nor have we at any time mentioned the writings of Giovanni Della Casa, who published Galateo: The Rules of Polite Behaviour in Venice in 1558.  (“Il galateo” means “buone maniere”, that is manners or etiquette).  Our poet today, Pamela Scobie, comments: “In Galateo we are advised never to make obvious jokes and that true wit should astonish.  It’s what I aim for, but too often miss …” but this sexy and cleverly crafted poem will refute her modest self-effacement.

On the impossibility of ever getting even

You must not love me anymore.
I am not yours, but his.
(You never loved me much before)

I am not yours, but his.
You may not touch me here and there.
We can’t do this.

You may not touch me here and there.
I am forbidden fruit,
and that’s not fair.

I am forbidden fruit.
You want to taste
what you so soon forgot.

You want to taste
what you can never have.
Paid back at last

What you can never have,
what is not yours, but his.
There is no balm, no salve,

unless perhaps a kiss
calls back 
some lovely day…

We can’t do this.
I am not yours, but his.
We’re kissing, anyway…

Pamela Scobie

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We have 3 months and 3 days to go until the Cop 26 summit in Glasgow.  Meanwhile a report ‘State of the UK Climate 2020’ in The International Journal of Climatology provides a summary of the UK weather and climate through the calendar year 2020, which shows definitively that the UK’s climate is changing.  Recent decades have been warmer, wetter and sunnier than the 20th century.  This is not good news; the UK is not prepared for extremes of weather.  Today, on Day 496 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CLIMATOLOGY, our poet Norman Staines finds beauty in the forest, where “A lake of silver reflects the impossible”.  Will it be impossible for the world to come to its senses and halt our seemingly inexorable slide towards climate disaster?

Forest

On meander we pick along rough logging tracks
through late mud to find the pine trees’ shade
silently inside we step on golden needles

A lake of silver reflects the impossible
Emboldened now, we skim stones from the water’s edge
skipping, they are monsters surfacing, diving, surfacing

Raptors’ plaintive cries are everywhere above

Norman Staines

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It is 28 July 2021.  Sixty-two years ago this day it was announced that Norwich had been selected to be first town in the UK to receive a postcode.  Who knew?  And now, on Day 495 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CULTIVATION, that bit of East Anglian history cuts absolutely no ice with our poet Anthony Watts who writes from Somerset about his lockdown garden in Taunton. There is distant thunder …

Notes from a lockdown garden 

Tall masts of an anchored fleet, the hollyhocks
rock in the breeze.  Some lean,
angling for bees – winding them in
to their painted wheels.

Darting from plant to plant –  
a dragonfly  
makes cat’s cradles 
in the air above the pond.

Distant thunder
from a gathering cloud.
Crossing its face,
the gulls grow suddenly whiter.

The trees
are rolling 
drunk 
on a skinful of wind.

The wind unpicks the clouds.  
They come apart
reluctantly,
like cotton wool. 

As the sun bows out behind the wood,
a galaxy of oxeye daisies
fills the darkened window with its light. 
We leave the curtains open.

Anthony Watts

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Evidence is emerging that long Covid is a major risk to the young: recent studies suggest it can cause long-term illness in children.  The current recommendation in the USA is that everyone 12 years and older should get a Covid-19 vaccination, but here in the UK it is unlikely that there will be a decision anytime soon to vaccinate all 12 to 17-year-old children against Covid.  Are the young being betrayed by the old?  “Betrayed” may be too harsh a term; there are concerns there are not enough Pfizer or Moderna vaccines to start vaccinating younger age groups any earlier.  That could mean the result will be an uncontrolled epidemic among those younger age groups.  The country is faced with baffling complexities, but today on Day 494 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS DISQUIETUDE our poet Peter Trusty finds innocence and betrayal in the mystery of Cobwebs and dew.

Cobwebs and dew

Rising early I see
white cobwebs entangled in a bush –
the innocence of the dew
betrays them.

Peter Trusty

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Your Editor has been watching, on this Day 493 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS DESCENT, the Men’s Synchronised 10m Platform Final at the Tokyo Olympics, with tears in his eyes at the sheer beauty, sheer courage, of these soaring tumbling aeronauts.  As a young man, diving was his discipline – although the standard competition dives in his time would be low tariff today.  Woo-hoo: a Gold for Britain!  Well dived, Tom Daley and Matthew Lee!  What a partnership.  And today our poet Jenna Plewes has been watching some rather different champion divers of the sea – the huge gentleness of whales.  Sploosh …

Whale watching

Fog drapes damp towels on our shoulders,
moist gauze over our eyes.

Engine cut, we rock
in the swell, peering into
white windowless space.

We hear them first,
long watery whoosh of sound
a ton of sea blown into the air,

one away left, another closer
on the right, silence,
then one dead ahead.

Blindfolded, we turn our heads
chasing a hide and seek
swirl of sounds.

A long grey heave of darkness
rises beside the boat
streaming with water, covered in scars,

cuts in old leatherette, a body
crusted with barnacles,
close enough to touch.

We lean over the side,
something about that huge gentleness
silences us.

A smooth sinking away
into a milky haze,
a slight rocking under our feet,

nothing more.

Jenna Plewes

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Today it is 25 July 2021; five days ago a record number of migrants risked their lives to cross the Channel to Kent in small boats.  At least 430 people made the crossing across the Dover Strait on Monday.  The home secretary, Priti Patel, has pledged to make the crossing “unviable”.  She follows a previous home secretary, Theresa May, who in 2012 introduced the Hostile Environment Policy.  But we, on Day 492 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS TRANSMIGRATION, have the privilege of reading the more measured and less hostile thoughts of our poet Colin Hopkirk in this contemplative poem. Eureka.

Displacement

I’ve been thinking about the sea
I’ve had floating thoughts
and I’ve been dreaming
dreaming about boats
many small boats and rafts
and the many people in them
and the way that voices carry over water

Colin Hopkirk

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Saturday 24 July 2021, and they are maybe a year late, but the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 are at last under way.  Anxious athletes at the Games must be taking deep breaths today in anticipation of their individual advents.  Tokyo air quality index is “good”, but as the weather changes, the AQI for the coming week is forecast to become “unhealthy for sensitive groups”.  Our poet Bryan Thomas on this Day 491 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS RESPIRATION reminds us of the need to sanctify Nature “so we can breathe again”.

Breathe deep

Boats lie on the muddy drying edge.
All of them are someone’s dream 
of freedom. Adventures – wind in your hair,
and the night stops as the sun goes down.

A glass of wine: maybe good company,
even with your girl who, all for love, 
liked to be afloat as long as she could see 
the shore or reach the bottom with her toes. 

I drift through distant dreams along the shore.
A stretch of marshland before the river’s run.
Tall reeds, brown bullrush heads but more;
the newish trees revelling their youthful growth.

Red seeds and multi-fingered fronds,
and yellow leaves reminding us of spring.
The elderflower’s bright white buds
heralding the champagne fizz of yore.

And over all, the palpable, intoxicating scent
of Nature in-the-raw – producing oxygen, a heady gift 
that we should cherish, now forest fires with logging 
create more carbon than the oxygen we crave.

Let us sanctify those woods arising from the river banks, 
enjoying once again our childhood’s hedgerows 
and the uncut verges burgeoning with butterflies and bees.
So we can breathe again.

Bryan Thomas

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Today is 23 July 2021, it is also Day 490 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ECOSYSTEM and there are 101 days to go until the Cop 26 summit, the UN climate talks that open on 1 November in Glasgow.  Our poet today, Norman Staines, speaks of the rushes and reeds and unexpected flowers of the Fen, finding himself inspired whilst walking in the countryside.  He asks “Isn’t it just one of the best freedoms imaginable?”  But while world leaders and officials from 196 countries will be in Glasgow in high-pressure negotiations aimed at setting a new path to a safer climate, the question of the fen remains: “Will this low ground withstand all our future summers?”

Fen

The sky arches over a circular horizon
slowly we walk the fen, relish soft ground
skirt great tangles of grasses, rushes and reeds

Unexpected flowers find bowers of protection
small birds, unseen, pass on news of our intrusion
bristly pale buds promise berries for sweet autumn

Will this low ground withstand all our future summers?

Norman Staines

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Today it is 22 July and it is also Day 489 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS FRUSTRATION.  The poem Staying alert has been somewhat overtaken by events, having been written before this week’s lifting of restrictions, but much of the message is still apposite.  Inter alia we note that nurses and other NHS staff have just been offered a 3% pay rise; less than inflation.  Teachers, police, nothing.  The government says the country cannot afford to pay nurses more. The answer might well lie buried in our poet David Slater’s lines “The rich accumulate and send / Themselves to safe havens, untaxed”. Your Editor has long advocated an hypothecated tax for the NHS; we would all know what we are paying for and what the NHS is worth.

Staying alert

The Police still patrol the Prom,
Keeping a weather eye out for
Buckets and spades and coughing,
Or the anosmia that disguises 
The suspect smell of frying onions,
From a foil barbie beneath the wall.

We shall last three weeks more max,
Without work, or family or friends.
We will start to press for contact,
News on Zoom is scarcely news,
WhatsApp is not for uncapped feeling 
And no hug is not now how we are.

The rich accumulate and send
Themselves to safe havens, untaxed.
They beg for our taxed support.
The rest of us will tolerate that,
But will push to save livings, 
As Bankers’ bonuses get banked
And dividends are held on hold.

Once they get capacity, they will
Let it rip, you wait and see.
The elderly, who walk abreast 
With a small dog alongside,
Will be told make some space.
At best, we shall all be tested.

