THE ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS PAGE:

UPDATED 26 SEPTEMBER 2020 …

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We are coasting towards the 200 mark, BUT we still need a few more of your poems (we try only to pick the best – not everyone makes the cut). Will we we have to recruit that rascal poetaster Rik O’Shea? – if you don’t want that to happen too often, please send in your poems …
Poems TO MAKE US THINK, or send HAPPY, or PLAINTIVE, or HUMOROUS new verse… or even recently published verse (appropriate acknowledgements will be made).

Poems do not have to follow a Covid-19 theme.

SUBMISSIONS by EMAIL, either in the body of the message or as a .docx attachment, to: peter@plusplus9.plus.com.
Up to 40 lines will be acceptable.
Times New Roman 12pt single spacing is best format.
Selected poems will be posted by the Poems Editor, whose decision will be final.
(NB No fee is offered …)

SUBMISSIONS SHOULD BE YOUR OWN WORK.
NO HANDWRITTEN POEMS PLEASE

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

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Walking in Unquiet Landscapes today, on Day 188 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS TREPIDATION, we are in double jeopardy. Poet Kate Lammin depicts the extreme weather events that have desecrated our environment. But now the uniquely dangerous virus persists unseen, threatening to wreck our lives and our humanity.

Walking in Unquiet Landscapes

In the beginning,
The Unquiet was the Land
The burning of it, the desecration
Blackened shrubland
Dry and desiccated, the silvered
Charcoal twigs crackled
Or the uncontrollable flood, tumultuous strength
Tossing cars, fridges, sheds like ninepins
Or houses of straw, and
Water, chimney-high, brimming
Valleys, pierced by steeples
But now, the Unquiet is unseen,
Our cells ransacked by it, our humanity
Shrivelled by it, our fear of others
Masked
As we walk in unquiet landscapes
Of our own making

Kate Lammin

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Du Fu (712-720), one of China’s greatest poets of the Tang dynasty, was acclaimed as a ‘Sage Poet’ for his compassion for others. His poem Travelling again speaks of familiarity with remembered pastoral scenes. Here, on Day 187 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS PREOCCUPATION the Coronavirus is rising up once more against us, becoming more contagious and more prevalent. We face re-imposed restrictions and it feels very much as if we’ve been this way before; however in this admirable version by our poet Anne Boileau, we are comforted by visions of flowers and willows, and our sorrows fade away. Will this really come to pass one day, or is it but a chimeric dream? We must continue to fight, and to hope for better things.

Travelling again
a poem by Du Fu 712-720

I remember the temple, I’ve come this way before,
this bridge is familiar as I cross it again.
It seems as if the mountains and rivers have been waiting,
the flowers and willows greet me,
the meadow is smooth and vivid, the mist shines
on soft sand, the sunlight’s colour shows it’s late .
All the traveller’s sorrows fade away.
What better place to rest than this?

Version by Anne Boileau

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It is Day 186 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS MALADMINISTRATION and we are in fear of a second wave of Coronavirus and a second lockdown. It is a disquieting situation, in which we have no need of fools. No; technical, economic and scientific experts are required to devise a road map for our uncertain future. Brian Ford knows this, and shares his concern …

Fools are a problem

Fools are a problem.
Shakespearian fools.
Will’s plots and themes are timeless;
Love, loyalty, misunderstandings,
Ambition, pride, hatred,
Jealously, betrayal, revenge.
So, performing his plays
in a modern setting is fine,
Apart from the fools.
Which household today would employ
A semi feral Feste
Or louche, scurrilous Touchstone,
Just to amuse them?
Today, Lear uses technical, economic
and scientific experts
And clever advisors.
The jester who rules,
Needs no advice from fools.

Brian Ford

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So yesterday was the Autumn equinox, and today – Day 185 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS FRANCOPHONALITY – has indeed begun to look rather autumnal; so how goes the season across the Channel in our old adversary-cum-ally France? Well, lots of things do happen there, but news of Europe gets overshadowed now by the awful reality of the resurgence and spread of Coronavirus in this country. Paris is due to unveil tighter restrictions against the pandemic; there is also for example outrage (#BalanceTonPorc) at stories of girls being told off for what they are wearing at school – but in contrast to such gallic concerns, poet Antony Johae directs our attention to the beautiful colours of Autumn. His poem is set in November, so admittedly we have posted it about six weeks too soon; however “la neige viendra” – an apposite metaphor for our troubled times.

Couleurs d’automne

Il est Novembre.
Les nuages gris
Traversent le ciel
Comme la fumée.
Les champs sont verts
Après l’été brun.
Les arbres sont bruns
Comme les champs en été.
Mais il est Novembre.
Le ciel est gris
Les champs sont verts
Les arbres sont bruns.
Mais tous cela changera.
La neige viendra
Et le ciel, les champs,
Et les arbres seront tous blancs.

Antony Johae

This poem appeared in Languages of Colour, edited by Alexandra Loske (The Frogmore Press, 2012).

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Summer in the Northern Hemisphere ends and Autumn starts at the moment of the September equinox, which is today 22 September 2020. Where has Summer gone? In a mist of Covid-infused days … The equinox marks the point in the calendar at which the length of night and the length of day are almost exactly equal. So on this Day 185 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS EQUIVALENCY our poet Sylvia Sellers, noting that the days will now be growing shorter, feels something inside her wither, as the leaves begin to fall. But Spring will come again …

Relationships

We’re going into Winter once again
And leaves hang lifeless from branches
That in Spring quietly come to life
In myriad shades of green.

Trees just are, they do what they’re supposed to do.
But I, what do I do?
I think, I see, I smell, I taste.
Perhaps they do too.

I am related to these trees,
I need them or I die.
I breathe out, they breathe in.
They breathe out, I breathe in.

To stay alive we need each other.
It’s all fine-tuned for our survival,
We destroy it at our peril
And we are perilously close.

My moods are ruled by this relationship.
As the leaves begin to fall
And the days grow shorter
With high winds, rain and frost,

Something inside me seems to wither
Until Spring, when someone, something
Pulls the trigger
To set the whole thing in slow motion.

And like those black, sometimes white skeletons,
I magically come to life again,
My blue mood mixes with the yellow sun
To give green, and like the trees I start to live again.

Sylvia Sellers

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As was foreseen, we have a resurgence of the coronavirus, and as was inevitable, lockdowns are in vogue again. With his characteristic incisiveness Gordon Hoyles paints a picture of isolation on this Day 184 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CONFINEMENT. Do we dare go out of doors? No …

Lockdown again

We’re stuck inside
……….our goody bags,
our secrets
……….in our drawers

As there’s thistles
……….in the wind
if we dare
……….go out of doors.

Gordon Hoyles

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It is Day 183 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS HALLUCINATION – in this season of strange days. John Standley finds that strange times spawn strange dreams …

A Covid nightmare

Strange Covid times spawn Covid dreams
in which reality, it seems,
hangs upon a slender thread
of Covid-logic in my head.
Last night our government played cricket
against the virus on a wicket
cunningly prepared for spin.
They won the toss, put Covid in.
Proven tossers though they be,
they hoped that spin would surely see
them home – but then our bosses
bowled not spin but rank full tosses.

John Standley

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Simon Haines, on this Day 182 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ASPIRATIONAL, seeks, in his role as an anti-viral poet, to inspire and entertain us.  Poetrywivenhoe aficionados will recognise Simon as lead of The Hosepipe Band.  Here, in I Sometimes Fink he plays with thoughts of what he might have been in some parallel universe.  We love him as he is – virtuoso player of several instruments including, dramatically, the foot bass …

I Sometimes Fink

I sometimes fink I should of been

A decorator or a stean-

train driver

Perhaps a bricklayer like my mate Jack

Who built new houses round the back

Of ours

Or the driver of a ten-ton lorry

Transporting sand from a local quarry

A joiner, even a high-end luthier

Or a fashion designer

Like Jean-Paul Gautier

Or an undertaker – never out of a job

He‘ll make you a coffin for a couple of bob

Those were the days!

S’pose I could of bin a poet

Always trying hard to inspire us

Adversary of this effing virus

But when all is said

and all is done

There must be ways

of having fun

That don’t require a

Melodiun

Squeezing a wheezy box with bellows

Not as well as other fellows

Who really needs a folk musician

We’re like the Spanish Inquisishun

A form of torture to all we meet

They anxiously beat a hasty retreat

Inspire us and virus that’s not my rhyme

I can’t remember whose it was

But thanks to you whoever you are

For that touch of poetic genioz

Simon Haines

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Increasing Covid restrictions are now being introduced as the daily number of infections reaches their highest since May. Poet Anne Boileau considers Morning Sun, the 1952 painting by Edward Hopper which depicts the experience of human isolation in the modern world, and on this Day 181 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS INTROSPECTION she finds some consolation in the persistence both of material things (although planes are now flying again, more’s the pity, since the poem was written) and of our living selves. If we are optimistic, and take stock, even though life is on hold in many ways, we should count our blessings.

A woman’s still a woman
After Morning Sun by Edward Hopper

A heart is still a heart
though it thuds with pain
as it pumps the blood
through arteries and veins.

A church is still a church
though devoid of people
its bells hanging mute
in tower and steeple.

A factory’s still a factory
when clanking has ceased
and machine tools stand idle
smelling of grease.

Planes are still planes
though forbidden to fly
in the pure blue above us
as birds claim the sky.

A woman’s still a woman
though she sleeps on her own
(no text, no message
no email, no phone).

But the sunlight caresses
as an ambulance wails by
and she counts herself lucky
to be home and alive.

Anne Boileau

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Kate Foley’s poem Silence was written in Spring this year when lockdown created an altogether new silence. Today 17 September – this Day 180 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS QUIETUS – the headlines say “Stringent new restrictions loom amid Covid-19 spike”. With such local lockdowns a new silence may return; Kate Foley observes that in the spring of lockdown the new silence was a delight – except for those who entered their final silence (or quietus). The last lines of the poem therefore take on a quality of mourning …

Silence

is now that lake of sound
rippled by birdsong

a fallen feather
sings like a violin

we hear the buds
pop their winter corsets

the voice of leaves
struggling to unfurl

we dare not speak
a human voice

intrusive

suddenly we rejoice-
we have heard silence!

then remember

for some
it is even quieter

Kate Foley

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Today is Day 179 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS INCOHERENCE and the President of the United States of America says Covid-19 will ‘go away’ because of ‘herd mentality’ (sic). Heather Edwards, more straightforwardly, just wants Covid-19 to go away …

Covid-19 we never knew you before

Covid-19 we never knew you before
A type of influenza the doctors said.
It entered in through world-wide doors
Sending many to their dying bed.
We’ve had to wear face masks
We’ve had to stay indoors.
Family and friends are seen through Zoom
And not as usual in a family room.
So many have had to stay at home
And many have lost their jobs.
All hospitals struggle with death
While undertakers send us to Gods.
Food banks in high demand
Governments argue who’s to blame.
Scientists seek and trial a cure
Life will never be the same.
Closed churches are still praying
Silence comes from every church bell.
Covid-19 we never knew you before
But please can you now move on to Hell.

Heather Edwards

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It’s now Day 178 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CRIMINALITY – a day of intent to break the law. Those smart creatures, the dolphins, have seen through us, according to our poet Pete Langley, and they despair of our lack of comprehension.

The Dolphin`s Dilemma

Every year, somewhere,
the same persistent question
rears to try its stealth again
and some of us
even make a preliminary approach.
It never comes to much.

Of course, the search will go on
– we`re forever optimistic.
We have mobility and energy enough
to go on looking,
though the clues become fewer
and the time becomes shorter.
They seem so set on self-destruction.

Harmony is easy.
Would that we could tell them.
Would that they would listen.
They cannot taint us
with their lack of comprehension,
Yet, still, some among their number
may be worthy of our search.
Is it surprising
that we have  permanent smiles,
when they think themselves
the dominant species?

Pete Langley

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You couldn’t make it up. Or could you? Today, 14 September, Day 177 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS INCOMPREHENSION, the papers report that police chiefs have urged the public in England to abide by the new “rule of six” guidelines on social gatherings, after people made the most of the last weekend before the restrictions come into force today. Despite increasing alarm about the spread of coronavirus among young people especially, police were forced to break up parties throughout the country. So we certainly need a corrective in the form of this pointed little contribution from Adrian Beckingsale:

There was a young lass called Ramona
Who thought she might have the Corona,
Her fever is high and her cough is quite dry
So she’s having to stay all alone … Aah!

Adrian Beckingsale

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It is Day 176 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS TOURNESOL and as Summer slides into Autumn Sylvia Sellers nurtures a rogue sunflower, while harking back to an earlier poem (by Anne Symons) which celebrated the sunflower as a kind of miracle. Indeed the Incas worshipped the sunflower as a symbol of the sun god. Our poet sees her own brave sunflower getting ready to feed the birds …

The Covid Sunflower

I didn’t plant a sunflower seed
But this was definitely a sunflower not a weed
6” high among the fading Iris leaves
In early July of Covid year.
I was pleasantly startled
To see this intruder
Three years since I’d grown them
Left for the birds to peck in winter.

I had time enough to
Watch it every day
Reaching for the sky
I was sure it was a sunflower
A flower of hope
Poem No.147 tells me so!

And grow it did
2” every night I swear
Taller and taller
More leaves
Hairs on the thickening stalk
Could I hope for signs of a flower?
Of course I could!
Sure enough when it was nearly three feet tall
It stopped growing
And I could see what it was up to.

Green petals were forming
And I had to keep watching and waiting
For that yellow tip
It had to happen soon
And it did
Every day there was more bright yellow
Until the job was done
Having battled howling winds and rain
To stay upright
Its brown centre
Getting ready to feed the birds in winter.

Sylvia Sellers

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Confusion reigns and the world is in turmoil, while on this Day 175 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CONSPIRACY our renegade poet Rik O’Shea – and indeed all his namesakes – appears to have fallen victim to a strange variety of phone attack …

Don’t call me

Every time you call me –
every time you phone –
somewhere in the world
……….a man who’s on his own
……….will start to stumble.

A man whose name is Rik –
it’s always Rik O’Shea –
will suddenly feel unstable,
……….begin to sway
……….and take a tumble.

He’s not just the one and only –
he may be uncouth or urbane –
but every one’s a Rik O’Shea,
………who will get up again,
………confused and dazed.

The fall may lead to hospital,
end up in A & E;
sometimes the fall is fatal. So:
………just for the sake of me
………and all the Rik O’Sheas

in this whole world,
will you please
          stop
……………phoning
…………………me.

Rik O’Shea

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It is a painful actuality, on this Day 174 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS PERTURBATION, that we live in troubled times. Shall we see rainbows and blue skies? Or perhaps that other blue, as poet Kate Foley calls to mind in this charming incipit …

All the little rainbows

frolic in our windows.
Hi! to the Postie,
Hi! to Deliveroo.

Egg-yolk yellow
sun spreads
the sky-blue-sea-blue-eye-blue
sky.

