PAGE UPDATED 23 JUNE 2021

– the poet of the day is Linda Lines.

Today is Day 460 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS INITIATIVE … we are now aiming at a target of 500 poems! We hope for more examples of your wise and uplifting poetry, so please do continue to send in your poems, they will be much appreciated.

SUBMISSIONS by EMAIL  to: peter@plusplus9.plus.com either in the body of the email or as a Word attachment.

Please observe these guidelines:                                                                           Up to 40 lines of poetry …  a Covid-19 theme is not essential.
FORMAT: Times New Roman 12pt single spacing please. Don’t want no Calibri. Don’t want no Arial. Don’t want no Helvetica.  Don’t want no handwritten submissions.  (BTW: No fee is offered …)
SUBMISSIONS SHOULD BE YOUR OWN WORK.

Selected poems will be posted by the Poems Editor, whose decision will be final. It has to be said that not every poem will make the cut.

(For authors: poems on this site will constitute an online publication).

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

Hiss

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

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

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

Linda Lines

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

A garden party in Redhill 

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

Colin Hopkirk

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

Summer solstice 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ekaterina Dukusina

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

Blackbird

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

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

Brian Ford

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

Fine tuning

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

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

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

They know that rain is no excuse
For missing rehearsals.

Tim Cunningham

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

Paradise not yet Lost

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

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

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

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

Adrian Beckingsale

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

Three skeins

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

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

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

Peter Ualrig Kennedy

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

Spanish bridge

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

Colin Hopkirk

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

Cub

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

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

And rhyming ends.

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

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

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

until the next time that he calls.

Pamela Scobie

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

The jumper’s lament 

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

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

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

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

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

Val Binney

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

Why?

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

Brian Ford

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

Covid Blues on Aldi’s car park

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

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

ahead is the check out.

Gordon Hoyles

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

Mother

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

Colin Hopkirk

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

The Duke’s Farewell

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

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

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

Adrian Beckingsale

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

Deadheading

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

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

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

Simon Haines

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

Courtship

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

Peter Trusty

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

On Meeting an Old Lover

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

She had planned to be 
cautious after all this time

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

Val Binney

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

Fox skull

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

Colin Hopkirk

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

The Dream

Last night I slept
    and when I woke

I thought that I
    had dreamed a dream 

so fine that it would
    speak the words

my laggard tongue
    could never do

but that the dream
    itself had said:

this dream is true,
    yet you will never

find its truth
    in wakeful day;

for dreams are dreams 
    and nothing more

and they will always 
    slip away.

Peter Ualrig Kennedy

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

The Joy of the Vaccine Shot     

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adrian Beckingsale

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

Dream 

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

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

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

The sky is bleeding. 

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

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

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

Pamela Scobie

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

Bathtime battle

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

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

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

In he hops and bath time begins.

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

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

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

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

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

Sylvia Sellers

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

A surprise of crows

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

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

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

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

Tim Cunningham

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

Routine whether report

The aspirin’s
a snow scene
paperweight.

Furosemide’s
applied
to regulate the tide.

And a tablet of D3
puts the sunshine
into me

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

Gordon Hoyles

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

Widgety gadgets

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

Colin Hopkirk

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

Green Willow Midwife                         

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

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

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

Jenna Plewes

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

Summer Lockdown in Otley

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

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

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

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

Pamela Scobie

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

Unsystematic Travel Traffic-Light System

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

Antony Johae

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

Time Passing

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

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

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

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

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

that measure does not reflect
the engagement of our hearts.

Sue Wallace-Shaddad

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

Here every day 

Handsome dude
in slick black eyeliner

Street kid
scruff feathered punk

Pale dun girl
neat winged sidler

Stocky boy who barges in
no allegiances

Small picky one
thrower of seeds

Acrobat boy works the tree
busy hustler

These days we have time 
to name the sparrows

Colin Hopkirk

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

Mr Tambourine Man

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

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

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

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

Rik O’Shea

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

High dive                                      

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

target of blue water
upturned faces
silence

you’re down there
both of you
watching

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

turn
twist
dive

air
water
air

I surface
Strike out
drunk on joy

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

  Jenna Plewes

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

In which I meet your father

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

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

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

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

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

Aziz Dixon

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

Lockdown dream

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

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

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

Derek Adams

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

Sketch of the day (Clacton)

Water scooters bronco
charging gallop
on the irritated sea.

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

Managed robots
dressed in gladness
offer glee

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

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

Gordon Hoyles

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

Bowls Club after lockdown

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

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

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

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

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

  Peter Ualrig Kennedy   

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

Minimalist

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

Brian Ford 

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

Remission 

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

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

Need to understand what else has to change.

Norman Staines

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

Corona Girls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pamela Scobie

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In the news on this Day 421 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW 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