David Slater

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Scorchio.  What more can be said about today’s temperatures?  The last seven years have been the warmest since global records began.  It is Day 488 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CALEFACTION, and our poet Jenna Plewes recalls a Canadian Summer. Certainly timely, but not just Canadian.  It’s beginning to happen here – without the wildfires, generally speaking, although some hayfields in East Anglia have caught alight from barbecues, and the Met Office has issued one of its new extreme heat weather warnings for the first time for parts of the UK.

Canadian Summer

Heat blowtorched the lawn
sucked the scent from roses
blushed tomatoes overnight
and blew up pumpkins like balloons.

It swelled the sweetcorn teats
and hung a scarlet net for humming birds
to swim like fish among the runner beans.

The summer broiled and barbecued,
served up a feast
so hot it 
burnt a tongue
that longed for summer rain
and dripping leaves. 

Jenna Plewes

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Day 487 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS GALLIVANT and precisely 52 years ago, on 20 July 1969, the two US astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the Moon.  It was the ultimate in holiday travel.  At the present moment, people are free to travel abroad – with some fluctuating restrictions – and the government and the tourist industry are desperate to support increased air travel, despite the heavy carbon footprint.  One relatively benign feature of lockdown was the absence of contrails from the sky (trails of water vapour condensation which contribute significantly to global warming).  Today’s poet Adrian Beckingsale writes “I am not sure when we will have the courage to travel abroad again. So, I have written another pastiche of a wonderfully rhythmic poem, this time Sea Fever by John Masefield.  Although written in the first person I am not, as I’ve said, desperate to travel abroad just yet but I know that many are, so this is from their point of view.”  It’s a lovely pastiche, and the freedom to fly brings its own thrill, but there are greener ways to travel. 

Travel Fever
 (with apologies to John Masefield)

I must get onto a plane again to travel the lonely sky,
And all I ask is a foreign trip and somewhere safe to fly,
And the warm sun and the blue sea and the smell of croissants baking
And a double jab and a negative test and Covid’s grip breaking.

I must get onto a plane again, for the call of a foreign seaside,
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied,
And all I ask is exotic food out on the barbecue frying 
And the heat of the sun and the cool of the breeze in the palm trees sighing.

I must get onto a plane again to the vagrant holiday life,
To the tourist way and a walk on the prom hand in hand with my darling wife,
And all I ask is a glass of wine and a drink with a fellow rover,
And a good flight home and a sweet dream when the holiday is over.

Adrian Beckingsale

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It is Day 486 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS UNMASKING.  “People … will tell you that freedom lies in being cautious.”  That was Robert Frost in 1952.  He went on “Freedom lies in being bold.”  Well, in the context of applying those words this morning to so-called “Freedom Day”, your Editor does not agree with Frost; there are already worrying scenes of wild maskless dancing and mingling, which do not augur well for the spread of the virus.  One does not have to be a Cassandra – cursed always to be disbelieved, in spite of the truth of her words – to predict that woe will follow this spurious liberation.  So does our poet of the day, Matthew Oglesby, agree with the curmudgeonly Mr Grumpy?  Read his Freedom Day sonnet, so full of Shakespearian phrases, and see what you think …

Freedom Day

Fallow to a plague the poet sighed,
And ‘prenticed through the dark to labour’s love,
Reflected on the loss of one in three,
And waived, as all, to chance his fretful play.
To-morrow and to-morrow open wide
Then sun-belighted fools step out to prove,
When mythic pard in honour take their knee,
One bubble reputation’s here to stay.
So sound and fury once again are plied,
“Wise saws” to petty race an easy bluff:
That living with this plague’s our destiny;
And thiefdom’s creeping shadow fades to day.
O sovereign soldiers straining for the field,
Your country hath but so much life to yield.

Matthew Oglesby

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It’s a hot weekend in July – well, nothing strange about that, you may say.  But there are extraordinary climatic patterns in this old world these days, and extreme weather events are becoming more frequent.  In Europe there are catastrophic floods. It is climate change.  “The world comes crashing to its knees” says our poet Hannah Stone.  On Day 485 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS TRIBULATION she recalls a summer of Beeches self-felled: “Trees falling in the drought dates from an experience this time last year – much as I love communing with trees, I was glad I wasn’t too close to these on that occasion.”

Beeches self-felled

Those hot days watched the world come crashing to its knees, 
and on the steep slope separating 
back gardens from valley bottom,
beeches felled themselves, limbs
creaking and hurtling through
the web of lower branches, 
bouncing on the parched mast. 

This was no hypothetical harvest (the butterfly
in a ribbon of rainforest ceasing mid-wing beat),
but a fall witnessed by walkers unlocked
for the mandated hour,
who turned at the sound of the splintering
and saw the raw air rising unconfined,
vibrating under the blue pall,
watched the trees shaking out their shoulders
startled by their emancipation.

Hannah Stone

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Fifty years ago this week, in July 1971, the hottest album in town was Carole King’s ‘Tapestry’.  It was certainly being played in the Kennedy household over and over again.  The top single from the album was ‘It’s Too Late’.  Today Europe is reeling from the most catastrophic and terrifying flooding – a consequence of climate change.  And the fear is that It’s Too Late to reverse manmade climate change.  The German president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, calls for greater efforts to combat global warming. “Only if we decisively take up the fight against climate change will we be able to limit the extreme weather conditions we are now experiencing” he says.  So on this Day 484 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ABYSSAL your Editor, in casting about for an at least marginally relevant poem, has lighted upon Inundation – not exactly a new poem, but it will do.

Inundation

Then as I reach the shoulder of the spur
I see below the port and harbour drowned;
deep waters wash upon the harbour wall.
Some fishermen are struggling to relieve
their boat from tanglement with snarls of rope
that float and coil about the oily swell.

On either side the low and level lands
are gone; the waters reach up to the hills
and through the mists I hear a doleful bell —
strange clangour in this desolated place.
I’m slipping now.  I feel the sand and stones
and pebbles in a scurry of descent,

down, down towards the deep and plunging sea
where I shall hear the whale’s unfathom’d song. 

Peter Ualrig Kennedy

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Once upon a time Boy Scouts volunteered to do work during Bob-a-Job week.  Today 16 July 2021 the Grab-a-Jab weekend is upon us, to try to get as many people vaccinated as possible before the Covid restrictions are dropped on Monday.  Leaders of the vaccination programme want to get the message across to young adults that they are vulnerable if unvaccinated, and that getting the illness carries a significant risk of organ damage and long Covid.  Meanwhile our poet Simon Haines, on Day 483 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS VALETUDINARIANISM, expounds on the fascination we older citizens have with our Ailments and how our symptoms and our prescriptions become absorbing subjects of conversation.

Ailments

When you get to be a certain age,
It tends to be your final stage
An absorbing subject of conversation
When you’ve finished discussing the state of the nation
And detailing what you had for lunch or dinner
Describing your health is a certain winner.

You listen politely to your friends’ grim descriptions,
Their latest diagnoses, their new prescriptions
They tell you about gall stones and aching joints 
In their attempt to score extra points.
You shake your head, show fake concern
Just waiting, ‘cos soon it’ll be your turn.

Yes, it’s a contest. Didn’t you know it?
Course you did, but you can’t show it.
You may trump their aches with your operations
You can show them your scars in hidden locations.
You describe in detail your tonsillitis,
Your Covid symptoms, your conjunctivitis.

But you must know by now it’s pointless trying
To outdo your friend, who’s probably lying.
However interesting your ailments are
Theirs are always more serious by far.

Simon Haines

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We see in the paper today (Day 482 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS LAVAGE) that in Manchester a large Victorian washhouse that served textile workers more than 150 years ago has been uncovered during work to create the city’s first public park in a century.  The ornate tiles of the Mayfield baths, whose pools measured nearly 20 metres, were found in pristine condition beneath a car park 164 years after it opened.  So it is opportune that we have a poem Your local Spa Experience from our poet Hannah Stone, writing from Leeds – who declares “I am not going to say whether or not I gave the boys their desired spa experience; you’ll have to read between the lines.”

Your local Spa Experience

Hazardous conditions, as expected;
surface water swilling across tarmac, 
and round a bend in the road a tangle 
of crunched fenders, 
that one sensible person 
on the pavement, hands raised 
to slow the traffic, then beckoning it past the mess, 
too fresh even for distant blues and twos. 

A mile or two further on,
there are two kids perched on the kerb, 
gesticulating at passing drivers. 
‘Bring it on,’ their jazz hands say, 
hailing passing cars, urging them 
to launch into the floodwater, 
and in the rear-view mirror
you see the water pouring off their sodden shorts, 
cascading down their bare legs, 

and you think of their mums, 
piling Sunday lunch washing-up into the sink, 
wondering what possessed the lads 
to come home with not a dry stitch on them
and grins as wide as rivers.

Hannah Stone

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The advisability of continuing to wear facemasks in shops and on public transport is forefront in the news today, while the government continues to send out confusing messages.  Poet Stephen Kingsnorth, writing from Wrexham, is seeing more visitors these days, and indeed craves an increase in visitors, even though these flighty characters are not wearing masks, and not planning to self-isolate.  It is Day 481 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ORNITHOLOGY.

Callers

Robin, he calls here all the time –
I see more visitors these days –
counterintuitive I say
so frequently appearance made –
but each one breathes a different air,
our distancing always maintained.

A wide array, my contact list –
all breeds of village passers-by,
both halt and lame, the bully, shy,
and single mother with her son.
The microwave beyond their use,
but busy selves in sorting food –
some hatch nut loaf – not quite my taste;
they fuss about, raising the dust,
egged on by sorting every need,
as flutter by like birds engrossed.

My door displays no callers, hawks,
but, it seems, they cannot read;
the startling comes, the pecker too,
the creepers, chafing, green of gill,
the rush of great with coal and blue,
and all around some corvidae.
I wondered how the human zoo
reacts to those refusing cage;
these flighty characters at large
show no plans to self-isolate.