For that other blue,
the one that shades lids,
paints lips – not untenderly –
we need another image,
enigmatic as the song
of a blackbird
or a swan.

Kate Foley

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In Wivenhoe on this Day 173 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS OBFUSCATION the sun may be shining, but in the big outside world there is muddle and confusion, and a degree of ill-thought out strategy. Our poet Pete Langley considers the state of mind of certain persons in positions of authority …

A Bigot to bed

The calm of dark
will illuminate
his thought
this night.
He will climb stairs
of memory,
closing windows
and doors as he goes,
stilling the draught
of discovery
to trap the fear
without,
while he holds fast
to all he holds dear
in the sanctum
of his stupidity.

Pete Langley

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Today 9 September 2020, this Day 172 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS NAVIGATION, is a day of new Covid restrictions – so not a lot to laugh about. BUT it is also a day of birthdays (yes, plural) and so here is our birthday poem:

woke up this morning

our song is running backwards
pushing against the rising sun
taming its nascent shine
trying to buy us time

in the newly fashioned diamond dawn
where blossom arches overhead
we two shall celebrate
another year to navigate

Peter Ualrig Kennedy (for Doreen)

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It’s 8 September, and with the prospect of an increasing number of Coronavirus cases throughout the land, on this Day 171 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ESCALATION Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, Deputy CMO for England, warns of a bumpy ride ahead. It’s a large-scale worry, but Brian Ford finds a small-scale diversion in lockdown, in an ordinary garden, in a compost bin, to cheer us …

A summons

‘Mum! Mum!
Come quick!
Look what grandad showed me,
It’s great!’
And Mum – wise woman,
Abandoned her preparation of lunch
To follow her son into the garden
And dutifully admire
A scurrying, hurrying, busy,
Bustling myriad
Of woodlice.
And Grandad smiled,
Knowing that,
For an eight year old,
In lockdown,
In an ordinary garden,
In a compost bin,
There are wonders to be found.

Brian Ford

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When we spotted this Lockdown poem in the current number of Wivenhoe News we invited Clare Durance to submit it, but she was concerned that it may seem rather out of date; however it is an unfortunate fact that on this Day 170 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS RECRUDESCENCE we hear news of an increase in the number of UK cases of Coronavirus. Who knows how many more local lockdowns, or even a nation-wide lockdown, may be reimposed? Fingers crossed, and break out the gin and cake …

Lockdown poem

When every kind of gathering is banned
And lonely grannies mourn throughout the land
When everyone you meet will flinch in fright
And when my face on WhatsApp is a sight
When buses pass without a soul on board
And loo roll makes a priceless, golden hoard
When schools and pubs are closed and parents try
To work, home-school and keep the baby dry
When all the world stagnates in just one place
And we all lose a sense of time and space
We ask ourselves how we may best survive,
Keep cheerful, strong, and keep our hearts alive?
Why then, thank God for gin and cake and friends
Who send us jokes until this nightmare ends.

Clare Durance

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Time to make obeisance to the Poet Laureate? Well why not, at this point in the unfolding drama of the pandemic when new local lockdowns are being imposed on almost a daily basis, on this Day 169 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS INCUBUS a full six months after the first lockdown in the UK.
Poet Rik O’Shea pays due respect.

Lockdown rides again

Thank God for that! the maiden cried,
on reading the Poet Laureate –
stout Simon having penned a verse
or ode or something else beside.
He’d not escaped the waking dream
of fleas infected, then he spoke
of star-crossed lovers sadly placed
on either side the line, poor folk.
Thank God for Armitage!
went up the shout –
He knows what this Coronavirus
is all about!
If we but had a cock-eyed die
and thimble-holes of vinegar,
no doubt we’d ride this virus out
in twelve weeks (was the PM’s lie).

Pace Professor Simon Armitage,
‘Lockdown’, The Guardian, March 2020

Rik O’Shea

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In need of some relaxation? Then sit back on your Windsor Chair on this Day 168 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CONTEMPLATION as poet Pete Langley considers its origin and its making.

Windsor Chair 

I imagine a man of the woods
busy with living
by the knowing
of leaves
of bark
of birds and badgers
of nuts and berries
of burning and burying
of boughs
of trunks and branches
to make the bones
of a bower
to stall the wrath of rain,

then to rest in a chair
made from sticks and stumps
by bodgers and bottomers.

For 400 years, bottomers have made the seat
and bodgers have made the spindles.

Pete Langley

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Another View indeed – on Day 167 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS POSTULATION we are intrigued, or even frightened, by Denis Ahern’s startling conjecture that the Coronavirus is among us to be the saviour of the world – a world, that is, freed of destructive humanity:

Another View

Far and wide the forests fall, the planet’s lungs deleted.
Concrete spreads far and wide, once fertile earth beneath it.
The sky’s a mesh of vapour trails, the ozone lacerated.
Toxic waste fouls the seas, the deep is contaminated.

And all this is the doing of the dominant species,
Devouring, despoiling, desecrating as he pleases,
Ravaging, exploiting, consuming with profligacy,
Brain and opposable thumb bestowing false supremacy.

Who’s to halt this deathly race, greed’s destructive scramble?
Can plants attack with stings, thorns, tendrils that might strangle?
The despoiler’s fire, axe, chainsaw defeat nature’s defences.
No fang or claw can match the blows the ogre dispenses.

Fish cannot fight back, confined to their polluted water,
Their ocean bed dragged and scraped in unremitting slaughter
Birds? What impact? Pecking or shitting on the destructor?
Who’s to save the Earth from this ravager who has fucked her?

Step up the least of living beings, tiniest of all creatures,
Take on the destroyer, restore the balance of nature.
Can a mere virus be annihilation’s preventer,
Halt destruction and bring to heel the world’s tormentor?

Is it time to go for evolution’s flawed apogee?
Without us might life on Earth enjoy greater harmony?
Time up on humanity’s rule? The close of our innings?
We’ve had our chance. Let other beings try new beginnings.

Denis Ahern

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It’s Day 166 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS TAXONOMY and poet Helen Ivory listens, in these strange and forbidding times, to the soliloquies of birds: a response to John Clare.

Clout

With our theatres and the churches stilled
we dusted off binoculars, ordered in some ersatz lawn
climbed upon a flat, forgiving section of the roof
to turn our profuse and rapt attention on the birds.

Crows and magpies shifted in their branches
wise to, it struck us, their shady reputations –
as if they’d read our books and heard our songs.

Any search will tell you this taxonomy of bird
is sharp enough to employ simple tools
and long before we commenced to eavesdrop
had been busying about their natural lives.

And now, observed, they appear to watch us back
and with creaky panpipe voices
preach homilies, lo barnstorming soliloquies!

Thus, humans picked the world up in their hands –
their wretched fleshy hands – and smote the lot.

Helen Ivory

Poem publ. 26 June 2020 in podcast The Thunder Mutters, Episode 6, John Clare Responses: (‘Clout’ begins at 00.16.30)
https://the-thunder-mutters.captivate.fm/episode/episode-six-john-clare-responses

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Poet Martin Figura has recently published his poem ‘Land of Opportunity’ in The New European #208, Aug 27-Sept 2, in the ‘a poem for europe’ series. On this Day 165 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS PERSPECTIVE —— is this our future ?

Land of Opportunity
“This is a new start for everyone in the UK ….so let’s get going.”
(Michael Gove, July 2020)

Here we are then, huddled on
the exhausted stained mattress
in the seaside boarding house of state.

Rusty springs squeak out
Rule Britannia whilst we make love
to ourselves. The bed, digging its heels

into a tidemark carpet that’s shrinking away
from the chipped gloss of the skirting boards
and the terrifying flora of the wallpaper.

Thin rayon curtains spill yellow light
onto our gilt-framed Boots the Chemist
reproduction of Constable’s The Hay Wain,

picks out the greyed varnish craquelure
of the wardrobe quietly looming in the corner
containing who knows what – a little shoebox

of secrets perhaps? Suitcases sticky with dust
sit atop – their handles ripped off.

Martin Figura
The New European #208, Aug 27-Sept 2, ‘a poem for europe’

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It was on Day 161 that Aziz Dixon sent us a couple of incisive postcards; now on Day 164 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS SITUATIONAL the poet sends three more postcards bearing appellations that may necessitate some diligent inquiry on the part of the reader.

Postcards (2)

Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

Forty hot springs
in a scorching desert.
Land Reclamation Act 1902
of consequence for some.
Anniversary quiz show
gave this town a make-over.

Bath

Docimedes has lost
his kid gloves, implores Sulis
for vengeance. May the thief
lose his mind,
his eyes.

Buxton

Aelius Motio dedicates this altar
to the goddess of healing waters.
He has written a poem,
fulfilled his vow.

Aziz Dixon

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It has been a strange year for us all, a weird year, and today 31 August 2020 is – in the meteorological definition of the seasons – the last day of Summer, and the white roses are fading in the garden. It may be fitting, therefore, to bring ‘La rosa bianca‘ to you on this Day 163 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS METONYMY. It was the Irish poet Thomas Moore who wrote ‘The Last Rose of Summer’, whereas Italian poet Attilio Bertolucci here speaks of “l’ultima rosa del giardino” – the last rose of the garden. It is in no sense a new poem, it was published in 1934, but we read it today in an English translation by your Editor. In its original Italian it is brief, 11 lines only; this fairly free translation expands it into sonnet form.

The white rose

This rose that I shall pick, I pick for you;
of all the garden’s blooms it is the last,
a rose as white as early morning mist;
and when the vapours of the waking day
enrobe the bower with a pearly light,
the white rose opens, blossoms, flourishes.
The avid bees, so greedy for its scent,
have paid it court until the day just past,
and even now its fragrance is so sweet
that one would shiver at its very touch.
This rose is you, your mimic, your vignette,
a portrait of you in your thirtieth year,
day-dreaming then, as you will ever be;
abstracted, rapt, and lost in reverie.

Attilio Bertolucci 1934
trans. Peter Ualrig Kennedy 2005

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This is Day 162 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS DOLORIFIC – poet Nick Browne presents a ghazul, this chain of couplets like a string of pearls. But the feeling in this ghazul is one of trepidation …

Ghazul for my fellow citizens

You can sense it when you walk through town a kind of madness growing
in the unmasked eye and masked one, a kind of wild fear growing,

greasy heat, spent canisters, stale, canned beer pools everywhere
joyride speed in stolen cars, a kind of riled cheer growing.

It’s sale bags full, and burger slabs, oiled bodies sweating in the Park
swaggering youth set free again, a kind of smiled leer growing.

We know it’s crazy, not so pissed we trust the guff we’re given,
we’ll get our hair cut, a kind of mild sneer growing.

No one but the fantasists believe it gone: we all get it
we grasp these moments, bask in sun, a kind of wild fear growing.

Nick Browne

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It was on Day 157 that we recorded our poet Aziz Dixon finding himself beset by authoritarian forces; now on Day 161 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS COMMUNICATIVITY the poet sends the first two of several postcards from foreign climes bearing pointedly acerbic messages.

Postcards (1)

Tuzla, Bosnia

Salt spa lakes
where basilica and mosque
watched the shell land
on the young
in the old town,
Tito’s birthday,
present from the Serbs.

Beyond the tennis courts
the park,
seventy graves
under the pine trees.
She has been visiting you
every day
these twenty-five years.

Jurmala, Latvia

Ransome’s honeymoon cruise,
Trotsky’s secretary now Arthur’s wife;
agent S76 guarded his Bolshevik secrets.
Party elite came for mud baths, hiking,
other approved therapies. Now
virus stalks the beaches.

Aziz Dixon

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Today is Day 160 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS MATRIMONIAL. It is also 28 August, and today our beautiful granddaughter Annie is getting married to the excellent Alistair. The wedding will take place in Stockport, and in these Coronavirus times it’s not possible for aged grand p’s to be there; so your Editor has cobbled together this little tribute:

Annie’s wedding
greetings from East Anglia

Annie our love
……….our bonny girl
as the brief summer ends
……….you bring sunshine to this old world
your wedding to Al

……….in this post-lockdown age
……….must be private and small

though fierce winds may rage
……….you’ll have your special day
we’ll send our loving call
……….to you from the south lands
far far away

May you both have a wonderful day and a bright future!

Peter Ualrig Kennedy

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Acclaimed poet Steve Pottinger is here on this Day 159 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS AFFRANCHISEMENT to delineate our various reactions to coming out of lockdown. (Your Editor and his partner are in Verse 3). This truly acute poem was commissioned by West Midlands arts organisation Multistory as part of their ’stories in isolation’ project while the UK was under lockdown. You can listen to Steve reading the poem at: https://soundcloud.com/user-760337151/sets/stories-in-isolation … It is at number 17. Well worth the hearing.

coming out of lockdown

She now dreams of standing at the sea
is busy checking times of Barmouth trains
can imagine slipping shoes off on the beach
the feel of sand between her toes again.

He is working long shifts in a mask
changing dressings, taking temperatures and swabs.
Could really use a pay rise, but daren’t ask
knows too many folk who’ve lost their jobs.

They’re still staying safe indoors, at home
shopping and prescriptions come to them.
Quiet and stoic, you won’t hear them moan.
Their world has shrunk. So be it, lord. Amen.

This man thinks it’s all a hoax, a ruse.
Insists it’s no worse than the common cold
why should government restrict what he can do?
He’s free to choose, not do what he is told.

That girl’s planning parties with her mates
the friends she’s missed eleven weeks or longer.
Her heart beats faster as she makes a date
believes what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

This pair are straight back down the pub
same seat, same pint, same as it was before.
She’s glad someone else will cook the grub
he just wants a skinful, maybe more.

Some are watching football for their sins
though the stadiums are cathedrals of silence
but the elation’s much the same when your team wins
and there’s not a single fan of VAR, regardless.

And this one reads articles and finds
mixed messages which drive her to distraction.
Is it really safe? Truth be told, she’s in two minds
is afraid of spreading virus by her actions.

Those weeks in Spring when life got put on hold
when we pulled together, clapped for carers, held our breath
seem like they happened in another world.
Does more unite us than divide us? Let’s say yes.

Steve Pottinger
commissioned by West Midlands arts organisation Multistory

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On this Day 158 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CONNECTIVITY, today’s poet Dominic Gaines steps forward with ‘Slow down’ – written with inspiration from the earlier poem ‘the true screen age’ by cousin Oscar Kennedy-Blundell. Refresh your memory by scrolling down to Day 40 …

Slow down

It is hard to stay connected,
In a world so hectic.

What are we to do,
but sit around on Zoom
and watch old cartoons?

What are we to do,
but change our pace
and widen our view –

to look around and see
the changes in our space.

Bare twigs become awash with colour,
Birds sing that bit louder.

Rain settles dust,
And sun heats us up.

In the end Gaia is glad
Of our little human struggle.

Dominic Gaines

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Day 157 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS PARANOIA and our poet of the day, the excellent Aziz Dixon, finds himself beset by authoritarian forces harassing him for harbouring memories of Life from Before:

Memories

They are in the saucepan,
back of the cupboard
in a bag of word-yeast.

