PAGE UPDATED 26 SEPTEMBER 2021

– today is Day 555 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS INITIATIVE
Greta Thunberg: “I really see the value of friendship. Apart from the climate, almost nothing else matters.”

There will be another new poem in a few days’ time.

******************************************

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

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

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

……………………………………………………………………………………………..

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

……………………………………………………………………………………………

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

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

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

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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

………………………………………………………………………………………………

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

…………………………………………………………………………………………………

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

……………………………………………………………………..

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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  

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

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

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

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

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

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

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

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

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

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.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

“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 

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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

………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

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

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

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

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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

………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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

…………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

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

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

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

………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………

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

……………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

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

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

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

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

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

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………

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 

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………

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

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

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

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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 

……………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

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

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

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

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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

……………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………

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

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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

……………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………

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

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………

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

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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

……………………………………………………………………………………………….

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

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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

………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

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

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

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

…………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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

………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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

……………………………………………………………………………………………..

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

………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

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

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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

………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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

…………………………………………………………………………………………………

‘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

………………………………………………………………………………………….

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

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………

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

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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

…………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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

………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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

……………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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

……………………………………………………………………………………………..

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

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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

…………………………………………………………………………………………….

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

…………………………………………………………………………………………..

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

……………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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

…………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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

………………………………………………………………………………………………

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   

…………………………………………………………………………………..

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 

………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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

…………………………………………………………………………………………….

In the news on this Day 421 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMSDEPRADATION we read of “extinct fossil fish found alive and well off Madagascar” but unfortunately 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