Spring growth observed from garden seat;
when said emergency relaxed, 
no reason why this phase should cease;
in hiding, though my secret clear –
in days of lockdown and beyond,
I crave increase in visitors.

Stephen Kingsnorth

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In the UK there is increasing concern about the potential virus-spreading consequences of the so-called and ill-considered ‘Freedom Day’ looming on Monday.  Meanwhile on Day 480 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS BEWILDERMENT, we read this poignant evocation of her immured father’s longing for freedom, by our poet Amy Soricelli who writes to us from the Bronx, New York.

Visiting Dad in the nursing home

If you could spring me from this place we
could tie the bedsheets with large knots and
I could slide both hands down the building’s 
throat and land on its belly.

By the way, is there an old newspaper we could
wrap all my army days in or inside the shoebox
under the bed? 
I think there is room next to my parents from
Germany and their long stories wrapped in
clear paper.

By the way, my marriage to your mother is
on the wrong side of the room, I moved it 
next to the plant, you bought me before Covid
which is doing nicely.
I didn’t name it.
The other one died an hour after you sent it.

By the way, I told the nurse that in the 
dead of the night, I might slip between the 
walls or climb across the last few years of my
grandkids and look outside for the baseball
games I used to go to, and how I was an
an artist who drew people running you could
see the air under their feet. 

By the way, you went away to school on 
those drawings and roast beef dinners; 
those summers with all of us in one car.
We could also just walk through the front door
if I wore a hat and you distracted them somehow,
maybe with a song?

Amy Soricelli

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In bocca al lupo is the Italian way of saying “good luck” before a performance.  Matteo Berrettini failed to draw the teeth of the Serbian wolf – but hey “Second comes just after first” said Buzz Aldrin in ‘Deep Space Homer’.  As the England team has discovered.  Which today’s papers (it is 12 July, or Day 479 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS SUBSIDIARY) are treating as a national tragedy.  Come on – it was a penalty shootout, not a national disgrace … Anyway, on the Italian theme, you may remember that earlier (Day 412) our poet Pamela Scobie was represented by her poem La mancanza for which our comment was then “Siamo anche con lei nel forno. We are with her already in the furnace.” And that may seem suitable today.  So let us read another Pamela Scobie poem, Not long now, for which her comment is “Here’s a rather gloomy end of isolation poem”.  In bocca al lupo.

Not long now

You know, when someone’s moved out of the house,
you keep discovering what isn’t, anymore?
Small losses shock: the gaps between, the glare
of carpet unexpectedly revealed.
Now everything recalls what might have been
and won’t be now. 
The possibility of being loved, 
of growing , not just getting old,
the ceremonies of desire.
Late flowerings only ever happen once.

I watch her move through rooms, intent
 on keeping going, nothing more.
Once she would dally in the hall,
 on tiptoe, laughing in the mirror,
putting her hat straight, sorting out her bag.
I am ashamed to catch her eye.
She who was once the mistress of this house 
is now its prisoner.
Happiness has moved out to somewhere else.
They tell us all the time it won’t be long,
things will get back to normal. What was that?
I dust, wipe vegetables, keep the chaos back.

Pamela Scobie

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Rewilding is very much in the news at this time.  Rewilding projects aim to tackle the climate emergency and extinction crisis, and reconnect people with the natural world.  It is Day 478 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS RECONNECTION.  Our guidelines ask for examples of your wise and uplifting poetry.  What could be more uplifting than the sight of a field of wildflowers?  Christian Ward, today’s poet writing from central London, draws inspiration from the wildflower print on an antique chair, and the summer scene in the park kickstarts his heart into happiness.  The poet shakes off the Covid blues …

Wildflowers 

Somehow, the wildflower print
from an antique chair on display
outside the antiques shop started 
to rewild the park. Bees dived
into pools of pollen, garnering 
a 10 from the panel of oak trees, 
squirrels and magpies. The sun
gilded the freshly cut grass. Butterflies 
did a synchronised dance. Odd
as it may have been, the scene
kickstarted my heart into happiness, 
shook off the Covid blues
and turned everything I saw 
into rainbows. Yes, even next door’s 
yappy Jack Russell who almost 
nipped me on the bum.

Christian Ward

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Ladders are trending on both sides of the water – yesterday’s poem came from Springfield, Massachusetts, and today’s comes from Fingringhoe, Essex.  (A hoe is a promontory, a piece of land that juts out towards the sea.  Fingringhoe is a pretty area across the River Colne from Wivenhoe).  And everyone, not only Jacob, could do with a ladder, as our poet Andrew Treacher demonstrates on this Day 477 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ASCENSION.

The ladder

Today I climbed a ladder
went up at least twelve foot
I was a little nervous
as it wobbled and it shook

My dad was at the bottom
tho’ he wasn’t that much help
Told me he couldn’t hold it
or catch me if I fell

I knew I’d fix his gutter –
the trick to not look down
My heart it slightly fluttered
’til I stood back on the ground

Andrew Treacher 

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Day 476 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ESCALATION and the Covid-19 stats in UK continue on an upward trend.  Today we have a poem sent from Springfield, Massachusetts, USA, by our poet Christine Brooks.  Its symbol is the ladder, which took her “closer to heaven than she had been in so long …”  A symbol not too far removed from Jacob’s ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven.  But our poet’s heaven proved impermanent.

the ladder

she drips, crying
still for that last night
outside
when it was warmer than it
should have been for a
November night
and they sat outside, sipping cocktails
and changing floodlights
while they still could, before
the snow and darkness came

the broken-down wooden ladder
wobbly at best
had her closer to heaven than she had been
in so long
so long in fact that she forgot how it felt
to be up there with him holding
her, as rickety as it was   
he held on tight as she
stretched on tippy toes for the
    light

now his chair leans against the shed
     still
and the old ladder is back in the garage
and she sits alone      and the grand tree who had always
been alive 
could do nothing
but weep 
because she did not 
understand 

Christine Brooks

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It is Day 475 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS SYNAESTHESIA and we have a colourful painting in words from our poet Jan King.  We become wonderfully enmeshed in the singing colours of this Still Life.

Still Life

That night, when lamps were glowing in the corners of the room,
the closed white blind 
and the white desk and white chair below
became a white canvas
singing with colour.

On the chair, a scarlet cushion.
On the desk, two books,
one scarlet, one emerald green.
Beside the scarlet book 
a yellow wooden apple and a blue pot.

Bold against the blind,
from the blue pot
rose six green Amaryllis leaves
and two green stems topped by the lipstick red
of prima-donna lilies.

In the morning, the blind was open,
the lamps extinguished,
the singing colour gone,
leaving only an echo of the song.

Jan King

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It is as hot as Hades in many parts of the globe today, Day 474 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS INFERNO, with extreme temperatures and forest fires where you wouldn’t expect, in regions such as the Pacific north-west.  Climate change is on the march.  Meanwhile our poet Abigail Elizabeth Ottley notes that as we begin in the UK to come out from under the shadow of Covid she will look at the blossoming of hope and new life from the point of view of the Master of Darkness.  In a piece inspired by the title of one of Leonard Cohen’s songs she suggests both the enormity of loss and betrayal and a gratitude for the experience.  Abigail says “In the ‘underworld’ of lockdown there has been much dross and many hardships but also some jewels”. Well, perhaps …

Hades says “Thanks for the dance”
(after Leonard Cohen)

It wasn’t for this 
I stole you away.
I wanted your midnight
You brought me midday.

You’re gathering flowers.
I’m hungry for stars.
While you’re picking posies
I’m lounging in bars.

But thanks, thanks for the dance.

I gave you the best
Of the booty I had.
A bracelet of rubies 
As rich as oxblood.

A necklace of sapphires
As blue and as deep
As the secrets, my secrets
You spilled in your sleep.

But thanks, thanks for the dance.

Thanks for the dance
Now the music is still
I’ll dance in the dark 
And I hope that you will

Remember me fondly 
And not think that I
Was the thief stealing boldly 
What he could not buy.

Remember me fondly,
Remember my face.
Find there in the gloom
Of my sorrow my grace.

You’re out on the highway.
I’m closed in this cell.
You’re dressed up for Heaven.
I’m arse-whipped in Hell.

But, hey, thanks for the dance.

Abigail Elizabeth Ottley

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Exactly 64 years ago this day, on 06 July 1957, a 16-year-old John Lennon met 15-year-old Paul McCartney, in the church hall of St Peter’s Church, Woolton, when Lennon was playing with his group The Quarrymen.  So perhaps today our lyric offering should start “When I get older losing my hair, many years from now” …  However, McCartney also wrote “One day, you’ll look / to see I’ve gone / for tomorrow may rain so / I’ll follow the sun” and in that vein we shall have instead this wry little piece from our poet Pamela Scobie, on this Day 473 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ABANDONMENT.

Interlude

You brought your broken heart for me to mend.
I wasn’t home. You mended it yourself,
and took it back to her. So I returned,
my plans in disarray, to find
an emptiness worse that the one before.
You’d taken all the things that you forgot
last time, your new crash helmet and the tennis balls;
and left a bottle of champagne
for me to toast your happiness alone.

Pamela Scobie

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05 July 2021: Day 472 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS APPRECIATION.  Yesterday was Thank You Day, and today is the 73rd birthday of the NHS.  How to find a poem that might fit the contours of the day?  Your Editor has decided on Thank you – a poem taken from his own recent debut collection ‘Songs for a Daughter’ (details on our Books page).

Thank you

We walk in bright sunshine
along the river path.
A young man comes towards us –
slim and neat;
Eastern European is my guess.

He sees our daughter’s strabismus gaze,
stops beside her wheelchair.
He inclines his head
and speaks quietly to her
– thank you – he says to our daughter.