The health officers feed me paranoia
tablets, the epaulettes
fine me for singing

in public; plain clothes
beat me up for denying
the miracles of blessed St Dominic.

Now the whitecoats have arrived
with blood hounds, metaphor-tazers,
a plagiarism detector.

I have been posting
about multiple locations, time zones
while under quarantine.

Life from Before
must not be spoken of.
I have postcards,

secrets from spa towns.
I dare to remember
how these places might have been.

Too late to finish them.
Look in the saucepan.
I must answer the door.

Aziz Dixon

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It’s Day 156 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS APOCRYPHA and being 24 August it is also St Bartholomew’s Day. This observation may lead us to consider the non-canonical ‘Gospel of St Bartholomew’, a Coptic text which was rejected by the Fathers of the Church on grounds that it was a heretical fraud. And that observation may lead us to consider the writings of today’s Anti-Covid-19 author and poet Hannah Stone who seeks to suggest that in the face of attempting to control the pandemic our political leaders ‘can’t be arsed, but want to placate the populace.’ Has Hannah written a heretical fraud or a sly allegory? You choose.

Here are today’s slides

An indeterminate period of time after the pandemic, research was commissioned into hitherto neglected evolutionary trends. It was felt important to understand the facts presented to the population. The sideways gait of generation CV pedestrians had been presumed to develop from the discipline of diverting to avoid hazardous slipstream of runners and cyclists, who, conversely, proved incapable of negotiating zigzags. Lip-readers had become extinct. Ventriloquists frequently performed a comfortingly familiar technique known as zoom-latency. Flat-earthers acquired a confused new lease of life, thanks to the mandatory wearing of masks, peering over the TOP of a blue horizon. All these fascinating phenomena deserved further investigation. When I say research was commissioned, I mean it in the sense that 10,000 tests had been done, a proportion of which were represented by the despatch of DIY tests with no return address. Linguists therefore translated ‘research’ more accurately as ‘interest’, or, more radically still, ‘can’t be arsed, but want to placate the populace.’

Hannah Stone

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Anne Boileau’s ‘Lead us more deeply’ is a Golden Shovel poem – a poetic form devised in homage to Gwendolyn Brooks (whose original poem ‘We Real Cool’ refers to pool players at the Golden Shovel). It uses words from a specific poem to form the end of each line of the new poem. It’s rather an abstruse concept, somewhere between a cento and erasure, but Anne has employed the method to produce her own poem which asks us to open hands and heart and give thanks, on this Day 155 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS MEDITATION, and which reminds us of the mystery of this teeming, vibrant world.

Lead us more deeply
(“Let us ask God to lead us more deeply into the world of prayer” …
Evelyn Underhill, from her Biddings.)

We can sit still as a brooding hen and let
Our busy minds grow quiet, allowing us
To open hands and heart, give thanks and ask
Forgiveness and forbearance. Trust that God
Might show us what spells Heaven here on Earth, to
Give us clarity of vision that may lead
Our thoughts into a sacred space, teach us
That World is full of wondrous life and more
Various than we thought. Delve deeply
In the waters of our soul, dive down into
The reefs where coral hums, the
Mystery of this teeming, vibrant world.
Our own kind’s interwoven in the web of
Life on this blue orb, a world of prayer.

Anne Boileau

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Is the world anywhere returning to what we used to think was reality? Or is the new normal anything but? Dónall Dempsey is here to tell us, in ‘A game of two halves’ on this Day 154 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS NORMALITY

A game of two halves

Ahhh the smell of the crowd
the roar of the vid screen.

Live players
with zoomed up fans.

trying to replicate the sights
and sounds of normalcy.

The unreal
real.

One can be present
so to speak

upon a giant screen
40 metres long

and feeling
9ft tall.

A vast improvement
on the German game

which filled the stadium
with smiling cardboard fans.

But alas with their side
beaten 3-1

the cardboard fans
were still smiling.

A not very realistic
ending.

The Koreans placed
sex dolls in the stands

but they were not interested
and couldn’t understand

the offside rule.

Dónall Dempsey

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Today is Day 153 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS LIQUIDATION. Eighty-four years ago, on 19 August 1936, Federico García Lorca was murdered. Lorca was one of the most important Spanish poets and dramatists of the 20th century. In 1922, he and the composer Manuel de Falla organised the first cante jondo festival in Granada. Cante jondo is the most serious variety of flamenco, and the deep song form was to be found throughout Lorca’s poems of the early 1920s. Lorca, a gay man of liberal views, was arrested by rightwing military authorities in Granada during the Spanish civil war, and was executed by firing squad. We need to know these things.
Pam Job has now written this elegiac poem Reading Lorca in Late Afternoon. Two days ago, to mark the anniversary of Lorca’s death, the poem was elegantly read online by Anthony Roberts, in Ant’s Daily Poetry Project.

Reading Lorca in late afternoon

Reading Lorca in late afternoon, I fancy
I hear the rattle of castanets in the caves
above Granada, a clack of heels matches
the snap of her fingers, and in the distance
the bells of Vela tolling; out of an early
evening cloud comes your voice, Federico,
hoarse now but still singing your siguirillas,
those sad gypsy songs, full-stopped by death.

And I remember fields in summer Spain
edged with dusty drying sheds, a sudden glimpse
of tobacco leaves, hung inside like shrouds
the scent blown on a breeze, intoxicating.
All those husks waiting to be crushed, flaked
and rolled into fat cigarettes to fit your smile,
Federico, to filter your song.

Pam Job

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From Tony’s tasty tubers to the Thomas tubby trotters – yes, on this Day 152 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS REMEDIATION our revered poet Bryan Thomas has received a desirable present from his inamorata, but in emulation of Oliver Twist, he just wants more:

The Un-Birthday Present

Rushing in, she cried,
“Sorry love, the Co-op
has run out of masks and gowns.
To hell with Covid-19
and all that stuff, but
you must keep walking. and
I thought of your poor feet.”

“Come my dear”, she said
“Just try these diabetic socks
instead”.

The pancreatic juices
struggle with the sugar,
as the magic socks begin their work.
Emaciated feet are calmed
and insulin is soon surging
through my poor old trotters
for another day at t’mill.

“Come my dear”, she said again,
“Don’t your feet feel good”?
“Wonderful”, I said,” a Cure;
Placebo; call it what you will,
But what about the rest of me”?

Bryan Thomas

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You want light-hearted? You want light-hearted agronomy? Light-hearted agronomy in strict meter that rhymes beautifully and is really earthy? Step forward Tony Oswick … on this Day 151 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CULTIVATION the answer lies in the soil.

Spud

Good day, my name is Murphy, but they often call me Spud.
You’ll find me lurking in the ground but never in the mud.
Just plant me in a deep, dark trench and heap the earth on top,
and wait for eighteen weeks or so – then gather up my crop.

There below the surface, I’ll while away the time
and when the day for harvest comes, I’ll be in my prime.
From the healthiest of tubers, I’ll make lots more and then
when you dig me up you’ll find I’ve grown – six, seven, eight, nine, ten.

Sometimes I’m a main-crop and sometimes I am early
but I like to think I’m macho and never, ever girlie.
For though they shout “Desiree” when I’m lying in my bed
I’m really a royal vegetable named after good King Ed.

You can buy me in the supermarkets, loose, in bags, in tins.
You can eat me any way you like, either with or without skins.
I’m very tasty when I’m cooked, I’m sure you’ll lick your lips
when I’m cut-up, fried in greasy oil – I make such lovely chips.

I’m happy to be boiled or mashed – I go with any veg.
Roasted, baked or sautéed, I’ll even make a wedge.
I am resolute and versatile you’ll never see me waver
and I’m easily converted to a Pringle, crisp or Quaver.

But mostly I’m quite ordinary and never cause a riot
because, perhaps, I’ve always been a very staple diet.
So when you come to eat me, I hope you know my worth,
just describe me as a vegetable that’s very down to earth.

Tony Oswick

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The discerning reader will understand that this is a metereological poem (that’s given the game away) which Pete Langley wrote last week when it was really hot. So on this Day 150 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS EXPECTATION we can steam along to the evocative imagery of:

Earth`s Wet Kiss

Unhurried,billowing,
the inward breath
draws moisture from your sweating skin,
inhales your pheromones,
savours the taste of life
on all your surfaces,
Soon you will be smothered
with wet caresses
on your needy erogenous zones
to grow the seeds
of reproduction

and it will rain again.

Pete Langley

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It is Day 149 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS PERCEPTIVITY and Kathleen Wenaden recognises that she has been blessed – out of the chaos of Covid-19 lockdown and isolation, Kathleen has found new meanings in life. And wonder. It may seem counterintuitive, but we may take heart from the realisation that there are many beneficial spinoffs from Coronavirus …

Is it just me?

Does anyone else feel like they have been crushed in the deepest swell of a wave, tossed and turned, spun out of control and then spat out on a beach – bedraggled, yet free to now take baby steps?

I have ridden the white crest of a wave on a smooth backed white unicorn
I have dived deep down to the navy blackness of the detritus filled seas
I have flown to the orbed moon and back, pulling it down into my empty arms
I have delved into the crevices of my soul & discovered white bright rooms I have never known before
I have peered around the edges of humanity
I have seen the pain of others, reflected in mine.
I have soared the greyest of skies
I have heard the ancient chimes of passing time
I have travelled the globe a million times
I have spanned the depth and breadth and perimeter of love
I have walked in the dewy freshness of the morn
I have shouted a lot
I have loved and cried with my kids
I have missed my ageing beautiful aunties
I have fought the wildfires of fear in my heart
I have slept on a bed of fear and woken with a pounding heart
I have watched my grass seeds grow, and courgettes from seedlings
I have eaten copious cheap chocolate
I have read and re-read all the books I have access to
I have cooked lunch after lunch
I have listened to the UK Blessing on repeat
I have known longing like never before
I have walked with dis-ease and contentment side by side, long lonely days without end
I have come face to face with the thought-leopard of Covid 19
I have known shame, and been chastised for mistakes at work
I am re-surfacing from the waters of life
I have rowed the seven seas in a rickety old boat, with just enough provisions
I have been blessed without measure
I have worked long and hard days with little thanks
I have found hope in small things
I have neglected myself
I am almost done in
I have been liberated by penned words on a blank page, formed out of the jumbled mess of thoughts in my head
I have been held by a lovely mum, I am unable to confide in, who has made roti and dahl
I have cursed, yet been redeemed by, the universe
I have grieved a loss, like no other
I have stopped spinning
I have been truly loved
I have picked up the pieces of the plates I’ve smashed, the balls I’ve dropped, the people I’ve failed.
I’ve found the golden thread running through the weave of my life, the pearl of great price
I’ve been kept by the divine –
I’ve been lost and found.
I am made anew.

Kathleen Wenaden

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All yesterday, British holidaymakers were hurrying back to these shores trying to beat the 4.00am deadline to avoid a two-week quarantine. Meanwhile desperate refugees and asylum seekers continue to cross the Channel in small boats. It is Day 148 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ADVERSITY

Refugees

our small garden in the sun
pleases me –
the colours the flowers
the bees
move me

the beauty of people
pleases me
the plight of refugees
braving the waters
disturbs me deeply

motoring as best they can
towards our shores
they hope for a future
of freedom
as we offer

a predetermined
hostile environment
of lost hopes and dreams
their calamity
moves me deeply

Peter Ualrig Kennedy

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This is how it was. This is how it has been. The effects of lockdown have been strange and various. Anne Symons, on this Day 147 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS SANGUINITY writes, in ‘When the singing had to stop’, of her vicar who planted a sunflower seed in a spirit of hope for the future. The sunflower is a symbol of happiness and optimism, a beam of light in a world that is out of joint.

When the singing had to stop

our vicar closed the door

and planted a sunflower seed
in the Easter garden
while we waited for a resurrection.

The world stopped to watch Apocalypse:
things not previously known
could not be known.

There were no ice trails in the sky
baking boomed and flour ran out
like toilet paper.

Birds announced their happiness
and hedgehogs ambled across the road.
It was a kind of miracle.

Our sunflower grew tall
while mourners wept
at silent funerals.

Anne Symons

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Today, on this Day 146 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS OXYGENATION, poet Winston Plowes evokes the wonder of poetry in its multiple – and equally valid – meanings. We are grateful to him for ‘Ventilate’; a powerful poem which is relevant to the warm syrupy nature of the atmosphere in this hot weather, to the necessity for good ventilation in small and large spaces in this time of risky mingling, but specifically to the terror of having Covid-19 and being ventilated. His last stanza refers to dark and maybe final endings.

Ventilate

Each breath is like a spoon
dragging through the cream
its silver curves
cloying memories
against the nap of hours

Each swig of air
a propped up drunkards cuss
a ploughing under
of homeless vowels

What was once a song
has become a drowning
of leavings gulping for air
the echoes of a goodbye

A jetsam of odd limbs
from the dolls hospital
fists clenched, toes missing

why do you come now
when the sun’s below the trees
between the thump and the bruise

Winston Plowes

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There is good news on this Day 145 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS SUMMERTIDE: the globally endangered large blue butterfly is fluttering on a Cotswold hillside where it has not been seen for 150 years. Yippee! And Sylvia Sellers – fresh from another spot on BBC Essex Radio – dresses up for a special birthday party and flutters to Wivenhoe. A typical Sylvia jeu d’esprit

COVID BIRTHDAY PARTY

It’s party time again at Barbara’s
but this time with two sittings
10am – 12.30pm
or 5pm onwards
Social Distancing is the new norm
10 – 12.30 suits me best.

So off I go to Wivenhoe
Feeling good
dressed up for the morning bash
Strappy gold and orange flat sandals
Orange splashes on my calf-length dress.

Keeping our distance at the table
Morning coffee is our toast
Tucking into Barbara’s Cake
Her gorgeous gooey chocolate concoction
One she really has made earlier
Smothered in a thick dusting
of sieved whiteness.

We clink glasses of Prosecco at 12.30
Human contact (but not too close)
Celebrating Barbara’s Covid Birthday.

Sylvia Sellers

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Yes, I know, I know! Ashley Powell’s poem Post-Lockdown Hair seriously oversteps the advised 40-line limit – but it’s funny and cheerful, and we can enjoy its levity, on this Day 144 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS RAPUNZELOSITY – who knows, Ashley may have had a buzzcut by now …

Post-Lockdown Hair

An army cut is all I crave
A reason not to skip the shave
I’m Captain Caveman from the grave
I want post-lockdown hair

As lockdown days turned lockdown weeks
My parting sprouted up twin peaks
From dandified to dandruff geeks
I want post-lockdown hair

My Spock-like fringe turned into bangs
The Marcel waves just limp meringues
While ducks arse grown to mullet hangs
I want post-lockdown hair

Now every step I take I flounce
I don’t need Brylcreem for the bounce
The cat sees furry rat to pounce
I want post-lockdown hair

I know I’m not the only one
Who’s using shampoo by the ton
Then tying back my growing bun
We all boast lockdown hair

Auburn, ginger, blonde, brunette
Had to stash it in a net
When High Street barbershop quartet
Got closed to lockdown hair

A spit for Tubbs from Royston Vasey?
Yes, these locks don’t look so tasty
But keep the scissors, don’t be hasty
Back off from my hair!