Her face is illumined by the summer sun
and she smiles,
but having no words
and little comprehension
she does not reply.

The young man again says 
– thank you –
he bends forward,
he lifts her hand to his lips
and he kisses the back of her hand.

Letting her hand drop 
he says once more to her
– thank you –
and he smiles at us
before resuming his walk.

I can think of nothing to say to him
save for a weak “take care”
and so we walk on 
slowly
as I push the wheelchair.

But for some moments
my eyes are 
misty
with foolish
tears.

Peter Ualrig Kennedy ©
from ‘Songs for a Daughter’ published 2021 by Dempsey & Windle 

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Today it is Day 471 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS VOLITATION – yesterday Pete Langley introduced us to a pig that might fly; today’s poet Colin Hopkirk takes to the air with the Young swifts, reaching dizzying heights and sleeping among the stars, flying in his dreams …

Young swifts

They say that, once fledged
young swifts will not land

Airborne for two years
they sleep among the stars

alternately switching off
separate halves of their brain

enough to find some rest
yet always half-aware

That’s nothing
I did this for a decade

grew sabred wings
reached dizzying heights

crossed continents at will
covered half the globe

Each day I held the sky inside

At night I flew by dreaming

Colin Hopkirk

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It is Day 470 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS DISCOMBOBULATION and really, you couldn’t make it up!   It is reported that there is “fury in Ukraine after female soldiers are made to march in heels – Ukrainian authorities have found themselves buried in controversy after official pictures showed female soldiers practising for a parade in heels”.  And so it seems right and proper to post ‘A pig might fly’ from our poet Pete Langley, who comments “this piece of poetry – more propaganda – seems topical right now, so might suit the mood?”

A pig might fly

The human race has a lesson to learn
and the Earth is making us listen.

We only need good air to breath,
good food to feed, a place to rest our head.

Perchance we also want for love and peace,
for music, beauty, understanding,

But that which is not a boon for  life
will be withheld, will be denied .

Acquisitors and speculators will be extinct
because this world has no need of them,

Boundaries will be unbonded by
the swing of Nature`s arm

And man will be one inhabitant,
not the master of this planet.

A pig might fly

Pete Langley

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Day 469 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS EUPHORIA and our poet Gordon Hoyles, with his trademark sense of irony, posits that Happy days are here again – although our nation is agoraphobic and indeed a little bit xenophobic.  This month we become less than welcoming to EU nationals in our midst.  Still, the county lines are here to bring comfort, and happy days are here again.

Happy days are here again

After Covid, agoraphobic and reclusive and a little xenophobic, ‘happy days are here again’. And thanks to Pfizer Astra Zen we’ll live till God knows when, and what we did we’ll do again, ‘happy days are here again’. And the normals that we hear are sure to be around again as ‘happy days are here again’. The snipers and the land sharks and the shrew, the knifers and accusers and abusers and those who simply use us will appear to prove those ‘happy days are here again’.  The county lines and local gangs bring comfort mixtures on demand and those complaining, compensation claiming, blaming, punishing with revenge renamed as justice. Those ‘happy days are here again’ and we’ll live till God knows when.  ‘Happy days are here again.’      Amen.

Gordon Hoyles

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Day 468 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ORBITAL and today’s poem comes from our poet Frederick Pollack in Washington DC.  We look, therefore, to “The wave will pass to the north and south” from an American perspective.  This daily poem initiative is showing strong signs of internationalism.  We’ll always have news, since we are the news.  It is the power of poetry.

Why Not 

We’ll have to keep the place
since no one has met our price, or can.
The wave will pass to the north and south;
the noise of people it lifts and chews
will be like that of quarrels
in distant cities or ethnicities.
Afterwards, creatures
deposited on our patch of beach
will spasm, crawl, or ooze
back to the sea. (Perhaps we’ll go out
to help them!) When the sun
has been high for months, we’ll raise
an umbrella; and fauns, bunnies,
strays will shelter on our happy lawnbeneath it, till rain returns
and, begging to stay, they leave.
Our fridge, the size of love,
will be a joy to open on ever-new
dishes or, if we choose
to cook, ingredients. We’ll always
have news, since we are the news.
Shows about us. Games if we’re bored.
Power.

Frederick Pollack

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On Day 467 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS LITTORAL we read a recent poem by today’s poet Frances Browne, who thoroughly enjoyed writing it … almost as much as she enjoyed that first post lockdown whipped ice cream!!   And the pair of Paris Daisies are doing very well on her front patio.

Passage

At the close of a third lockdown

You make for the beach. You loll about 
on damp sand. You lick whipped ice cream.

You fall for a pair of Paris Daisies 
in a plant shop nearby. You take them home. 

You take it slow. You watch them laze 
in a May mizzle. You home them in ceramic. 

Cobalt blue. Exquisite against their gold. 

Their abundance will please you. Their amber
eyes steer you as you bear all this new.

Frances Browne

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It is a pleasure and a privilege to receive for this daily initiative a poem from the beautiful Indian state of Kerala.  Today, on Day 466 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS TRANSFIGURATION our poet Ranjith Sivaraman writes from Kochi that “There is someone who transforms me”.  It is a consoling thought.

There is someone

There is someone to love me too
Such a love that made me love myself 

There is someone who misses me 
Such a miss that I started missing myself

There is someone who craves for me
Such a craving that I started feeling the pull

There is someone who transforms me 
Such a transformation that I will live forever 

There is someone who weeps for me 
Such a weep that I feel the burns of tears 

There is someone who trusts me 
Such a trust that I am proud to be human

There is someone who made me a destination 
Such a destination which feels home forever

Ranjith Sivaraman

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Yesterday’s poem took aim, in light-hearted vein, at public schools; today on Day 465 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS INCOMPETENCE our poet Moira Garland introduces, in glancing simile, “Eton boys / hands in our pockets” while cobblers are key workers now.  This is an arrow against the ex-public school boys (& girls) who dominate this government, and how incompetently they protect us.  ‘Unprecedented’ was actually written one year ago, but Moira Garland suggests it might still resonate as a Covid poem and how we find ourselves living – those of us who have survived. 

Unprecedented

Since Eyam we have not been here 
a barred exotic space
where the cat cannot be flung
or there is difficulty in hanging
your loved ones out to dry.

Before and after are the new currency
that we spend like Eton boys
hands in our pockets 
closed off from tiny germs. Cobblers 
are key workers now. 
Clap them to mend our shoe leather.

Moira Garland

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It’s Day 464 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS PRIVILEGE and our poet Tony Oswick inveighs against public schools.  This may not be an impartial view, although many of his barbs strike home.  Is now the time to start demanding a more equitable system of education?  There are so many weightier problems crowding our horizons – climate change for example may well be the ultimate game changer.  But Oswick is right to point to the privilege that can be (?is) engendered by having a public school background.  Play up and play the game – but it should be on a level playing field.

Flogging, fagging and fee-paying

Young gentlemen of England,
To mould you is our aim.
You’re privileged and gentrified,
Play up and play the game.

For centuries we’ve served you,
We’re far from obsolete.
Maintaining Old Boy networks,
Maintaining the elite.

Though public, we are private,
Bastions of the upper class.
Such noble institutions
For those who have the brass.

Eschew the rag-tag common man,
His DNA’s defective.
We tolerate no hoi polloi,
We like to be selective.

So hurrah for Rugby, Ampleforth,
Our schooling can’t be beaten.
Three cheers for Harrow, Winchester,

For Charterhouse – and Eton!

Tony Oswick

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It seems, on Day 463 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS INFIDELITIES, that Summer’s up again, and maybe is here for a few days.  Summer comes and goes, it’s true, but perhaps there’s a chance of beach parties – still with appropriate social distancing (we make no comment about certain ministerial bad examples).  Or are those beach parties only in your dreams?  Our poet Colin Hopkirk lays down an upbeat soundtrack to his memories.

If there was a soundtrack

it would be upbeat with trumpets
Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass
or the James Last Orchestra
who always seemed to hang around
beneath Mexican archways
looking moody and interesting
or at beach parties
surrounded by adoring women
more sophisticated than my mother
more like the ones my father chased
usually in his dream

Colin Hopkirk

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Our poet Ivor Murrell writes today, on Day 462 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS INTROSPECTION, of his concern that this nation’s principles are being lost, and that truth has become an unnecessary burden … it is a serious anxiety.  Buffoonery shall be our ikon.  But it is too late to put back the clock, and our hopes must necessarily lie with Generation Alpha – the first demographic cohort to be born entirely in the 21st century.  The thought that today, 25 June, is World Beatles Day doesn’t really help, does it? … all we need is love.

Is this the country I was born in?

When did we abandon constructive criticism and evaluation?
When did truth become an unnecessary burden?

By division we thwarted nations, to build a cruel empire,
now in  isolation we are splitting into materialistic  tribes.

The policy is the same, but on a much smaller scale
those that have shall hold, those without shall stay there.

Buffoonery shall be our ikon, expertise not needed
a glib tongue more reassuring than an awkward fact.

This finally is the time of  confident mediocracy —
to look without blinking at the lens, and lie.

My post-war generation  still have  fear of  shortage
although we  stuffed our long lives with ease and excess.

We fear for what we own, plundered from the environment,
seeking reassurance from leaders,  who will validate our greed.

Our brief tribal mottos are so easy to bray, we can shout
we are unique, all is well, that we are right and still within.

Ivor Murrell

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Today is Day 461 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS MEDIAEVALISM and we are taken back to the twelfth century.  Marie de France, one of the first recorded female poets in Europe, wrote ‘Eliduc’, a lai – or lyric poem – on the power of love and the importance of fidelity, in which a weasel runs into the forest to find a magical flower that revives its mate.  Our poet Jennifer A McGowan notes that ‘Eliduc’ is often paired with another of Marie’s lais, ‘Chevrefoil”, about Tristan and Yseult, and here in McGowan’s poem the two stories are brought together.

Tristan and Yseult

An artist, misremembering myth,
and wishing to make the story more appealing,
drew Tristan and Yseult together
as a weasel and otter.

The lovers thought of their tall, sad grace—a jewel
lost among leaves. They thought
of King Arthur’s high table.

But, after all, there are worse fates:
the weasel brings their beating hearts to life
and otters stream, liquid, tumbling,
always tumbling.

Jennifer A McGowan

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After so many months of confinement, the beginnings of relaxation bring confusion and anxiety.  Society’s rules are changing.  Our poet Linda Lines on Day 460 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS MUTABILITY asks “Where is yesterday where is normal” and wants to dress up, even formal.  But putting on the Ritz now means tracksuit bottoms.

Hiss

Domestic hiss surrounds
No hands held or lips kissed
No candles lit or tables served
A “waiter” shout not heard 
Venues shrouded, empty
Where is crowded?

Now it’s here, I fear that crowd
That hustle, elbows on guard
A bustle of me first, reserve online
To slake that thirst, it’s hard it’s loud
No spontaneity, a different crowd

Where is yesterday where is normal
I want to dress up, even formal
You won’t remember that – you ‘young’
Where is courtesy politeness and
Opening doors, “after you”
Will be after I’m gone

Linda Lines

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Our attention moves this morning – Day 459 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS RETROSPECTION – from East Anglia to Surrey, and in particular to the town of Redhill, where we might imagine a garden party on a balmy summer evening some time ago when we were young.  As does our poet of the day Colin Hopkirk.  What larks, eh?  Indeed he writes “I’ve been doing some free writing, to see what, if anything, emerges. This memory found its way to the surface. The 12 year old me, observing the strange and sometimes troubling world of adults, especially when there’s a bust up!”

A garden party in Redhill 

I remember 
the sound
of a dropped glass
the air stiffening
the garden’s sudden emptying
my grandfather running for the stairs
taking them two at a time
my father shouting
hammering on a door
bees dancing in the roses
white vapour trails
cross-hatching the sky

Colin Hopkirk

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Today is Summer solstice 2021.   Our poet Ekaterina Dukusina travels back in time exactly one year to Summer solstice 2020.  Unusually for a solstice, there was an annular solar eclipse that day, although the sky was conducting its routine daily traversing, untroubled by history, the sun was moving its business as usual in competition with clouds residual; all unaware of any exclusive affair, all oblivious to the pandemic raging on this old Earth.  On Day 458 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS RETROSPECTION we look back on a tumultuous year when the time has been out of joint.  When shall we see a new alignment?

Summer solstice 2020

Bread in hand, I am on my way to share it with a friend.   I walk along old grey urban street, but I know at this moment it is conforming to a planetary alignment that takes its chance in thousands of years only once. 

What more can one desire! Yet, there is a bonus to be had – verdant trees escorting my sight, warm wind courting my hair, jasmine scent toasting the air. 

Sun, moon and earth are in line for epic rebirth when I reach the place, sit in the al fresco space, and break the bread. Its aroma tames the jasmine scent, its black olives tango with the wheaten dough, its flavour trail captures a primal earthy note soaring the senses afloat. 

My friend thought that the bread delivered because it wasn’t cut with knife but derived with love; and shared; he pointed out that this is how we can acquire anything to which we aspire; he revealed that this is actually the spirit of the rebirth.

I looked up – the sky was conducting its routine daily traversing; the sun was moving its business as usual in competition with clouds residual; all unaware of any exclusive affair.  

I was sitting lined up on the gardened earth of a lockdown church, bible in hand.    

Ekaterina Dukusina

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Yesterday’s poet Tim Cunningham was listening to the lyrical singing of several disparate birds in Co. Mayo.  Today, on Day 457 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ARIOSO our poet Brian Ford, communing in Essex with a somewhat rumpled Blackbird, is well rewarded by its beautiful song.

Blackbird

He wasn’t the most beautiful blackbird
I had ever seen.
Thin, 
wings not quite symmetrical,
breast feathers ruffled and rumpled,
like an un-ironed shirt.
Too busy feeding his chicks 
to care about his own appearance.
He sat on the arm of the garden bench,
put his head on one side,
looked at me,
expectantly.
I reduced a crust of bread to crumbs 
And scattered them on the patio.
He stabbed at them vigorously
then flew off,
and returned with an offspring.
A plump, brown thing
with a short, scruffy tail
and fading breast speckles –
looking like a second-rate thrush.

When the crumbs had been eaten
the adult flew onto a branch of the Mahonia bush
and sang a song for me.
I felt well rewarded.

Brian Ford

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Isn’t this just what it’s like these days?  Rain, then sun, then rain again … the weather, whether in Britain or in Ireland, is always a topic of conversation.  There are a number of Greenways scattered through these islands, and I would surmise that the Greenway of today’s poem is in fact the beautiful Great Western Greenway in Co. Mayo.  On this Day 456 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS JUBILATION our poet Tim Cunningham listens to disparate birds bursting into primal song.  Rain is no excuse for them to miss rehearsals.

Fine tuning

After a week of unseasonal sun,
The return of the seasonal rain.
Undaunted, a wagtail and sparrow
Strut across the Greenway.

On both sides, disparate birds – 
Blackbird, thrush, robin, wren . . . –
Perch on the disparate choirstall branches
Of birch and beech and mountain ash,

Clearing their throats,
Fine tuning their vocal cords
Before bursting into primal song,
The lyrical legacy of ancestors.

They know that rain is no excuse
For missing rehearsals.

Tim Cunningham

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There have been teeming rains overnight in this neck of the woods, and on this Day 455 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ELYSIUM our poet Adrian Beckingsale declares that “After a brief spell of sunshine we are now back to the Deluge” with fears of blustering storms and roaring floods. But he has hope ”that if we change and move away from our inexorable consumerism, we can stem the tide of global warming, (if that is not a mixed metaphor!)”.  It is not too late to change.

Paradise not yet Lost

We never left the Garden
the apple, bitten, banished us from innocence
but not from Eden.
We have an amazing world, a paradise,
yet we squander our inheritance,
driven to consume, we abuse our custodianship.
We progress backwards to a stormy past and future.
It is not too late to change.

The dark green forests breathing life
are now eroded barren waste.
The cool zephyrs and the gentle rain
are now blustering storms and roaring floods.
The ecosystem stocked by Noah’s charges two by two
is dying, diversity reduced.
The next cargo will not be so large.

It is not too late to change.
This viral pestilence, this new plague, is dire
yet no extinction event,
but we have come together and focussed our intent
in a way we do not deign to do
for the impending doom of global warming.
It is not too late to change.

The clock moves on without halt
and time is running from our children’s grasp.
The old normal need not return,
Let’s steer a new course,
fly less, drive less, travel less,
recycle, bicycle,
eat wiser, consume less,
be content with what we have.
It is not too late to change.

Adrian Beckingsale

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Professor of the epidemiology of infectious disease at Harvard, Dr William Hanage, writes in today’s paper that there was no excuse for Hancock’s care homes strategy last year.  We have all heard Mr Hancock’s ridiculous claim that a “ring of steel” was drawn around care homes early in the pandemic, a claim that does not hold water.  Your Editor, as the parent of a daughter in residential care, in an Assisted Living facility, knows how false that claim was.  The launch on Zoom, by the way, two evenings ago, of Kennedy’s new collection ‘Songs for a Daughter’ (published by Dempsey & Windle) was a great success.  So on this Day 454 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS WISTFULNESS we may read a poem from that collectionThe poem is also being movingly recited this very morning by Anthony Roberts on his Daily Poems Project (on YouTube).

Three skeins

Three skeins of geese
    so high, so high.
Three kisses for you
    and one sigh.

Three kisses for love,
    one sigh for grief.
The geese pass above.
    Time is a thief.

The skeins have flown by;
    gone are the geese.
You are with me
    for too short a lease.

Peter Ualrig Kennedy

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Day 453 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS HISPANIA and our poet Colin Hopkirk muses “Oh to be in the Spanish mountains now.  I went there in my head recently.”  But the country is still on the UK government’s amber list, so should not be visited unless it is for essential family or business reasons.  We shall have to keep Spain in our heads for some time yet …

Spanish bridge

In Andalusia
tucked below
a mountain village
there is a bridge
a child has drawn
It’s span no more
than twenty steps
across an icy torrent
A simple crossing
for sheep and men
built with love
from impossible trees

Colin Hopkirk

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The world has a sickness.  We are finding a cure, but we have not yet got clean away.  We cannot yet lift all restrictions.  It is Day 452 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS MALAISE and poet Pamela Scobie is sick at heart for love and its loss.  What is normality?  La petite mort.  And rhyming ends.  There is now not anything at all in the world that I want to do …

Cub

I am the sickness. I must be the cure.
I must gnaw out my own heart from his side to set him free.
But must I really? Oh, God, are you sure?
Will he not find another just like me?
What is normality?

He blows a kiss, turns his bright face away,
and all the stars go out and it is day.

And rhyming ends.

I watch his shape, dark blue against the snow,
moving away from me, the narrow hips, the shoulders full of power,
Dainty and brisk he steps, alert as a fox cub,
filling his lungs with sharp air.
He is becoming the person he wants to be,
the person I am supposed to want him to become.
I long for him already.
For the flatness of his belly, the nipples like tiny pellets.

He showered before he left, so carries with him
no scent of me to draw the hounds of desire.
He has got clean away; I see it by the jaunty tilt
of his beautiful, bristling skull.
What image does he carry of me on his retinas?
I would like Marilyn with fluffed out hair
fuzzy, post-coitally dreamy through a lens smeared with vaselene.
Not an old granny in a dressing gown,
with unshining morning face and tomato nose.
He turns the corner, and I have passed out of his life like a lecherous thought.