‘Cause I’ve clocked pates like poppadoms
Where have-a-go well-meaning mums
Have hacked their spouses, kids, and chums
Like some mid-lockdown dare

So keep that Pyrex off my nut
I’d soon it grow another foot
Than inverse tonsure basin cut
I want post-lockdown hair

Though with the virus still around
Best stay hirsute or go to ground
They’ll think you sneaked the Turkish round
With neat post-lockdown hair

Instead I’ll rock these foppish locks
Sport through-hedge-backwards startled fox
And till they cure the fucking pox
Put up with lockdown hair

I should have done what BoJo did
“Chop this nest off? God forbid!
Samson would have beat Covid
NOW laugh at my hair!”

The end will kill this tousled trend
Then government should recommend
A barber army dividend
To cut post-lockdown hair

And reconvert the Nightingales
To purge the six month ponytails
Lopped by the thousands into bales
Recycled lockdown hair

I just want my own stylist back
I miss the mirrors and the craic
But I won’t miss this fleecy stack
I want post-lockdown hair

Ashley Powell

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Things look pretty bad out there in the wide wide world. And a lot of people are forgetting social distancing and other precautions, while many of us remain extremely cautious. So it’s time to call on Adrian Beckingsale once again for another irreverent limerick about the disease to lift our spirits on this Day 143 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS INGENUITY.

Ovid and the pandemic

There was a young Roman called Ovid
Who was self-isolating with Covid
So he wrote a polemic
About the pandemic
That precocious young Roman called Ovid

Adrian Beckingsale

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It’s the New Normal. Extreme weather. Extreme concern about the natural world. Extreme worry about the pandemic. Extreme anxiety about the likelihood of a second wave of the virus. And poet Delilah Sullivan notes that the cemetery next door is busier than usual. Day 142 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS DISQUIETUDE

Neighbours

I watch the lorry      laden with soil
leaving the cemetery      next door
it seems kinder to wait      a pause
two-way traffic      busier than usual
car park full      in these special times
distance observed      navigated
for the living      and the dead.

Delilah Sullivan

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Lebanon, already racked by civil war and by a multitude of past crises, is now shattered by the catastrophe in Beirut. Poet Antony Johae reminds us of the violence during that civil war: the Green Line was a line of demarcation in Beirut from 1975 to 1990. And today is 9 August, Day 141 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS LAMENTATION:

Green Line, Beirut
Lebanon 1975 – 1990

1.
The combatants stuck their guns in the window spaces
Fired across the ruptured streets in spurts
At shredded curtains blowing in the pregnant wind
At pockmarked walls riddled by ancient war.

Then could be heard the blast of a car blown up
Shells shattering the dome of a goodly mosque
Bombs dismembering the church of Holy Maryam
And raining mortar fire insidious before the mortuary.

O mutilated city – where puffs of hateful smoke
Put out the puff of life, where concrete crumbles
And pipes ooze as if the streets were bleeding –
I see your people clinging to its wreckage.

2.
Along the paroxysmal line of mortal fire
Red tracer bullets marked the pungent sky
And detonations sent shrapnel searing into schools
Shops, banks, brothels, and the municipal museum.

Caught ships lay rusting in the rotting harbour
Nets hung torn and holed on the sinking quay
Sandstone houses stood gutted in the rubble
Columns, stained glass, and arrowed windows gone.

But now I see a woman in wedding white
Meeting her groom with roses and carnations at night
And multiple green springing from Adam’s clay
Among the ruins, quickened by the heavens’ ray.

Antony Johae
from Lines on Lebanon published in The Recusant 2015

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Yesterday 8 August was HOT and Wivenhoe poet Rik O’Shea found himself both HOT and ANGRY, so that on this Day 140 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS INCALESCENCE we feature this polemic written, Rik tells us, last year on a similar HOT day …

Smilers

They were the ones who sat           smiling

on balconies shading their eyes

from the warming sun

who did not see

the foaming dust clouds on their horizons.

 

They were the ones who         failed us

as the temperatures rose

as the seas rose

as the peacocks left the houses –

they were the ones who         failed us.

 

Those in power did not say        stop.

Stop all the stuff.

They were the smilers

on the balconies

who played golf as the forests burned.

As permafrosts gave up being        frosty.

 

And a couple down the road from        us

jetted to the Philippines

for their wedding.

They could have caught a bus

to Gretna Green.

Rik O’Shea

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At this moment we have a Government frantic to get the economy on its feet. The Prime Minister declares a desire to see “bustle” return to high streets. There are, however, worrying signs of a resurgence in infection. So on this Day 139 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS HARUSPICATION we find poet Simon Banks deeply concerned that exit from lockdown is a chimera … Sorry about that, folks!Social distancing

The perimeter’s intended to impress:
a high, high brick wall unweathered, lichen-less,
colour from a child’s painting or a picture-book;
serious wrought-iron gates in fashionable black;
postbox, intercom and buttons, security camera.
Entry is controlled, disorderly world.
Exit is illusory.

Simon Banks

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There is so much despondency and anxiety in the air at this time that we are definitely in need of another uplifting poem. So on this Day 138 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS COMMISERATION we find poet Carol Connell considering how the little things in life can bring comfort and warmth … (now why is your Editor thinking back to Alma Cogan in 1954? …)

Little Things

It’s the little things that matter
when times are difficult –
a message from a distanced friend
a thank-you from a stranger
a blackbird squawking on a fence
warning of a danger

a dog stretched out in the sunshine
butterflies resting on a flower
the playing of a favourite song
and warm refreshing showers

good-feel films we watch again
– no surprises there –
masking scarves wrapped round us
to protect and to take care

a pin-prick of light’s on the horizon
an emergent glimmer we hope
some day that twinkle will brighten
our new freedom will prosper and grow

Carol Connell

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Sad Gorgonius, that emigré Beiruti poetaster, is distressed by the news of the catastrophic explosion that has occurred in the city of his birth. So to help lighten his mood, he has asked the Editor to post some light-hearted verse. Sue Mortimer provides, on this Day 137 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS REFLECTION, an interesting and amusing series of haiku, which were written in April, at the beginning of lockdown. Sue gives credit to Rumi, a 13th-century Persian poet and Sufi mystic, for inspiration. Rumi died in 1273 in Konya, Turkey, his cause of death enigmatically described as “impairment of well being”. Sue wanted to give credit to his phrase “This being human is a guest house” and wrote this, back in the early days of Covid, when everything changed; she found people’s behaviour interesting, and thought of some animals’ behaviours.

Every day is an arrival in these Covid times

Mon A lynx stalks barren
Tesco shelves, reflective eyes
seeking family prey.

Tues Wise owl Googles
new ways with mince; no onions,
forgotten on list.

Wed Octopus juggling
home schooling, plus work, No time
for relaxing yet

Thurs Boris Bear says no
to end lockdown; just clap for
NHS workers

Fri Chimpanzees chatter
over crisps and sinking beers
on Zoom pub’s taprooms

Sat Meerkat vigilance
fearing trespassers Too close
for social distance

Sun Sloth, unwind, wine, take
no notice of Facebook/phone
What’s Appning, closed

Mon to Sunday – repeat

Sue Mortimer

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In these poems we have come across bikers before (Adrian May, Day 40), and joggers (Dónall Dempsey, Day 46), and indeed custard (Phil East, Day 75), and on this Day 136 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS DELIRATION, poet Linda Lines references all these, socially distancing herself while collecting blackberries …

River Path Frenzy

Early abundance of hedgerows unseen by
the bikers, joggers, enthusiastic hikers hurtling

too close to the dog walkers, talkers, impervious
to me knee deep in burrs in socially distanced

self-preservation. A scramble to avoid the sting of nettles
and bite of brambles bursting with memories of childhood

and the making of summer’s first blackberry pie … with custard.
I disentangle myself triumphantly, hugging my brimming bowl.

Linda Lines

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On this Day 135 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS OBVIATION, Greater Manchester declares a major incident after a rise in Covid-19 cases and Norman Staines takes us back to a Middle Ages Venice …

Miasma

Rubicund men in tight, brocaded clothes cluster in the long
room at the top of the palace, admire each others’ cloaks, force

camphor, eucalyptus, cloves and mint into their long curved noses,
exchange wet-lip smiles, pouts, murmuring to protect their interests;
don their masks, straps adjusted, they take ranked places at the table.

Hooked black beaks posture, nod in agreement, hiss out mumbled
yesses through lipless chins; where eyes would be glass discs glint
under chandeliers while the Doge smirks safely in his dark disguise.

Outside the women hide their faces behind a moretta, noseless,
mouthless with a button for the teeth to hold the mask in silent place,
less effective than expensive herbs and spices, and there are men

disguised in black velvet discs beside them too, craving not for carnival,
waiting for salvation, wishing the council would give word the miasma is gone.

Norman Staines

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Are we on a viral treadmill, condemned to plod onwards, turning the wheel unsure of where our steps will take us? Sarah Nichols, on this Day 134 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS GYRATORY, finds that despite applying herself to her craft and to her life, the outcome is ever more unsure …

Spinning Wheel

Treadling smoothly I dictate the pace
at which the wheel turns
I make decisions as I treadle
that influence what I produce.

I treadle the days
with less control
less influence
I cannot dictate the pace

Decisions made
not sure of the outcome
I apply myself to my craft
and to my life.

Sarah Nichols

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Day 133 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS APPREHENSION and although it’s still hot in the real world, Dennis Tomlinson finds himself in a hotel in the rain in an un-named town; far, far off something is on the way. And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards us? No prizes …

The Last Hotel
After Chris Hardy

The end of the road trip –
we reach our hotel late
but they promise lunch.
In the bar we wait.

Bedroom doors recede
as in a prison wing
but here each bears a name:
Tchaikovsky, Ravel, Strauss.

We strike into town
through incipient rain,
choose gammon and chips
in a friendly pub.

The city centre’s
still a construction site –
men in hard hats
replace paving slabs.

Lady Godiva
braves the hard rain.
I walk around
the ruined cathedral

but you get fed up.
No choice but to risk
a labyrinth of roads
in the lasting rain.

We drink in the hotel bar.
Nothing happens
but far, far off
something is on the way.

Dennis Tomlinson

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On what promises to be one of the hottest days of the year today – yes, Day 132 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CANICULAR – in this strangely charged and baroque sonnet Stephen Novy treads in the footsteps of Thomas Hardy to bring us a dramatic winter’s tale.  A true story …

Winter

I saw a tall young woman this bitter day
Long-striding down the wintry field, alone.
She cried out loud as if for me to hear
But her pain was aimed at her mobile phone.
In bone-white fingers tight she held it and,
Whether more like child or adult I couldn’t say,
Howled these helpless words of blank despair:
“When I find someone to trust they walk away”.
That cry of stark and simple sorrow stopped me dead
And though she rushed ahead through ice and urgent tears
Her words held back, fixed in frost above the field
While in bewildered grief and uncomprehended fears
Her stride much shorter now, she hurried on
Reached the lower gate, and then was gone.

Stephen Novy

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Mike Harwood, on this Day 131 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS THRENODY, writes “Countering the Coronavirus Blues is based on Auden’s Funeral Blues, know as Stop all the Clocks, as read by John Hannah in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral”… Your Editor adds “Fewer planes overhead equate to a pause in foreign travel – let us nurture the sun as much as we can here at home and so stop the virus spreading.”

Countering the Coronavirus Blues
Apologies to W H Auden

Wind up our caring, light up our telephones,
take dogs for walks to escape from our homes.
Play the pianos of our talents; do not succumb,
sing out of windows ‘we are not alone.’

Now fewer planes in the flight path overhead,
let the small boy hear bird song instead.
Post in your windows your elderly needs,
let the healthy absorb worries; they will recede.

We are the North, the South, the East and West.
Fight the Covid virus, bring out our best;
at noon, at midnight, our talk, our song;
don’t get depressed by the Government’s wrongs.

The stars are needed now, light every one,
bring on the moon, and nurture our sun.
Don’t allow the virus to seep through the wood;
we can be strong, so light up our good.

Mike Harwood

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It is an inherent property of systems to have a tendency to go wrong or decay, to enter a gradual decline into disorder; and on this Day 130 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ENTROPY our poet Julia Usher waits for a firewall, an antidote to save us all.

System Errors

Our programs are infected
Corrupted,
The virus hits our systems,
Invasive;

Self-replicating genes spread the fire,
Exponentially:
A sickness with no cure.
Our software, cloud-connected
Succumbs.

No blame attached,
Even to those who cannot face
the isolation.

We wait for a Firewall, cloud-connected;
For the antidote to save us all –
A computer could not stop this programme
In its unknown basic language.

But computers scan a universe of possibilities
To decode the nature of this beast;
And create a vaccine at last,
To save us all.

Julia Usher

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Here is a clever poem, suitably enigmatic, and quite apposite on this Day 129 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS VACATION, at a time of shattered holiday dreams. Poet Chris Hardy muses that the hotel was called the Adonis and that readers will know what happened to him but he thought he’d stick to 2020 as a title. He makes no mention of wild boar though …

2020

The big hotel,
marble floors amplifying
speech and tread,
where a breakfast of
coffee, bread was served
as you sat in the echoes
or went on the terrace
above a beach of pebbles,
weed, an old shoe, rusted bolts,
tangled net and rope.

Our room overlooked
a red dust pitch
and concrete roads laid
through scrub and yellow grass
in the hope that someone
would come to fill the gaps,
but all that happened
was the hotel.

In the evening
the small town
was not improved
by having lost all trace
of its ancient past,
except for the sea
and the long mountain
lying on its side
looking at us
as our team won and lost
in every bar around the square.

Ten days to find
a reason why we’d come.
Sometimes we did –
the path to the sanctuary,
the small cave churches – but
mostly the usual slight
disappointment, even so
it was far better
than this.

Chris Hardy

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Has the fatigue of isolation so enveloped us that on this Day 128 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ENERVATION even “home” has become a black hole, drawing all that is benignant and wholesome into its inner core? Ekaterina Dukusina ponders this dilemma in her own inimitable style.

Home, sweet home

My sweet home looks tired.

For hundred days I have been wired to its table, sofa, bed, windows and balcony – looking for inner harmony. The home delivered a safety net; yet the sweetness seems spent, though the zoomed love was in ascent.

Have I consumed it all; has the virus made a hole? Or is it my vertigo – it feels like trying to retreat on a wobbling seat in a de-gravitated space where instead of a free will rules a free fall – of expired dreams, blurred memories, bent desires, split tips, feeble grips.

But this fall is not free, it is an irony. It has taken the place of the aspiring freedom – the breathing air of every affair, as we know it. The home is entitled to it – to unwind and restore its cool core; to pray and make its day; and in the eve – to welcome us, tired, with spirit well wired.