He has left his imprint on me.
And I will take it back with me underneath the covers,
and sleep and sleep and sleep and sleep,
because there is now not anything at all in the world that I want to do

until the next time that he calls.

Pamela Scobie

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Day 451 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS LAVEMENT and the country waits for today’s announcement on the lifting or non-lifting of restrictions.  We are likely to be advised to continue, among other measures, washing our hands.  Sensible enough – but how many of us still count out the full 20 seconds while doing so?  Our poet Val Binney laments that frequent washing has left its mark on her loyal old jumper.  To bag or not to bag?  That is the question. 

The jumper’s lament 

Tossed anyhow it suits,  
no courtesy shown, despite  
years of loyal service.  

‘Had it forever,’ she says 
one careful owner, worn well but 
frequent washing has left its mark.’ 

Old hat, past best, lost shape, colour  
fading, design passé, a few fish moths  
have had their way with me. 

Let’s face it, my friend, you wouldn’t  
dare be seen out in me. But they don’t  
make them this well nowadays 

so think twice before you bag me up 
Oxfam, second hand or worse, the skip 
think of me, my name, the shame. 

Val Binney

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It is a truth universally unacknowledged that today 13 June is International Axe Throwing Day.  One may well ask “why?” –  answer: to celebrate, raise awareness and unify the sport of urban axe throwing.  And on Day 450 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS INCREDULITY our poet Brian Ford, in this return of the soi-disant “corrupter of words”, also asks a plaintive “why?” … Good question.  Language is mutable.

Why?

Why does the notice on the wall near the door,
next to the lift on the ground floor,
state ‘Do not use the lift in case of fire’?
If the building were ablaze, who would want to go higher?
Why do TV documentary presenters describe anything and everything
as ‘incredible, unbelievable, amazing’?
It’s a real bore,
they should each buy a dictionary,
or get out more.
Why does the lollipop lady want to stop children crossing?
It says so on her sign.
If ‘dis’ means ‘not’ and ‘mal’ means ‘bad’,
why doesn’t ‘dismal’ mean ‘not bad’, i.e. ‘fine’?
If ‘untie’ means ‘set loose’, why does ‘unloose’ mean the same?
Is it possible to get caught in an up-pour of rain?
Why not be downtight, downity, downset?
If you’ve never gretted, you cannot regret.
Why not be kempt and shevelled, evolent, tressed and mayed,
cordant, traught, turbed and gruntled with all your faults played?

Brian Ford

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12 June 2021.  Her Majesty the Queen today will celebrate her official birthday with a jamboree at Windsor Castle.  Which is nice.  At the age of 95, she is not giving up.  Our poet Gordon Hoyles, on this Day 449 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS FOREBODING comments that “ It’s not looking like covid is giving up anytime soon.”  Ho hum, we have the Covid Blues – and ahead is the check out.

Covid Blues on Aldi’s car park

Layers of mountains
grey and threatening
gang up in depression
taking position
to challenge the sun
and dampen the spirits

so add to the basket
some biscuits
………..some beers
some chocolate
and bottles of vino
to bring on the cheer
some honey
some tulips
and creamy eclairs

ahead is the check out.

Gordon Hoyles

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G7 Summit this weekend.  President Macron is not best pleased about British demands for aspects of the NI protocol to be reworked, insisting “nothing is negotiable”.  And on this Day 448 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS IRRITATION our poet Colin Hopkirk’s mother is not best pleased either. Eh up.

Mother

My mother was not best pleased
My mother was definitely not happy
My mother was set-faced
My mother was often laugh-less
My mother suffered from occasional
bouts of genuine merriment
My mother was a complicated person
needing to be understood
My mother told my father the truth
but only at Christmas
after several dry sherries
Once a year she told him
that he had never loved her
never really loved her
and there was nothing
he could ever do
to make it right again
and to stop his bloody mithering

Colin Hopkirk

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Today, 10 June 2021, would have been the Duke of Edinburgh’s one hundredth birthday.  Our poet Adrian Beckingsale, on this Day 447 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS FUNERARY, describes The Duke’s Farewell, finding it rather moving as his funeral (which was on 17 April) played out to the backdrop of the lockdown and social distancing.

The Duke’s Farewell

That day the sun shone to celebrate a life,
here was a warrior of the high seas,
here was an eco-warrior before there was eco,
a champion of the young,
a man of no pomposity
who chose his Land Rover
to carry him to his final rest.

On the green at Windsor the black robed drums
kept the muffled tempo of sorrow
and the brass sang out
The distanced ranks of shadows of the head-bowed soldiers,
like souls still attached to them, were still,
while the Duke’s own soul
now freed from mortal constraint
watched through the sunlit coloured windows
of the almost empty chapel.

The few family mourners present
were masked in black
and the nation joined them in their sadness.
The singers sang ‘Jubilate’ as was his wish
contrasting the flat dirge of the priestly celebrants’ voices.
Cruel Covid denied a comforting arm,
a gentle reassuring touch of hand,
for his lonely wife of more than seventy years.
Then it was over, like his life, suddenly ended,
the family retreating to privacy and to grieve.

Adrian Beckingsale

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In these wonderful early summer days there are lots of jobs to get on with in the garden – if you have a garden.  Our poet Simon Haines, on this Day 446 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS DECAPITATION, comes to the realisation that his parents, in the wisdom of their later years, had some gardening tips to impart to his young self, and only now does he recognise the worth of those tips. 
Oh – si jeunesse savait, si vieillesse pouvait!

Deadheading

Deadheading’s a job for your parents
when they’ve nothing else to do
hoping to prolong the life of a plant
making it bloom anew.

“It gives them a new lease of life,”
Mother said, suggesting I deadhead too
“You and the plant will live longer.”
I thought it a daft thing to do.

But when you reach a certain age,
deadheading works – it’s true!
Then you realise you’re the age your parents were
when they suggested it to you.

Simon Haines

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Everyone needs a little love in their lives, so let us continue that theme, as our poet Peter Trusty waxes briefly lyrical, on Day 445 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS BLANDISHMENT, with this not-quite-a-haiku on ‘Courtship’:

Courtship

Red lips are promises
Of flowers; it is your sun
That wakes my day.

Peter Trusty

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India has a monumental Covid toll, but as its number of new coronavirus infections starts to decrease, parts of the country are prepared to ease restrictions on movement.  Here in Britain, the figures for new infections are gradually rising, driven by enhanced transmission of the Delta variant, and scientists advise we should still be cautious.  Our poet Val Binney, on Day 444 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS INCAUTIOUSNESS, describes what can happen due to a lack of caution when meeting an old lover …

On Meeting an Old Lover

‘Oops’ she said, dropping cats
out of bags one after the other.

She had planned to be 
cautious after all this time

but soon the bags dropped too.
She’d have to trust him now.

Val Binney

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Day 443 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS VULPINOSITY.  Our poet Colin Hopkirk discovers something small and fine in the brambles and briars.  He finds that, like Blake, he holds infinity in the palm of his hand.

Fox skull

There it was
pale light calling
from the field ditch
waiting to be found
And so I stooped
climbed down
through tangled hawthorn
blackberry and rose
cut arm and hand
left a little blood
for bone
pulled it free
held it in my palm
and wondered
how something
so small and fine
could hold a Fox
and all it was

Colin Hopkirk

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‘We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.’  Thus Prospero.  Two days ago we read a dream poem from Pamela Scobie and today – Day 442 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS MYSTIFICATION – your Editor wakes from a dream that someone has sent in a pm wrttn wth n vwls t ll; ths wld mk lf dffclt … although I think that the oulipians among us would approve.  So instead here is my own poem about dreaming.

The Dream

Last night I slept
    and when I woke

I thought that I
    had dreamed a dream 

so fine that it would
    speak the words

my laggard tongue
    could never do

but that the dream
    itself had said:

this dream is true,
    yet you will never

find its truth
    in wakeful day;

for dreams are dreams 
    and nothing more

and they will always 
    slip away.

Peter Ualrig Kennedy

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Today, 04 June, in his own daily poetry project, Anthony Roberts is reading from ‘The Lady of Shalott’.  By some coincidence, here on this Day 441 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS INOCULATION, our poet Adrian Beckingsale writes in similar metre of ‘The Joy of the Vaccine Shot’, a poem which extols the beneficial effects of the vaccine: The deadly spread has been curtailed.  This is true, but Beckingsale also warns: Don’t go wild, behave too cheerly / Or indeed we may pay dearly / Panacea the Vaccine’s not.  We are in agreement: we must progress carefully, Beckingsale’s words were written before the emergence of the Nepal variant … 

The Joy of the Vaccine Shot     

(with apologies to Alfred Lord Tennyson and the Lady of Shalott)

On every side doth Covid fly
Borne on a sneeze or cough or sigh
Across the fields and towns and sky
And so, we hear the nation cry
           Give me my Vaccination slot
Now they lift the touch embargo
And eased from lockdown people go
And hug again, their love to show
           They’ve had their Vaccine shot

Death rates frighten make us quiver,
Virus gives a feverish shiver,
Covid now is here for ever,
Spreading like a flooding river,
           I have my second Vaccine slot
Confidence begins to flower
Antibodies me empower
I no longer mask and cower
           I’ve had my second Vaccine shot

Hidden by masks we have been veiled
Against restrictions we have railed
The deadly spread has been curtailed
Social distance the Holy Grail
           It’s worth the risk of Vaccine clot
Feel the warmth of a touching hand
Large groups can picnic on the strand
As easing runs throughout the land
           Thanks to the Vaccine shot

So, the nurses jabbing early
Give a message loud and clearly
Don’t go wild, behave too cheerly
Or indeed we may pay dearly
           Panacea the Vaccine’s not
Quarantines have made us weary
Gather outside where it’s airy
Even clothed by our Good Fairy
           The wondrous Vaccine shot

It gives protection night and day
A magic web in every way
Cloaks with immunity they say
Allows us now to work and play
           We sail safe on our Vaccine yacht
So, though Covid a curse may be
The roll-out goes on steadily
But we must progress carefully
Don’t miss your vaccine shot

Adrian Beckingsale

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We dream – and we may pity those who never dream.  Some very effective poetry can be informed by dream imagery; wake up and write it down before it fades.  Dreams, however, may sometimes be both erotic and terrifying.  Today, on Day 440 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CHIMERIC, our poet Pamela Scobie unnerves us with this wild phantasmagoria of pursuit.  The pen knife image of the chasing dogs is particularly effective.  But what an ending …

Dream 

I watch from the top of the hill, you running.
Low on the earth, the dogs pursue, opening and shutting like pen knives.

You swerve and mount the ground towards me with terrible quickness
like a monster in a silent film, each frame bigger than the one before,
forcing footholds, handling the bones of the land with disrespect.

We face one another.
I take the words from your mouth to hide in my own.
I open the doors of my cloak and let you inside.

The sky is bleeding. 

Now the dogs burst up all together like a pan boiling over.
They spill and froth around me, snarling with disappointment.
In the dark under my cloak, you take dark liberties. 
I grip the entrance shut with one cold hand.

The pack leader comes sniffing at me. 
He licks the salt from my fingers with his red tongue,
and I shiver.

I open my cloak and let them tear us both to pieces.

Pamela Scobie

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It’s another beautiful sunny morning on this Day 439 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS LAVATION, and on her sundrenched balcony our poet Sylvia Sellers is enchanted by the bathtime routines of her avian visitors.  There’s a battle of wills that leaves her intrigued by bird behaviour.

Bathtime battle

I have a ringside view of bath time
On my balcony.

There’s a battle of wills going on here
Between the Magnificent Magpie 
And the Beautiful Blackbird
Imperturbable, perched on the balcony rail
Well turned out in velvety sleekness
His golden beak
Gleaming in the sunshine.

Not twelve feet away from me
Sits our Magpie
On the edge of the bird bath
Four times as big as our Blackbird
He must measure twelve inches 
From beak to tail-end.
This big black and white bird
Means business.

In he hops and bath time begins.

First his body feathers move
Fifty to the dozen
Then his wings start flapping
So hard the water rains down
On the balcony flags
He’s wet through
The water dripping from his
drenched feathers after
At least two minutes of bath time.

Satisfied, he takes off
And in hops his rival
To start the same flapping
In what’s left of the bath water.
In goes his head for a drink or two 
Then with a final flourish of flapping
Off he flies,
He too seemingly satisfied. 

Then, unbelievably, Maggie is back
For another splash.
Same ritual
How long will this go on? 
I soon find out.

Four more times they take it in turn
Maggie now bedraggled
Wet through
Water dripping off his big round belly.
Off he flies
Satisfied he’s the victor. 

Undeterred though, Blackie is back
And with water almost gone
He has the last word
And I’m left intrigued
At bird behaviour.

Sylvia Sellers

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Hats off to the Hounslow team who yesterday achieved a total of 11,000 vaccinations in a single day.  Today, which is Day 438 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS GRATITUDE, our poet Tim Cunningham sends a poem from Ireland: crows thankful for the gift of a globe of fatball.  In Hounslow, people thankful for the gift of vaccine.

A surprise of crows

The seeds were for the sparrows, not the crows,
But, softened by the storm,
I crumbled up a globe of fatball

And scattered it around the yard.
They came not singly but as a flock,
A low, black cloud descending.

Landing, they shuffled, like guests
Finding their place at a wedding table,
Their pecking accurate as a sparrow’s.

The surprise was their impeccable etiquette;
No hint of aggression, just gratitude
For the gift of the globe.

Tim Cunningham

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Today is Day 437 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS PROGNOSTICATION and is also, as any fule kno, Whit Bank Holiday Monday.  On a sparkling sunshiny morning such as this, the weather report is optimistic.  Plenty sunlight, plenty Vitamin D.  But our poet Gordon Hoyles wryly considers the whether report; eyeing his prescription medicines he muses over the question of whether he is likely to live or die.  Such weighty considerations all boil down to a storm in a teacup.  Let’s take the weather rather than the whether.

Routine whether report

The aspirin’s
a snow scene
paperweight.

Furosemide’s
applied
to regulate the tide.

And a tablet of D3
puts the sunshine
into me

as a storm brews in the teacup
over whether 
I will live or die.

Gordon Hoyles

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This strange and doleful year has thrown up many new developments, including a self-administered rapid lateral flow immunoassay which is used to determine the presence or absence of coronavirus in one’s nasopharynx.  That’s pretty impressive.  But the test does involve opening up numerous little bits of plastic kit, the broken of bits of which can go walkabout.  And on this Day 436 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS PARTICULATION our poet Colin Hopkirk discovers some unusual bits and pieces when he does the vacuuming – they are lateral flow collateral.

Widgety gadgets

New bits in the hoover
widgety gadgets
small clear plastic pentagons
the broken off bits
from buffer liquid ampule
gadgety widgets
lateral flow collateral

Colin Hopkirk

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Late Spring, early Summer; small birds are nesting in the hedgerows and there’s blossom everywhere.  It’s a wonderful time of year.  Our poet Jenna Plewes is decorating a sunny windowsill with thirsty willow wands.  Life unfolds all around, and winter is forgotten, on this Day 435 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS AESTIVAL.

Green Willow Midwife                         

Take five wintry willow wands
a sunny windowsill
fill a jug from the kitchen tap 
and let them drink their fill.

When paper parcels come undone 
and tiny snouts appear
soft furry things like woodlice come 
to tell you spring is near.

When woodlice become bumblebees
powdery with pollen
all yellow are the willow trees
and winter is forgotten.

Jenna Plewes

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Seventy years ago this day – that is 28 May 1951 – the Goon Show (at first titled “Crazy People”) premiered on the BBC.  Today, which is Day 434 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CHARADE, we have our own political Goon Show, concerning which no further comment.  Let us turn our attention instead to the prospect of enjoying our summer days at home despite the continuing, and necessary, restrictions.  Our poet Pamela Scobie ponders wittily on hunkering down in Otley.  It’s poetical licence, admittedly, but then we might just as well be in Italy.

Summer Lockdown in Otley

Tonight I shall wear something glittery,
and put on a bit of a show.
I tell all my friends I’m in Italy,
except that it’s spelled with an “O”.

I might get quite tipsy and tittery
while sipping a glass of Merlot.
It tastes just as good as in Italy;
it’s just that we’re spelled with an “O”.

Poetical licence, admittedly,
but it’s where I was planning to go.
The Latins speak Latin so prettily,
and everything ends with an “O”.

But now an east wind’s blowing bitterly,
the death toll’s a million or so.
And everything’s turned out so shittily,
we might just as well be in Italy,
except that it’s spelled with an “O”.

Pamela Scobie

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There’s an elephant in the newsroom today, 27 May, and it’s quite a conspicuous one, so let’s turn our attention away from Mr Cummings and look at the government’s traffic-light system for foreign travel.  Green, amber and red lists, for countries that may be visited, have been created.  The idea is to reduce the risks of bringing new Covid variants back from abroad, and the government has said people should not travel to amber and red countries for leisure.  That’s all very well, but with the world facing a climate crisis, should we not be discouraging air travel for leisure altogether?  Anyway, on this Day 433 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS DEUTERANOPIA, our poet Antony Johae considers the underlying ambiguity of this whole system.

Unsystematic Travel Traffic-Light System

We all know that Green means go,
that it connotes naivety and greenery
and that Red signals STOP,
in other words, don’t go
unless for anger or hot blood
you’ll board a plane for love.
But what about Amber if you want to do the samba 
in Rio de Janeiro? Well, that’s Red – enough said.
Surely, the light in the middle tells you to get ready,
put your foot on the pedal! Take off!
Now steady on! The Minister’s recommended Amber not to travel
otherwise the “road” to a healthy recovery will likely unravel.
Besides, doesn’t yellow denote disease, something not nice 
– Covid 19 to be precise.
It’s clear that a traffic light system borders on the ridiculous 
and that Amber’s without a doubt ambiguous.

Antony Johae

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Yesterday’s poem described the sparrows who are “here every day” – there was a sense of togetherness, of community, for these little birds; but in the human world still suffering under the yoke of the pandemic, many of us find ourselves distanced from our loved ones, with no immediate prospect of being reunited.  Today, on Day 432 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS SEPARATION our poet Sue Wallace-Shaddad reflects on “the engagement of our hearts”.

Time Passing

I thought I had the measure of you
after so many years, but you still

like to surprise me. It’s never too late
for caring to cross the distance

that separates our different lives.
With technology bringing us closer,

we lay aside the time it would take
to travel in the flesh, for a shadow

to become real. Although I count 
the many months since we last met,

that measure does not reflect
the engagement of our hearts.