Home, dear home – of clay made, of love born, you will be again in sweet freedom sworn.

Ekaterina Dukusina

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The vagaries of Coronavirus and the truly horrible Covid-19 have taken over from the weather as the main topic of British conversation – when one has the opportunity to chat with friends. And despite the mainly fine weather we experience at present, there are still some grumps around, as Tony Oswick reminds us on this Day 127 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS PROTESTATION:

Ode to a grumpy old man

In life I have found, there’s so much around
that makes a man heartily sick.
But I’m not the type to grouse or to gripe
‘bout those things that get on my wick.

Post office queues and jokes that are blue,
shoddy workmen not caring a toss.
No ‘thank you’ or ‘please’, and people who sneeze,
cars not stopping when you want to cross.

People who swear, Boris’s hair,
shop workers who don’t give a damn.
Midges and gnats, hollering cats
and mutton that’s dressed up as lamb.

And Heaven forbid all those unruly kids,
hurricanes, heat-waves and storms.
Un-English grammar, fashion-world glamour
and filling in income tax forms.

Computers that break, spivs on the make,
failing to give up your seat.
Self-service tills, credit card bills
and litter that’s thrown in the street.

Footballers’ wages, trains that take ages,
men with ponytails just make me groan.
Infinitives split, roads that aren’t lit
unsolicited calls on the phone.

And now here to try us is coronavirus
where everyone’s keeping their distance.
Self-isolation is just desolation,
it’s not living – it’s purely existence.

I don’t mean to be sharp when I bitch and I carp
‘cos I’m really a cheerful old chappie.
But midst all the gloom between womb and the tomb –
it’s the moaning that keeps me so happy.

Tony Oswick

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Late July, and Day 126 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS PROCREATION: that’s 18 weeks since we started the poems project! Four months of lockdown and Simon Haines evinces no evidence of a post-lockdown baby boom. We can be proud of the British attitude to social distancing during these troubled times; and yet, honestly – some people …

Off the Table

Some people say there’ll be a boom
Of babies when the lockdown’s passed
Others strenuously disagree cos
Lots of us, it seems, just can’t be arsed.

Baby booms are an old wives fable
As sex is apparently “off the table”
One day it’ll all come back again
As soon as everyone feels able

In the meantime we must all just wait
Till we again feel stable
To smile and laugh and feel like having
Sex on the stairs or on the table.

Simon Haines

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We suggest you brace yourselves on this Day 125 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS PREDATION for some fiercely minted lines by Jan King. (A reminder: from today don’t forget to wear a mask when collecting your takeaway …)

The Attack

A quiet, hot, blue early morning.
Sun on my head.
Time to water.

Yolk-yellow roses bloom against the wall.
Bosomy pigeons bow sedately by the pool.
Bees fumble in the lavender.

I hoist the hose.

The air shatters
Something clatters
Straight at me
Out of the sun.
That’s an old trick
So you can’t see
The enemy
Or what it carries.

Carrion.
Or it will be.

Petroleum-shiny struggling starling wings,
Stretched neck
Buff pumping breast
Pinned to the ground.
Screeching beak
Gapes open
Open
Open
And again.

I stare, transfixed.
The hawk looks back.
I don’t exist for it.
It focusses its yellow eye elsewhere
And gets to work,
Spreading itself above its feebly cheeping prey.

Standing stock still
I cannot help admire its violent loveliness,
Its back and wings a handsome chestnut grey
Its head neat, silky, close-combed down.
Its breast a glorious, glowing apricot
Above exotic, fluffy pantaloons
Striped horizontal cream and brown
From which protrude
Green-yellow three-toed scaly claws
That grip until bright blood appears.

It dips its head.
It dips,
It dips,
It dips again and rips
Till tiny feathers float about.

Then, with a nonchalance I do not feel myself
It swings its cargo in the air
And bears it off across the chimney tops.

Jan King

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With apologies for being a bit late with today’s posting, on this Day 124 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS INCARCERATION – but here at last is Social distancing, a short poem by Simon Banks with a somewhat chilling final line.

Social distancing

The perimeter’s intended to impress:
a high, high brick wall unweathered, lichen-less,
colour from a child’s painting or a picture-book;
serious wrought-iron gates in fashionable black;
postbox, intercom and buttons, security camera.
Entry is controlled, disorderly world.

Exit is illusory.

Simon Banks

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Searching for beauty on this Day 123 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS SARABANDE our poet Carol Connell wanders the peaceful countryside; hoping for relief she seeks rainbows. But rainbows, of course, only come after rain …

Sweet Peace

Shelducks on the mudflats
Wild geese floating by
Buzzards soaring overhead
It’s good to be alive

A cuckoo in the woodland
Dappled sunlight on the ground
Robins sing above me
Sweet peace is all around

Curlews on the riverbank
Oyster catchers flapping by
Cows and calves on marshland
Beauty in mindful eyes

Goldfinches in the garden
Lilac’s sweetness on the air
Bees buzzing busily
Time to reflect and care

Time to come to our senses
Time for compassion and grief
Time to keep safe, be patient
Time for rainbows to bring us relief

Carol Connell

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Among the ranks of limerick-writers there must be few who have been called upon to provide an interesting rhyme for pandemic. So step forward Adrian Beckingsale on this Day 122 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS VERSIFICATION:

Cycling …

A girl and her boyfriend named Michael
Got together a lot to bi-cycle!
Throughout the pandemic
They’ve continued tandemic
So now they’ll soon need a tri-cycle!

Adrian Beckingsale

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Vaccines for Covid-19 are headline news today, in mid-July.Meanwhile Pete Langley raises the question of the role of science – ie his ‘virologist’ – pitted against the non-science of world leaders … even though he has ‘reservations about the efficacy, considering  how many mutations this bug has. Hence the one at a time’ …And so we roll on, through Day 121 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ALLEVIATION and into an uncertain future

Virologist at a convention for snake oil salesmen

I`m the real thing

– my concoction is authentic

 and will cure you

of all your imagined ills

before you eventually succumb

                  – but I am in a minority here.

What I promise

is not a patch

on some I have met in the lobby.

Here are Cardinals and Imams,

Presidents and anthropologists,

shamans and financiers,

Kings and cult leaders.

I cannot compete or converse

with these big fish.

My remedy

cures or sacrifices

only one at a time.

Pete Langley

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It’s a Sunday. It’s July 19th. Lockdown restrictions continue to be eased, but unhappy Gorgonius remains cautious. His anxiety and frustration has found its way into his dreams, as expressed in his nightmare poem It occurred … on this Day 120 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS DISQUIETUDE.

It occurred
Gorgonius in isolation …

There was a litany of reds —
strawberry, raspberry,
maybe plum conserve,
quiet and still.
Until the surface of that juicy red
began to boil and surge, and out
came two thin hopping things
that flopped and hopped
and flapped in a sticky sort of way.
Sticky frogs.

He felt they might
crawl about his feet
leaving a signature of jam.
Too thin for frogs –-
it occurred to him then that they
were young cockchafers, unable
to fly because of the swathes
of jam upon their wings.

He became confused –- the room
was too small for such
hopping sticky insects
but as there was no door, nor yet
a window, they would remain together
bound by threads of jam,
cocooned for good and silently
swaddled by grace.

Gorgonius

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Hope springs eternal in the poet’s breast.It’s Day 119 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CUPIDITY and Adrian May is beguiled by the implications of social distancing …
Viral lovesong

I love you for your

bold proximity –

When you dare to stand

six feet away from me

 

Then, my wicked love

you slowly ask

‘Do you want me to

take off my mask?’

 

By now, all of my

inhibitions gone

I say, ‘You look sexy

with it on’

 

And at the end of all

this dread disease

Love will bite back – we’ll be

 

as thick as fleas

Adrian May

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It’s Day 118 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS WILDNESS and Phil East finds solitude on the shores of the Thames Estuary, in this 3-verse Haiku – or would that be a 3-Haiku verse? …

Chalkwell Beach

Time to hit the heights?
Choose a four cornered ceiling
Or unwalled Thames sky

Alone on the beach
Holler “SOLITUDE!” out loud
And share the moment

Sea not drained away
Sleepy town can sleep easy
Now panic over

Phil East

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How our lives have been affected by isolation enforced by this pandemic – Michael Weightman’s poem on this Day 117 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS MUNDANITY describes the way in which his birthday’s excitements are compressed to such small activities …

Happy Birthday to Me …

I’ll sing it to myself this year
washing my hands like they said
too scared to light a candle

Opening cards fills a minute
as does recycling the envelopes
while I wait for the family FaceTime

Then there’s a knock at the door
a carrier bag left outside
and a label with my name

Eagerly I unwrap
ripping paper and rejoicing
a takeaway on a Tuesday

Michael Weightman

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A quantum view of the coronavirus is taken by Ekaterina Dukusina – it’s a refreshingly original concept, to be sure, the idea that the particles carrying the virus are too small to be observed and therefore they cannot exist. So summon up all your imagination, on this Day 116 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS QUANTUMISATION and hope for a virus-free future – but in the meantime don’t forget your masks, and keep up the social distancing.

Imagine

Imagine
it is all over – the blitz of this invisible tissue-lover,
its attacks on us – sturdy carriers of peace,
suddenly outnumbered in its mortal squeeze.

Imagine
it never was – this total stress on us –
builders of towns and planes and trains to carry
the heaviest load, but not this – too little too light
to fit the ocular site, and here is the quantum catch –
particles exist when seen, so it has never been!

Imagine
don’t pretend, reality can be re-imagined and sustained,
just don’t let your heart grow old and
keep your dreams on board and most of all –
don’t look at it, for Quantum’s sake!

Ekaterina Dukusina

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As the days and years slip past, Tom Fenton struggles, as do so many of us, with ageing – and although he persists in fighting the new clumsiness he sees the danger in this lethal virus. And in writing his poem Swan Song, on this Day 115 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ANTICIPATION he is waiting, waiting for the music.

Swan Song

When they asked Billy Connolly
If he would perform again, he said
“Well, you knoooow…”
Stretching the vowel in a parabola,
“You get slower as you get older,
And you struggle
To put your socks on.”

That was when I recognised
My getting dressed experience
For what it is:
Today you struggle with socks,
Tomorrow a shroud.

The danger doesn’t lie
In the new clumsiness
But in not thinking like a clumsy person,
In not having internalised each day’s
Loss of faculty. So you attempt,
Casually, the perilous descent,
Scorning the bannister.

And if that wasn’t enough
Now there is a virus
Specifically designed to cull
Me.

Ah, but I have a plan, a strategy for longevity.
I shall retreat to my garden, isolate myself
From everyone,
Prune my roses, clip my box,
And train my fruit trees. I shall sow
Brassicas, and watch them grow.
I shall wind wisteria round my little finger.
And when it all becomes too much
I’ll hire a gardener, and devote my time
To studying the Ephemeroptera.
I shall listen intently to the birds, and when
My hearing’s finally gone I’ll have
My fading memories of their song,
Stored where I keep Vivaldi’s Primavera,
The Pastoral Symphony
, and Chopin’s Marche
Funèbre.

I’m waiting, waiting for the music.

Tom Fenton

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What does poet Nick Browne see all around us on this mid-July Day 114 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS HOROSCOPY at a time when the heroism of front line workers is annulled by a lack of governmental leadership? Unchecked growth worldwide of the ranks of the dead? Keep alert folks, and watch out for those magpies …

Magpies

I don’t count magpies anymore, dread prophecies
of sorrow, mistrust joy, know secrets feed
conspiracies, we need no auguries:
the ranks of our beloved dead exceed
all expectations and will grow, unchecked
as inept, lazy, venal men evade
responsibility, no disrespect
intended to all front line workers made
into metaphors, heroes of a war
that needs, not martyrs, but good government,
with will, and wit, the leadership they’re for.
We’ve got liars, culling without consent.
So let’s keep alert so no one dies:
avoid ravens, ladders, single magpies.

Nick Browne

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Despite disease and despite deaths, and in the face of dawning concern that the relaxation of lockdown may be premature, merriment still abounds among our poets, as Ruth Wyllie is keen to impart in her wistful quatrain on this Day 113 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS EXUBERANCE

Wistful Thinking

Black stockings and suspender belt
I’ve never, ever wore
I’d better get a move on ’cause
I’m nearly seventy four

Cheers

Ruth Wyllie

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Sarah Nichols comes across a jostle of iridescent starlings in her poem Blossom on this Day 112 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS MURMURATION. The starlings disperse, which would be a fine metaphor for our times, if only Coronavirus would finally disappear …

Blossom

A winter tree, once bare-branched,
appears in flower again
as starlings jostle to claim a place.
The display of their iridescent plumage,
a bickering blossom.

Disturbed by my presence, they disperse;
as if their arguments have been settled
by a third party.
They keep face, depart
and bare the tree once more.

Sarah Nichols

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On this Day 111 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS PEREGRINATION here is a true to life poem The Pilgrims’ Way 2020 from Cathra Kelliher, who writes “There are closed doors wherever these kids look; literal and metaphorical. Just when they are meant to be feeling their wings, turning into their own lives away from family, they are told to sit on their hands in their parents’ houses and be good, keep people safe, be distant from friends, take no risks because they might kill someone else, for maybe a year of two until we’re all vaccinated. No one wants this situation, but it is a psychological time bomb. They will never get that time back again. And all the while they know full well that it will be them working to fill the countries coffers again. If they can find a job. I find it heart-breaking. Their loss in this time of COVID-19 is huge and unnoticed. It is devastating and will cripple a generation. Their loss becomes our loss.”

The Pilgrims’ Way 2020

my son is walking the Pilgrims’ Way
his brother’s Chaucer shoved
between the face mask and the hand san
he should be at uni
he should have a summer job
he should be in Crete
but he is with his small band of fellows
one step ahead, socially distanced

they want to overnight in churches
in the proper way, between the pews
but this, too, is ‘not allowed’
the ministers apologetic but unmoved
instead, they send photos from the outside
silent spires, church doors barred behind them
telling Tales out from Southwark
concrete becoming dust

good on them, everyone says, how constructive
but I see the space between the spires, the empty sky
glimpse the shadow in their WhatApp smiles
their casually languid figures fade
hard wired to live, they will not return
our modern Pilgrims
turn silently
fall from view whilst we bend, wash our hands

Cathra Kelliher

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It is a day in early July. Half a year has gone by since “the sons of death began to stalk our Earth”, as Paul Allchin writes in his poem Covid-19 2020 … People continue to die from this awful disease, in “a world forever changed”. Care home staff are still overworked and underpaid – and blamed. But on this Day 110 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS TRAVESTY the Government introduces ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ with a world-beating £10 off voucher. That’ll do the trick …

Covid-19 2020

Fluffy white clouds, clear blue skies,
the sons of death stalked our Earth.
Invisible saboteurs of our cellular core,
a global plague in another form, returned.

Deaths in hospitals rocketed.
In residential homes the vulnerable died.
Many undiagnosed …
the virus hidden behind comorbid decline.

Life in lockdown, futures on hold.
Economics frozen, nations isolated at home.
Businesses closed, ghost high streets abound.
Every one’s lives stripped to the bone.

Domestic online working became the norm.
Millions of employees furloughed.
Children learning via a pc.
Child care by families multitasking alone.

New routines established, shopping once a week.
Social distancing, two metres, a shield to avoid defeat.
Connecting to others by social media, Zoom, the phone.
Connecting to nature, the solo walks, fresh air.

Will those lichen encrusted park benches,
that memorialise the dead,
soon record the roll call,
of our fallen Covid-19 friends?

North London’s green belt become my domain.
Sycamore, maples, oak, conifers,
willows weep near ponds with ducks and swans.
Each shade of green seemed so much more vivid than before.

Covid-19, a world forever changed,
the sons of death leave a legacy yet to be seen.

Paul Allchin

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Steve Pottinger with his poem dreamtime on this Day 109 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS DYSFUNCTIONALITY feels the tension and contradiction in this “new normal” after so many weeks of isolation … Steve has generously given us this poem, which recently featured on Carol Ann Duffy’s #WWWAN project.

dreamtime

two months in, he can barely remember
a time before, has pared life back
to weekly shop, the bins, a newspaper
that yellows on the kitchen table
puzzles half-finished, headlines unread

he sleeps late, wakes early
snoozes in the afternoon
his hours, it seems, all out of season
the structure of his life dissolving
like tissue paper in long-awaited rain
lacking any rhyme or reason

he talks to ghosts
swears he rolls over in bed
and finds the weight and heat of her there
reaches out to nothing but cold memory
switches the light on, creaks downstairs,
stands in the back door
letting the night in
and waits for sunrise

by day, he shares crumbs
with the blackbird and robin
who come into his kitchen for food
names them, tells them stories
of his childhood, chuckles
of course, that were before your time
is rewarded with birdsong

twice he has snapped to
standing at the window
clasping a mug of sugared tea
he can’t recall making
and wouldn’t drink for the life of him
has poured it away,
boiled the kettle for coffee
found himself later sipping
once more sugared tea

those first long ago weeks
he thirsted for the bar, for evenings
marked by the smooth glide of a pint
now he watches bees get drunk on nectar
loses himself in the slow rhythm
of poppies opening
and the antics of squirrels

in the early hours, alert and sleepless
he walks the town as streetlights
click off one by one beside him
holds his breath as the dog-fox
trots home to curl and snooze and dream
so close he can hear
the pad pad pad of paw on pavement

in the east, colour starts to bleed into the sky.
he wonders if he will ever quite return
from this new normal.

recently featured on Carol Ann Duffy’s #WWWAN project

© Steve Pottinger 25 May 2020

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At this moment in early July, as lockdown is lifted, we begin to see disruptive spikes of resurgent coronavirus, and as Colin Pink writes in his short poem Late Night Movie, “No Bruce Willis character will turn up to save us”. So even though the poem is set in Springtime the sentiment is still apposite now that it is Summer, and on this Day 108 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS TREPIDATION we are still facing the invisible enemy …

Late Night Movie

We’re trapped in a badly made disaster movie
Spring brings sprouting fear that’s contagious
This invisible enemy is fought by an antibody
We’re trapped in a badly made disaster movie
There will be late-night repeats before victory
No Bruce Willis character will turn up to save us
We’re trapped in a badly made disaster movie
Spring brings sprouting fear that’s contagious

Colin Pink

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Lockdown is easing in all four nations of the UK but shielding is not yet paused. Rightly so, perhaps, but here Linda Lines, on Day 107 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS INCARCERATION, raises her flag of defiance and survival in “Shielding”

“ Shielding” Sonnet

Never felt alone before lockdown.
Never felt my age until now. Told over
and again I’m vulnerable. You could have
asked me how I felt. Were there underlying
issues? Was I thin or fat, a diabetic? Was I
white or black? Was I fit, did I exercise,
eat healthy food? Was I male, female or other?
No. Stay invisible. Don’t go out. Play dead.

Born amidst the blitz – dodging buzz-bombs.
Raised on rationing, make do and mend.
Resilient women took over with camaraderie,
self-denial and fortitude; hardship at our
mothers’ knees. We’re strong, we’re survivors.
Independent – here to stay. Don’t take that away.

Linda Lines

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We are now on a knife-edge, what with Covid-19, loss of species and natural habitat, and climate catastrophe, between recovery and failure … but “Pessimism need not kill our hopes for a better future” (says Richard Horton in his book The Covid-19 Catastrophe – see Day 100) and today Anne Boileau asks, in her poem Imperilled, if we might be the last of our kind, on Day 106 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS IMPERILMENT. So let’s just hope we’re not.

Imperilled

Do they know they’re the last of their kind?
Two white rhinos, placidly graze
while David Attenborough lays his hand
on the mother. Only two females remain.

Hides like plated armour, tough as rind,
stolid, indifferent to the camera’s gaze,
this giant of the savannah, doomed ruminant,
hunted for the inflated price of their horn.

Massive, impregnable, bereaved, maligned,
corralled in a zoo for the rest of their days,
because their horns were thought to enhance
reproductive performance in homo sapiens.

As if our species itself were in peril,
The last of our kind – prophecy fulfilled?

Anne Boileau

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July 4 2020 – is this truly Liberation Day? Will it be a test of our common sense as the pubs regroup? Hopefully we will stay safe. Indeed as Day 105 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS JUBILATION dawns, that old bruiser Gorgonius senses a coming-to of consciousness, out of his basement of dreams:

Liberation Day

in the basement of dreams
in its gloomy obscurity
I pick my dubious way
over rubble

mushrooms protrude
from dank walls where
there is a dirt-specked
cobwebbed door

push through push though
to where no people are
in the glittering ballroom
full of voices

a straw haired cloth doll sprawls
on a gilded chair
I lift her in my arms
we dance on the tilting floor

unable to breathe
I am oppressed
the weight on my chest
is insupportable

I lie prone
the Devil rides on my back
somewhere a ventilator wheezes
am I to be saved

turn him carefully
say the voices
and a hundred hands
deliver me to the light

Gorgonius

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As travel and quarantine regulations begin to be relaxed in England we hear, on this Day 104 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS DISCOMBOBULATION, from Antony Johae, writing in Beirut. In this previously published poem, he finds himself befuddled by the modernity of Byblos Bank, one of the top banks in Lebanon. Poetrywivenhoe declares itself a non-flying website, so far as tourism goes (for ecological reasons) but accepts the need for flying for business purposes and for visiting family. And at the same time, we have a definite soft spot for Beirut …

At Byblos Bank
from Lines on Lebanon

After parking, glass confronts us,
my wife, my daughter and me.
It fills a space – the entrance.
A part could be window
another – door. I look for a crack
that might show an opening,
put out my palm to push
and the glass slides open.

My wife swipes the ticket dispenser –
No number comes out.
She swipes again – the same.
A guard fingers downwards
– this dispenser’s not a cell phone game –
presses on the button
and a slip slides out.

Waiting seats look like boxes in a row,
some padded, others glass-topped.
Wife and daughter sit.
I make to be between them.
They laugh, for this is no seat
but a square glass table-top.

Byblos seems so ancient,
first words formed by Phoenicians
letters incised with stylus
foundation for further enterprise.
This bank’s constructed to surprise
doesn’t have a human touch
symmetry, scale, sense – all out of the window
or could it be the door?
I feel my number’s up
I can be dispensed with.
Plato’s table may be a chair
or vice versa.
I might as well be standing on my head,
everything’s up in the air.

Antony Johae
Published in London Grip New Poetry Spring 2019

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Lesley Constable in this poem, on Day 103 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS COMMEMORATION, says ‘I will be an ancient memory. Tell me the story of my life.’  But this is not a personal, self-referential poem. It is the dead speaking, and it honours the Collective Unconscious or Ancestral Memory.  According to Jung the psyche is a repository, the evolving thread of thought, hopes, dreams and fears of each generation, and through this human lineage we live on. Many have now died by the hand of Covid-19; we shall not forget them.

Ancient Memory

I will be an ancient memory. Tell me the story of my life.
What did I honour? What did I love, of all things that exist and in my memory? I will tell you.
I never tired of the trees in all their moods. The sweet face of a well-loved dog. Irritated small children screaming full throttle like the banshees. The passion of life coursing through us all.
I watch, paying attention with love. The insects of the summer crawling our walls each week a new one.
The small joke between us when the corners of the mouth play like a tickle and the eyes meet.
This is who I was. This is who I am watching and paying attention. The kindnesses shared with strangers – brothers and sisters all.
If we move on and forget, because this is our time, this is our lives, know that the memory of you remains locked in our hearts,
A collective memory, a shared memory for us and all who pass.

Lesley Constable

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Despite the impending relaxation of lockdown in the several nations of the UK as we enter this new month of July, there are still many of us in isolation, or distanced from our loved ones. There are couples who have been apart for weeks on end, even finding themselves locked down in different countries. Poet Sue Wallace-Shaddad looks for some measure of solace on this Day 102 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS SEPARATION

In Absentia
15 May 2020

Try hugging yourself
your fingers stretching
as far as they can go

eyes closed, imagine
warm feelings spread
in a welcome glow

the rhythm of your heart
beating to time
steady and slow

your sigh of comfort
staving off tears
you cannot show

you can hug whenever
wherever you want
no-one will ever know

Sue Wallace-Shaddad

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We have now pushed past the 100 mark, and what does the new day bring us? Neither we nor the world are yet out of the Coronavirus woods; maybe things are improving, but the good folk of Leicester would probably disagree. The virus is still around. Midway upon the journey of our life we find ourselves within a forest dark, for the straightforward pathway has been lost.
Thank you Dante Alighieri … So on this dull grey morning of Day 101 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS INCEPTION are we entering a new dawn, or will it be the same old, same old? Shall we be rejoicing, on 4 July, with the cheerful celebrating crowds? Or perhaps Simon Banks has the measure of the future …

Silent

There are grey dreams where people slide
across grey pavements like bubbles
silently and where square buildings are silent
with empty wide windows and with entrances
no-one goes in or leaves.

Sometimes the bubbles burst.

What is a countryman’s image of desolation?
A marsh full of singing birds and midges,
a desert with larks?
An eyeless cottage, garden bramble-colonised
where finches nest above a plastic toy?

Here, will only policemen speak?
Please answer the last question and proceed.

Simon Banks

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I should like to think that every one of these poems, right the way up to Day 100 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CENTENARY, has been written for those who have lost their lives from Covid-19, as a tribute to the courageous and overworked heroes of the NHS, and for the vast army of essential workers who have kept the country ticking over for us. We have invited Poetrywivenhoe’s in-house poet Gorgonius to present the Day 100 poem at this time of continued concern and insecurity. An acknowledgement is due to Gordon Meade in that the style or format of the poem is inspired – though it is not the same – by his new collection Zoospeak. In the title and in the opening two stanzas words have been taken from Richard Horton’s important book The Covid-19 Catastrophe, published only four days ago:

We are wounded

an epidemic
an epidemic is a sudden
an epidemic is a sudden disastrous event

a sudden disastrous event is a hurricane
is a hurricane or is an earthquake
is a hurricane or an earthquake or a flood

a pandemic
a pandemic is a worldwide epidemic
is a worldwide hurricane a worldwide earthquake

so Covid-19 has been
so Covid-19 has been a hurricane
so Covid-19 has been a hurricane that has uprooted

that has uprooted all our lives
all our uprooted lives have been set down
our lives have been set down in a new place

in a new place where social cohesion
where social cohesion is sorely tested
is sorely tested as we ourselves are sorely tested

as we ourselves are tested
are tested or not yet tested for coronavirus
are not yet tested for coronavirus antibodies

for coronavirus antibodies which may be a chimera
which may be a chimera charting past history
charting past history not conferring immunity

if not conferring immunity
if not conferring immunity against the virus
against the virus which still persists

where do we stand?
where do we turn for a stable future?
the future must be reimagined …

Gorgonius

We are wounded: The Covid Catastrophe, Richard Horton, Polity Press 2020 – available from The Wivenhoe Bookshop and other booksellers.

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We endure, and we dream. We find we have reached Day 99 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CONSERVATION and today we dream with Marion Oxley of the sick tigers. We dream that we are not to blame …

I dream

of lemurs in face masks
their gloved hands mopping my fevered brow,
holding my hand, telling me it will be alright.
The sick tigers do not blame you.

I dream of the bright blue body
of the cleaner wrasse fish
darting between fingers and toes.
Nibbling away at my contaminated skin.

I dream of the giraffe tapping at my window
long-lashed eyes looking in, wondering why?
Bending to leave a basket of fruit,
a jar of flies on my doorstep.

I dream of a pangolin curled into a pillow
beneath my head, in the morning its hands
will pray for me
and I will weep.

I dream of an open door
and the trees where I can hang.
Hide my head beneath
a leathered wing and breathe again.

Marion Oxley

Four tigers and three African lions tested positive for Coronavirus at the Bronx Zoo, New York in April – the first known cases of a non-domesticated animal with Covid-19 symptoms

(Our REVIEWS page will give a link to a recent review of Gordon Meade‘s new collection Zoospeak).

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Today we hear from Nick Browne who on Day 98 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS PERSPECTIVE bewails the loss of many things, not only loss of patience with the chaos of lockdown – but the important thing is that gratitude and perspective are not lost.

Lost

So far, I’ve lost my keys and fountain pen,
my silver ring and patience with lockdown.
I left my sense of humour someplace when
looking for answers. As I’m not renowned
for fortitude in the face of setbacks,
I’ve lost my mojo and my bearings too.
My desk’s in chaos, beds not made, a lack
of ticked tasks in my list of things to do.
Lost the will to watch the daily briefing,
lost focus for work, can’t read a novel.
I scroll Facebook, watch films, vaguely leafing
through old articles on foreign travel.
Not lost gratitude though, this toll of lives
and livings lost, shocks: perspective survives.

Nick Browne

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During these past days and weeks of anti-Covid poetry, it has been a treat to discover such a wide range of voices, all of which have made this parade of poems so inspiring. And today, with storms brewing, on Day 97 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS TEMPEST we find the distinctive voice of Ekaterina Dukusina recalling this Spring’s cherry blossom …

The Cherry Tree

After three weeks of isolation I step out in elation.

The first thing I see is a blossoming cherry tree;
I rush to it, so does the opposite breeze and a flurry
of cherry petals lace my face turning it bridal as in survival.

Yet, my senses surrender to the tantalising cherry fragrance.

It strikes a spell in every cell; its power defies logic;
it is revered in Japan; it is sweeter than saffron,
which is dearer than gold’s price.

It is the first thing you will smell in paradise.