Sue Wallace-Shaddad

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The days roll by and things happen, sometimes good things, sometimes bad.  It is 25 May, just one year to the day since George Floyd was murdered; the reverberations from that tragic event continue.  But hey – today is International Tap Dance Day, so get your dancing clogs on, people!  And on Day 431 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS DENOMINATIONS just watch those handsome hustlers with their nifty footwork who are Here every day, as personified by our poet Colin Hopkirk:

Here every day 

Handsome dude
in slick black eyeliner

Street kid
scruff feathered punk

Pale dun girl
neat winged sidler

Stocky boy who barges in
no allegiances

Small picky one
thrower of seeds

Acrobat boy works the tree
busy hustler

These days we have time 
to name the sparrows

Colin Hopkirk

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24 May 2021 – today Bob Dylan is 80.  How can this be?  And how should we, on this Day 430 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS SONGBOOK, pay tribute?  One year ago, on Day 56, our then poet Anthony Watts did just that, with his Talkin’ Covid-19 Blues.  So how to match it today?  Well,don’t think twice it’s more or less all right as our resident poetaster Rik O’Shea weighs in, one hand waving free, with this somewhat florid salute to Mr Tambourine Man.

Mr Tambourine Man

Hey, Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me,
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
you are my very muse, you’re my Melpomone
melodious one my ringing words are flowing to

for sixty years I’ve tracked your arc,
your songs, your lyrics, gave the spark
for every word that’s written in my poetry

my weariness amazes me, I’m branded on my feet
my mind’s an empty street
a one-way road that leads toward mythology

so take me disappearing through the smoke rings of my mind
down the foggy ruins of time
until I leave the world behind
Hey, Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me

Rik O’Shea

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Day 429 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS NOSEDIVE and it’s fair to say we didn’t do too well in the Eurovision Song Contest last night.  However our poet Jenna Plewes brings our attention away from “UK nul points” with her clear clean High dive into the broad air.  The recollection of the dive looks at a way of becoming an adult in your parents’ eyes.

High dive                                      

I feel a splinter in the board as I curl my toes over the edge
A breeze pimples 
my bare legs

target of blue water
upturned faces
silence

you’re down there
both of you
watching

I breathe in, balance on the balls of my feet
lift my arms
arrow upwards

turn
twist
dive

air
water
air

I surface
Strike out
drunk on joy

As we leave the pool, you hand me the keys
I drive you both home

  Jenna Plewes

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We have reached Day 428 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS DEDUCTIVITY; it is May 22nd.  Arthur Conan Doyle – creator of that master detective Sherlock Holmes – was born on this day in 1859.    Holmes and Dr Watson were walking out one day in the hills when they came across an unusual outcrop of limestone.  “What is it, Holmes?” asked Watson, to which Holmes replied “It’s sedimentary, my dear Watson”.  And in this deductive spirit, our poet Aziz Dixon checks his host’s shoes for for signs of honesty.  As one does.

In which I meet your father

He greets me at the door,
decides my antique bicycle
will give aura to his garage
as only a Rolls Royce could.

He asks after London life,
says the Prince of Wales fancies pigeons too,
maybe he met him at the Palace
railings.

I check his shoes
for signs of honesty.
He introduces me to his daughter
whom I know well.

I decide the doorstep
is not the place to propose.
Maybe I could come in
after a long journey.

Later we go down the pub;
he tells me
all about domestic violence
from his point of view.

Aziz Dixon

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Today’s poet Derek Adams wakes from a Lockdown dream which is full of the imagery that we know infuses his artistic life.  This dream of a monochrome city with distinct shadows (de Chirico perhaps?) may be reflecting a year lacking colour – who knows?  On this Day 427 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS PHANTASMAGORIA we recommend that you check out Doris Salcedo, a sculptor of particular interest.  

Lockdown dream

Moving through a monochrome city,
no cars, no people.
Buildings, tall and grey
throw shadows on the road
 that stick out
like saucepan handles
across the tarmac.
The grey walls exude
the smell of ancient piss.

Out of a doorway steps
Man Ray with Lee Miller
she wears a cloche hat
from a vintage Vogue cover.
She towers over him
a sunflower that has to touch the sun,
while Man is small as a mouse
that needs to slip beneath reality.

I watch them
from the other side on the road
still as Salcedo’s cement wardrobe,
I want to speak to them
but am filled with a weight
that stops me from
closing the unsocial distance
that time’s quarantine
has placed between us.

Derek Adams

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The Government’s rules for travel have been relaxed – but take note, holidaymakers, there’s no need to go abroad, no need to climb into a carbon-emitting plane; look no further than the North Essex coast. Clacton-on-Sea has the green traffic light.  And on this Day 426 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS SOJOURNATION our poet Gordon Hoyles is off to this popular seaside resort, now a permitted destination with its own retro charm.

Sketch of the day (Clacton)

Water scooters bronco
charging gallop
on the irritated sea.

Seagulls squawking in a flap
come between
the take-away and me.

Managed robots
dressed in gladness
offer glee

and humans doing
those to do’s permitted
to the free.

It’s retro with fillings
where things remembered
continue to be.

Gordon Hoyles

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Today is Day 425 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ROTUNDITY.  Your Editor’s place of residence lies cheek by jowl with the local Bowls Club which by and large is an attractive prospect, though sometimes it does get a bit noisy.  But no complaints …

Bowls Club after lockdown

the hold of lockdown starts to be relaxed
the bowling green lies empty in the dawn
the groundsmen feel the freedom to start mowing
to cut the verdant grasses of the lawn

O blissful quiet and calm of recent weeks
when we as neighbours had a pleasant view
from upstairs window high above the green
which stretched away in peaceful solitude

behind the privet hedge which separates
the bowling club from our small patch of ground
we sit and drink our morning cup of coffee
while mowers fill the air with thund’rous sound

we knew the hazard when we bought this house
the noise is loud but should not last too long
at last the mowers stop and bring surcease
we’re soothed by coffee which is black and strong

glad bees are now heard in the lavender
the petrol mowers idly standing still
the echoes in my hearing are released
and birds are singing sweetly where they will

  Peter Ualrig Kennedy   

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The world is a complex place, so much going on, a lot of it good, much of it bad.  Sometimes it is difficult to assimilate the complex maelstrom of events around us.  Would it help to restrict our gaze, to be more minimal in our attention?  It is now Day 424 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS SPARSITY and our poet Brian Ford brings us face to face with minimalist poetry, a genre which focuses on bare words or phrases.  Seems perverse, but it certainly makes you think.

Minimalist

‘Each day during lockdown,’ he said
‘I wrote twenty poems.’
‘That’s impossible,’ I replied.
‘They’re very short,’ he said
‘I call them minimalist poems.
I’ll read you one.’
He cleared his throat.
‘Concrete.’
Pause.
‘One word?
You’re joking.
How can one word be a poem?
That’s ridiculous.’
‘It took me at least fifteen minutes 
To decide on the right word.
And think of all the images it conjured up in your mind,
And the emotion it has aroused in you.
I’ll read you some more.’
I prepared myself for a very tedious evening.

Brian Ford 

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It is 17 May 2021, the day that irksome (but necessary) restrictions against Covid are being lifted.  Doctors and other health experts, nevertheless, are advising that people should ignore today’s easing of lockdown and avoid socialising indoors to prevent the new Covid-19 variant bringing a third wave of the disease.  Sound advice, we think.  Anyway, many of us have become institutionalised over these past months of isolation, in the way that long-term patients in the old psychiatric hospitals used to, so it may take some time to readapt to this “familiar world where nothing is known” as our poet Norman Staines observes on this Day 423of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CIRCUMSPECTION.

Remission 

I take pleasure in my clean quiet room with
books and music. No demands of others 
pierce my day. Now I see it rains outside. 

I will open up my door, step out on a
familiar world where nothing is known.
I hear that money is no longer used. 

Need to understand what else has to change.

Norman Staines

It is 16 May 2021 and it’s Sunday.  Don’t you think we should be showing due reverence on this Day 422 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ALMANAC?  Heck no, is the answer – our poet Pamela Scobie shows due irreverence in this beautifully crafted portrait of the glamorous Corona Calendar Girls in all their naked glory.  Raise a cheer!  But there’s a sting in the tail …

Corona Girls

January! Raise a cheer!
Time to get the tits in gear!
What’s the gimmick for this year?

Something serious but fruity?
Ladies, you all know your duty:
get the bubs out, shake that booty!

February: Mavis Brown
says the plague has come to town.
Italy and Spain locked down.

How that woman loves to fuss!
What’s it got to do with us?
Can we make it glamorous..?

March! Behold wee Elsie Draper
draped in nowt but toilet paper!
This could turn out quite a caper…

April Jones (a smidgen less
than ninety three) forgets her dress,
clapping for the NHS.

May: I’m on my balcony
wearing only PPE!
Darlings, it’s for charity!

June, our luscious Lady Mayor,
paints on rainbows here and there,
leaving off her underwear…

July Julie loves to tease
dressed in just three hankerchees!
Heads down, boys, she’s gonna sneeze!

August, and by God, I’m game,
posing with my zimmer frame,
hoping to be made a Dame…

Miss September (don’t you HATE her?)
pouting by a ventilator.
(Bet she bribed the operator.)

By October, I’m unhinged.
Maureen Boothroyd’s silver minge
frankly makes me gag and cringe.

It’s November: I feel queer…
So do all our chums, I fear.

Drear December: twelve old slags
side by side in body bags.

Pamela Scobie

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In the news on this Day 421 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS DEPRADATION we read of “extinct fossil fish found alive and well off Madagascar” but sadly we don’t think it is likely to be alive and well after being dragged up from the ocean depths.  Our conservation-minded in-house poet Rik O’Shea has swiftly put pen to paper …

The coelocanth’s a bonny fish

The coelocanth, as I’ve heard tell,
still lives and swims in oceans deep,
in canyons ’neath the ocean swell
a mile down is where they dwell
sleeping their immemorial sleep.

Do not disturb them with your fishing –
gill nets find them and are harming
the ancient coelocanth domain,
that’s something that we find alarming.
It’s happened once and will again.

Would that this fishing could be ceased –
this search for shark fins for the East,
which in itself appears a sin.
A shark can’t live without its fin.
The gill net’s harsh – can we not ban it
before we humans trash the planet?

Rik O’Shea