Ekaterina Dukusina

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Reaching Day 96 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CONFRONTATION, we are waiting to see which way the infection curve is going to go. Claudia Court’s brief poem Lockdown Fox expresses our fears that the virus may be still around (do not be misled – it is) along with our now ingrained sense that by maintaining physical distancing we still gain a measure of self-protection. It is so ingrained that even the fox is honouring social distancing!

Lockdown Fox

A slim vixen sprawls across the road
languid in the quiet, viral dusk

mangy tail flicking, ears pricking
as I stroll past and one of us coughs.

A moment of fear, then we relax –
both satisfied we’re six feet apart.

Claudia Court

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Now it is Day 95 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS OLFACTORY and it is to be hoped that Nick Browne, like our stricken nation, is starting to recover from symptoms of Covid-19. Nick writes of Anosmia and of the awful sense of loss of a vital part of life, mirroring the sensations described in the prose poem back on Day 89. As Hannah Stone began to recover from her anosmia, she smelled the stench of bullshit; but sweeter things have scent again for Nick, and indeed one may discern in Nick’s poem a feeling of hope.

Anosmia

fresh ground coffee
tasted like black dust
chocolate was hard lard
softening in my mouth
coating my tongue and teeth
with the aftertaste of
nothing

online I bought essentials
oil of lavender, orange
and eucalyptus,
smelling of  water
in a costly vial,
so foolish, I almost sent
it back

I almost smelled ginger
in a jar today and at the edge
of sense, rosemary hand cream
the citric hint of tangerine,
toothpaste, soap, has scent again
for after all these losses comes
the gain.

Nick Browne

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The morning light glows kindly on this Day 94 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CLARIFICATION – but how clear are the Government’s intentions?
An announcement is expected, and it seems certain that lockdown rules are to be relaxed. Today’s poet Sara Impey says ‘Take care, take care, the pressure is falling.’

Crack Willow

Sculpted by gales, its grimacing bark
is a fractured toothscape of splinters and shards,
a shattered wound that gapes and contracts
in the fractious wind,
a gust away from a fatal split.

The ratcheting friction of wood against wood
explodes in a code that’s consonant-rich:
dentals and fricatives, the clicks of a dolphin,
ship-timber creaks that stretch and stretch
to the end of a gasp.

Other trees answer to swell the cacophony,
chafing, chattering, protesting, warning.
Like a rumour that ricochets through a crowd,
across the floodplain the willows are calling:
‘Take care, take care, the pressure is falling.’

Sara Impey

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‘Tis the top of the morning so pleasant and clear on Day 93 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS AWAKENING – and our poet Paul Waring rouses himself with coffee. There are mountains to conquer, or not …

New Mornings

Rouse yourself
come to with coffee

one more
for good measure

befriend muesli
and the news

find a window
to stare

take your mind
to whichever mountain

you’ll conquer –
or not

watch
and listen

expect
to be exasperated

mask up –
face the day.

Paul Waring

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Day 92 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS DISPOSSESSION: in today’s poem Dónall Dempsey feels the effects of lockdown … the ordinary familiar that we take for granted simply because it is invisible most of the time; how it is to see eternity in a child’s smile.

To see the Pacific in a puddle
for Fiona being a belated birthday poem on her lockdown birthday

I miss
the hug hellos

I miss
the kiss goodbyes.

The looking
into eyes

the laughter
the surprise.

How much we
took for granted

the simple
sharing of a cuppa

the simple
touching of a hand.

Some day when all this
will be a story to be told

when we will be
unearthed as if

from an archaeological dig
blinking at the future

the ordinary things
the bric-à-brac

of who we are
and how

will be precious
as anything to be

found in a museum
the jewels of the everyday.

To see the Pacific
in a puddle

eternity in
a child’s smile

a walk in the wood
the infinity of a wild flower

the kissing you goodbye
the hugging you hello.

Dónall Dempsey

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Day 91 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS STASIS – we sense the ennui of lockdown, when maythorn flowers refuse to develop, in Moira Garland’s mystical poem …

Perpetual motionless
when maythorn flowers refuse to develop

Must I forever gaze upon the may?
Hostile to their blossoms’ deadly scent
these flowers stop at now and disobey
the seasons’ circular thoughtful chant.

Hostile to blossoms’ deathlike scent
everlasting now — a thrill tormented
or seasons’ regular thoughtful chant
transformed to goblin faces — compelled

to be everlasting now — a thrill tormented
glorious hips waiting now — left behind
transformed to goblin faces — compelled
to disavowal of the time ahead.

Glorious hips waiting now — left behind.
Envy of sticking thorns’ year-round pricks?
Disavowal of the time ahead?
Neither sun nor rain will convince

these flowers they are not thorns, not trapped
for ever in incomparable white.
Whatever weather, the flowers still hold their grip
yet being blind, seeing only false light.

Now and for ever in its incomparable white
will I gaze forever now on may?
A temporary blindness affects their sight:
flowers should give way to fruit — the next bouquet.

Moira Garland

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Day 90 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS DISCONNECTION. In this short and jewel-like poem Lara Frankena evokes our contemporary quotidian separations …

Stolen conversation

Meeting by chance
in the woods of the heath

we chat unobserved,
laugh a little – at a remove

then exit via separate paths
like lovers parting after a tryst.

Lara Frankena

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Day 89 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ENDURANCE. In Hannah Stone’s prose poem Day 534 it seems as if lockdown is stretching on and on into the future, and no sign of it ever lifting …

Day 534

Anosmia is added to the list of symptoms, and in your home the unprecedented level of cleanliness means there is nothing left to smell except trace elements of terror. Week after week of sunshine scorched away the scent of new mown grass, and the fragrance of lilac and apple blossom flirt, just out of reach. You sneeze once too often for hay fever, raise back of hand to brow like Victorian hysteric. There is no fever. The daily walk takes you past a stables, and the sweet rot of horse-manure wakes up your senses. You are almost sick with relief. You return
in time for the daily bulletin from Number Ten. All is well. The stench of bullshit pulses like neon lights, screams like a banshee, curdles between your fingers.
You swab your conscience, wash your hands. Make coffee.

Hannah Stone

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

We have reached Day 88 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ABANDONMENT, and Simon Banks sees how the natural world still persists when there is no human presence …

Without

Spring goes on without them. Green spreads
skylark sings wild on a string
flowers flower, linnet pair twitters, this day the nightingale’s
throaty bubble tumbles from hawthorn thicket
vixen lurks, for she has young
bees ricochet from flowers, nothing is wrong
spring goes on without them.

Simon Banks

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

It is Day 87 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS RECOLLECTION, and Les
Bell
 remembers the birds of Costa Rica and the flight home in March straight into 14 days self-isolation …

Flying

Colibri, kingfisher, resplendent quetzal,
Toucan, red tanager, and frigate bird –
A raft of memories from the old blurred
Normal while the great pandemic fell;

Hearing the distant howler monkeys roar –
Now we must stay at home and seldom drive,
Though daily walk and gladly still arrive
Behind – but once a day – the old front door.

From there with Wi-Fi we again depart
To watch the quetzal flying in slow motion,
Or exchange video clips that quell emotion
With bursts of mirth and democratic art.

In isolation, the two-person version,
Romantic poets walk in the moonrise
Through a new biography, and we are wise
If we can live together without passion

Surfacing too readily. The light of common
Dying day is this sad pastoral
And rest from mad pursuit in the great beautiful
Aviary of the brain. Human and human,

Daphne odora at the risky threshold,
Go with gloved hands and smile
During this interval. And yet awhile
The curtain falls on many who grow cold.

Planes are grounded, city roads are quiet
The hours of mortal solitude revolve,
The fatal riddle no-one yet can solve
Has spread its wings of fear around the planet.

Leslie Bell

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

It is going to be hot again on this Day 86 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ISOLATION, certainly here in Essex. All around us people are enjoying the sunshine and the (?too early) relaxation of lockdown rules, while We, the vulnerable, know that we must remain at home, for as Gill McEvoy is aware, something deadly is still out there. Stay safe …

We the vulnerable

told to stay home, told to stay in at all costs,
are the faces behind the window glass,
looking out at a world we are not part of,
a world we no longer understand.

Something waits out there, waits,
malign and deadly, waits
for the moment our vigilance fails.

We are afraid to touch the post,
afraid to touch the food left for us,
afraid to be too close
to any human being not ourselves.

No-one touches us, there is no voice
to reassure us when we wake
alone in darkness.

We are faces at a window,
staring at a world we lived in once.
Such sadness in our eyes.

Gill McEvoy

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Turning and turning in the widening gyre /  The falcon cannot hear the falconer; / Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.Thus wrote Yeats.And now, on Day 85 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS GYRATION, as the government drifts in its flailing attempts to provide some guidance to a bemused nation, Bryan Thomas finds inspiration in the soaring flight of the seagull …

Seagull

Inisolation, I breathe the drafting air and gaze with envy at his abandon

Sea airs support and comfort him in flight

……………sustain him as he breathes;

………………. wings spread wide he soars

……………………unbound by gravity or need

……………………. Drifting down he lands,

………. feet first – a splash – a flap to cut his speed;

…. he shakes his head. Now he is safe afloat

and paddles to the bank to feed.

The tide is falling and as the mud unfurls.

………. He stakes his claim along its edge

…………. to dig for salty fare upon his patch.

……………………He oversteps the mark and is squawked off.

……….His carefree world has bound’ries after all so, like our tangled daily spats, he brawls against the noisy opposition for a place, and makes it

…….as the daylight fails.

…..I yearn for his abandon; his ability to soar.

I must not stay grounded but will

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . .  .  .  .  .  .                                               own.

……………………….. …..my

…………………………of

……………………….thermal

………………………a

…………………….on

………………….lift off

Bryan Thomas

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Although through these times of lockdown the lane has been winding, and the causeway narrow, we have reached Day 84 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS COMMISERATION and Anne Boileau journeys on with more than a small degree of hope …

Consolation

When the lane is winding and the causeway narrow
and you’re not quite sure where you ought to be,
with nothing but a sack of sorrow,
a broken style and some flints of memory;

it’s dusk, the light is fading, you can’t see,
and yesterday’s more vivid than tomorrow,
you’ll find you do reach where you need to be
though the lane is winding and the causeway narrow.

Anne Boileau

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

 

Today is Day 83 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS REVERIE and Mervyn Linford muses on the death of time in his poem Time-shift.

Time-shift

April 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic

There are surprises beside the hedge –

memories unwritten in the earth

like stitchwort stars and cowslips

that emerge from the depths

of history.

Hornbeam and maple coppice in this green lane

where an ancient wood once stood

… . – are a line of thought –

between the fields of rape and winter wheat

… .  .and the skylark singing.

Where the headland meets the furrows

the stem of an old clay pipe

protrudes from a ploughman’slips

. . .  .in my bridled mind

and the war

. . . .  ….and the Spanish flu

. . . . . . . ….. are the death of time

. . . . . . . . . . ……as we walk together.

Mervyn Linford

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

It is Day 82 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS BAKERY and a ‘lockdown gift’ appears on the doorstep to give Stewart Francis both surprise and hope …

A Sourdough Surprise
……. For Gill

A Sourdough Surprise
arrived today – stopped on the step
of my front door and there stayed
till I picked up my friend’s email,
which told me of her lockdown gift.

What a nice thing for her to have done!
Sourdough loaves – not least
those that come ready-sliced – are a kind
of seventh heaven for me, my mind,
and my tum. It’s not just the sour taste
of lactic acid and fermented yeast
and other stuff from which it’s made
that appeals, but the whole feel
of the loaf – its lightness to the touch
and the look for my eyes to feast
on; its wealth for wellness and health;
and the thought it brings that there’s still hope
for folk, whether we are locked up
or down, to be able to see such
beauty that gives delight and uplift.

Stewart Francis

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Day 81 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS SHAKEDOWN: there is a feeling that things are slowly moving towards an ending. Adrian May finds kindness under a stamp-sized window of old blue sky …

In the restrictions

At the end of something
when an ending comes
how scared we are
how lonesome

In the silence
amid the sirens
someone decent
is doing something kind.

In the essential shop
a teenage assistant
is talking down an old man
who is behaving like a kid

Someone rendered poorer
and any levelled king
dream of racing, gathering;
under a stamp-sized window

of old blue sky

Adrian May

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Day 80 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS RESURGENCE and we are delighted to feature a poem from County Meath. The High Nelly bicycle is a symbol of former times in Ireland; Frances Browne writes that the High Nelly was in fact the only mode of transport available to many during the early and middle years of the last century – it was a very common sight around the Irish countryside up until the sixties. Now it is making a comeback; the High Nelly lives on…

Vamoose

(In lockdown and stumbling upon my abandoned High Nelly)

I unweave her
from the clutch of
cobwebbed cupboards
huddled
in the back of the barn
my father built.
My dame in rusted plate,
in perished tyres, in brakes
locked
in their
own
frozen
time.

I settle on
her dusty seat.
And she succours me.
Like she did
back in the day.
Back in a time when,
as one,
we journeyed free.

I will mend her.

And then,
I will hold her tight.
And then,
we will
vamoose.
We will cut ourselves
loose
from Covid’s damned blight.

Frances Browne

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

It is early and it is quiet this June morning, and on this rather grey Day 79 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS SOLILOQUY many of us still remain in self-isolation; in particular those of us who are truly alone, as Pete Langley so eloquently expresses in his poem:

Solitaire

How can I confine this conversation

to the inane?

I woke up this morning

and you wanted to talk about everything

at once,

which is good and fine

but there is much to be done.

I have to wash and dress,

then there is the ritual

of coffee-making,

ruminating on toast,

inspecting the latest budding

of hibiscus and montana

– and shrubs are waiting to be pruned

before the birds arrive to nest.

Your need for solace

has to be prioritised

into the right place on the list,

so if you can restrain yourself

we might wait

until after I find someone else

to talk to

….anyone else.

                  Pete Langley

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

Again a Sunday morning, hoping for a long lie on this Day 78 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS REVIVIFICATION. Dónall Dempsey finds he is being given the gift of another day

Woke up it was a Covid morning

we break the waters
of sleep

awake to the caress
and kiss of us

the gasp of
reality

our dreams still clinging
to our newly created selves

we being given
the gift of another day

to live our lives
even in these Covid times

the simple joy of being
alive.

before we once again
dive into sleep

and dreams gather us
to themselves

inventing who we will be
tomorrow

Dónall Dempsey

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

For Gordon Hoyles on this Day 77 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS PURIFICATION someone in high places is washing their hands …

The Devil’s Covid

Mouth to mouth I could have saved you
but I know you’ll understand,
I had nothing against you.
But with consequences dire
of close-up droplet breathing
I chose to wash my hands.

I had nothing against you.
But I know you’ll understand,
so I trust you won’t damn me
as the scapegoats are to blame
for your succumbing to curdling Covid,
and we’ll make them turn the clock back
as I calmly wash my hands.

Now, I hope you will excuse me,
being righteous I’ll just wash my hands.

Gordon Hoyles

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Day 76 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CONFESSIONAL: occasionally a gem of a poem goes walkabout, and I hereby confess that this has happened to It’s only for twelve weeks which has been languishing unread in the Powiv email Inbox for some time. But it has surfaced at last, and although the cherry blossom – so anticipated in the poem – may by now have been and gone, Ivor Murrell’s poem still expresses the feelings that so many of us must have been experiencing during lockdown.

It’s only for twelve weeks

Listen. It’s the silence of my childhood —
imposed by the virus from a distant bat,
as I am shielded in my seventies from its touch.

Blackbirds sing louder, sound travels further,
they can now hear distant males reply,
whilst we have sunshine to mock our lockdown.

Everything firmly struck from my diary
by line after line, for day after day.
Adrift from society for a year’s quarter.

The eager Spring fears no constraint
on the village green the giant white cherry
daily creeps  towards its ‘white-out’.

Ladybirds gem stalks in quickening growth.
Paired ducks explore the flower beds as
we watch from the windows, and wait.

Ivor Murrell

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Pelion upon Ossa, horror upon horror in the USA. Here farce upon tragedy. Here, on this Day 75 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS EPICUREANISM we find that the redoubtable Phil East is a great believer in the food of the gods. Or at any rate in a thickened mixture of milk and eggs. And why not …

Vanilla custard

In times like these I’m a great believer
in turning to vanilla custard
for comfort and salvation.
Vanilla custard
has amazing restorative properties
and is good for the soul.
It has a happy yellow colour
and is always pleased to see you.
However,
I find people can sometimes get too demanding…

“Ambrosia – RIGHT NOW!”
Flung high like a custard pie
The tin hits his face.

Phil East

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Now that we are into June, Gill McEvoy on this Day 74 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS RETROSPECT looks back at the month of March and sees how ‘distancing’ works in the natural world.

Of all we looked at in March

onion-dome buds on the sycamore,
green and fattening,
mahogany spears of buds on the beech
spaced so far apart they seemed anti-social,
the dusky blues of the alder catkins,
and the triple crown of buds
that mark the finial of ash twigs,
a trinity St Patrick might have used
if he had not found the shamrock

it’s the space
between the dark buds of the beech
that we remember now,
their perfect skill at social distancing.

Gill McEvoy

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

AWAKE! for Morning in the Bowl of Night /
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
this was Edward Fitzgerald’s rendering of the opening lines of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam –
and on this Day 73 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS FILIGREE we hear the delicate sounds of life. But Alwyn Marriage has premonitions of a cruder world as we come out of lockdown …

Audible

birdsong starting on C sharp
. . .   .exploring all emotions
. . .   .from warning, morning joy,
. . .   .alarm and even melancholy
. . .   .before ending in a trill

a snoozy buzz
 . . .   burrowing into
. . .  . a flower’s bell
. . .   .leaving only a fuzzy
. . .   .rear end visible

a swish
. . .   .as swallows soar
. . .   .high overhead, carving
. . .   .a pattern of surprising
. . .  . sound through blue sky

trees
. . .   .murmuring suspicious
. . .   .secrets through their
. . .   .leaves as they relish
. . .   .the slightest breeze

At the threat
that this could all be taken back
replaced by the drone of aircraft,
roar of traffic, clatter of machinery,
jangle of cash and shouts of avarice,
how could we not grieve?

Alwyn Marriage

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Day 72 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS FURLOUGH: it is June. In the hot sun the May tree has blossomed, and the month of May is over. Tony Oswick ponders the duality of language.

May
till May be out (yes we know)

Is poetry contagious? Perhaps not.
Or possibly infectious? That’s rot.
Avoid it like the plague – that’s what I heard.
Unless you should evade. What is the word?

It’s time to flaunt – or more correctly flout.
Discover or invent? There’s always doubt.
Imply? Infer? What context should I use?
I’ll never win. I always loose. Or lose.

To who should I refer? And then to whom?
Will he except – accept it’s doom and gloom.
The promise is I premise to agree
Myself or my or I? Or is it me?

I shall – or will – do all things that I should.
I’ll saviour what the savour says is good.
And slander? Libel? English grammar’s fey!
But pack it in? I might. Or then I may.

Tony Oswick

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

It’s Sunday. Day 71 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS UNDERSTANDING. The child that is born on the Sabbath day is bonny and blithe, and good and gay, and may possibly be back at school tomorrow … Kate Foley, on this Sunday morning, envisages a new world where we will be alive to Nature in all its variety of birds, leaves – and viruses – without the dead hand of (?unquestioning) belief.

Sunday morning

Belief. Too heavy a word
to cross that eye-widening
leap of the heart
at buds still budding
almost as if
nothing’s happening.

That little globe,
our human world,
like a paperweight
when you make it snow,
floats above the simpler world
of birds, leaves – and viruses.

Somewhere men with shovels
are burying the dead,
while those whose smoke
is given to air, alive with birds,
find their own memorial
in clouds.

Is it too much to hope, perhaps,
we’ll lose that weighty doorstop
belief, and find instead
our faith, our place, our joy and loss,
as creatures in the world
of birds, leaves and viruses?

Kate Foley

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Saturday 30 May, and Day 70 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ISOLATION – the weekend brings more hot weather and the important question: are lockdown restrictions being relaxed too early? Tim Gardiner takes a light-hearted approach to self-isolation, from the perspective of a Bond villain in this piece of tanka prose. This Japanese form combines the two modes of writing, verse and prose. Tanka, the verse component, or “short song,” is best known in its five-line, 5/7/5/7/7 syllable count style, but both tanka and haiku commonly abandoned syllabic meter in 20th century Japan and the adoption of the two forms in the West has widely followed suit. Tanka prose, then, is a hybrid of the two modes of writing seen as a unit of one paragraph, one tanka.

Lair for sale

Self-isolation is fashionable these days. I’m thinking of putting this hollowed out volcano up for sale. It’d be the ideal island location for those wishing to get away from it all. The local villagers don’t know we exist; they never saw the environmental impact assessment or construction work. Sadly, I’ve had to kill those who tried entering through the sea cave complex. A skeleton staff undertake menial duties, they’ve no desire to live a normal life; we have it all here.

the lengths I’ll go to
to avoid your voice…
the sound-proofing
of cavern walls
did not come cheap

Tim Gardiner

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Oh what a beautiful morning: Day 69 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CONDENSATION, with a sky as blue as the blue of a robin’s egg – if you are in North America, where robin’s eggs are blue.“I remember your eyes were bluer than robin’s eggs” sang Joan Baez (Diamonds and Rust). The European robin lays pale buff eggs with reddish speckles.So I stepped out of my door to be washed in that blue. Two or three contrail cirrus clouds were up there, doing their level best to trap radiant heat from the earth below and to warm up the planet beyond its tipping point. Not good.Things are gradually returning to where they were before.No matter, Julia Usher is here to cheer us with one thousand shades of blue …

1000 Shades of Blue

names from a household paint catalogue

Palladian .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

Iceberg .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

Bird’s Egg .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   .   .

Ocean Air .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

Schooner

Hale Navy .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

Smoke .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   .   .

Cobalt .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

Cerulean .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

Turquoise .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

Blue Hydrangea .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

 

Julia Usher

 

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

Thursday 28 May, Day 68 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS EXPEDITION , and Thursday’s child has far to go – possibly on a Covid walk. But perhaps not as far as Durham. So Dónall Dempsey sees this boy and his father, “like out of David Lynch and the log lady and there he was walking with his dad and cradling a log as if it were a  baby – my own little girl used to adopt twigs and treat them as if they were sentient beings so it made a lot of sense to me! Don’t know if readers will have the same vision!” Whatever. Lovely final stanza.

COVID WALK

old man
out walking
his shadow

young boy
taking his pet log
for a walk

a cloud
hamming it up
as Godzilla

ghost town
the only sound
a pub sign’s creaking

she sneezes
wipes it on her sleeve
glad I’m wearing a mask

the sky
the colour of
a blackbird’s song

Dónall Dempsey

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

It is Day 67 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS HUSBANDRY and it is still good gardening weather where we are. “Weeds are flowers too” said AA Milne, but when it comes to ground elder most gardeners consider it to be a terrible and invasive weed. As does poet Chrys Salt – finding also a certain likeness to a sneaky virus:

Ground Elder

You are this garden’s lifetime now.
Lush leaves conceal your villainy,
our planting of no consequence.

We would nurture if we could
but you outweigh our care,
outnumber us
march down new planting,
suffocate.

We come with fork and hoe
our expertise,
our paltry weaponry,
but you, more cunning than we know;
hide out in bunkers underground
and armies grow.
We would kill you with cunning spite,
but one stray snip of your infection
spawns insidious embroidery.

Poppies, self seeded shout defiance
in your face
but you sneak in, usurp their space.
You  walk through language,
indecipherable;
You walk through walls, omnipotent.
Go forth your virus says and multiply.

Chrys Salt

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Is he getting away with it? We shall soon know, but now it is Day 66 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CONTROVERSY, and it’s going to be another warm day. The wind has died down but it was only a short time ago that Alwyn Marriage was trying to keep out of the wind. Let us join Alwyn, keeping out of the wind, and so far as we can act reasonably, legally, and with integrity, we shall keep out of matters controversial. We make no apology …

Out of the wind

On today’s permissible walk
I had to contend with the wind
trying to rough me up as it played
with my corona-length hair.

We found a bench behind
a bank of bushes, where
we sat enjoying the sunshine
comfortably out of the wind
and were content to watch
trees dancing their fandango
and clouds chasing each other
across the sky.

We returned from the open
wildness to the welcome shelter
of home, to remain once again
in lock-down, safe from the dangers
apparently posed by people trying
to live their normal lives out there

watching the world
walk past our windows
buffeted by elements
far more dangerous
and long-lasting
than a gale.

Alwyn Marriage

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Day 65 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS MELTDOWN, and it is going to be a warm day. Jan King considers defrosting her freezer – a diversionary tactic which helps to distract attention from thoughts of melting polar icecaps …

Defrosting

Don’t think too much about
The polar icecaps.
You’ll get in such a state
You can’t think straight.
Too big to contemplate.

Better to keep things small.
Defrost the freezer.
Satisfying to poke at the sheets of ice
Clinging to its roof and walls.
Prise them loose
Watch them crash with a splash.
Mini icebergs birthing.

Like bags of frozen peas
Once Thawed, Do Not Re-Freeze
Icebergs are expendable.
Meltwater.

Jan King
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Sunday 24 May, it’s Day 64 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS MANIFESTO, and I am late with posting the day’s poem.That’s because I am angry, and I have been debating with myself as to whether I should do anything to express my feelings in print.It is not the original transgression, reckless as that might have been, that angers me, but the excuses by No.10, the lack of transparency, the obfuscation.In effect, the cover-up.We, the people, are being disrespected.  It really is the lack of transparency that has compounded the issue. So am I going to take this personally?Shall I be wearing my heart on my sleeve?Yes? Damn right!

Manifesto

We did not drive two hundred miles
to see our eldest daughter
who was ill
self-isolating
and alone
while we were in lockdown
for who were we to say
the journey was essential?

We do not drive four miles
to see our middle daughter
our flawed gem
who does not comprehend
lockdown
we have not seen her for many weeks
but who are we to say
the journey would be essential?

We the elderly remain in lockdown
self-isolating
distant from all family
not because of fear
but because we respect
the rules and regulations
and who are we to say
the rules are not essential?

Peter Ualrig Kennedy

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Now it’s Day 63 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS TURMOIL and it has been windy. Half a year ago Japan was struck by Typhoon Hagibis – the worst storm to hit the country in decades. It left at least 40 dead. Typhoon Hagibis also caused the cancellation of three Rugby World Cup matches. It was a bad typhoon.
Hagibis means ‘speed’ or ‘rapidity’ in Tagalog. Kathryn de Leon finds it a metaphor for Covid-19.

12 October 2019, Japan, Typhoon Hagibis

All day I’ve waited,
trapped indoors.
Now it’s here,
complete and wild,
chewing trees, thumping windows,
a violent baptism
of rain and wind
as sharp and loud as pain.

It’s like waiting
for a moving pestilence
to pass.
You wonder if your faith
is strong enough to repel
its deadly arms reaching for you
or if you must prove it
with your blood.

Today the ceiling
is more important than the sky.
I raise my eyes
to this fragile heaven,
pray for its continued strength
as well as mine.

The storm is a voice,
angry and big with God.
It has stolen my breath,
mixed its pale colour
with the wind’s uncontrollable darkness.

I want to breathe again.
I want tomorrow
before it’s too late.

Kathryn de Leon

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Day 62 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CONVOCATION: it is time to hear from the two sides of Stewart Francis who, Janus-like, observes opposing aspects of self-isolation (two poems published, or about to be published, in the Suffolk Poetry Society’s Twelve Rivers magazine). Janus in Roman mythology presided over passages, doorways, over the rising and setting of the sun, and over transitional periods and beginnings and endings. There is hope yet.

Self-isolation 1

When I was told
to self-isolate,
solitude is something
I abominate.

For some, a book,
a glass of red wine
and a few jazz CDs
are absolutely fine.

But I’m a sociable
sort of bloke.
A chance to chat
and joke is what I like;
to be cheered up
and to cheer
up another in turn. Silence
is what I most fear.

If in hospital
I want to be in a ward,
not, with its aura of gloom,
a private room.

To be a gregarious,
herd-loving animal
is what I ask.
To be allowed
to consort with a pal
or pals in a crowd
would be glorious.

Self-isolation 2

When I was told
to self-isolate,
solitude is something
I celebrate.

To settle down on my own
with a good book,
a glass of red wine –
or a white one
with a bit of fizz –
and a few CDs of jazz
isn’t simply fine,
but my idea of bliss.

I’m an outer-circle man;
I can’t abide being in a crowd –
it’s too large and too loud.
I hate being in a gang.

So solitude
isn’t something I fear to face
but, whatever my mood,
what I embrace.

Stewart Francis

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This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, and it has also been a lovely week for gardening.
And today, Day 61 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS FLOWERING we hear from Adrian Beckingsale who says “I firmly believe that we need more openness about our mental health and wellbeing if we are to combat the rising tide of stress in our society, which may well be exacerbated by these troubled times. These poems may not, at first sight, appear to be related to our current Covid predicament. The fact, however, that I can be out working in the garden and lose myself in the joy of it has certainly helped maintain my mental wellbeing. Having myself, in the past, been off work in a very dark place and looking into the abyss, I fear that I might easily have succumbed again to anxiety and depression in this crisis. It is in no small measure due to the privilege of having a beautiful garden to tend that I have been able to retain my equanimity.” With these brave and wonderful words Adrian sends us Our Italian Garden and also My Garden is Such Hard Work! He says “a couple of poems about our garden. The first is very short and deals with our patio which we call our Italian garden, the second is a more extensive offering. I hope you enjoy them.” We will. Both of them are posted here this morning.

Our Italian Garden 

Our Italianate patio plants grow in pottery,
Whether they bloom or not is a lottery
But still we love our terracottary.

My Garden is such hard work! My Garden is such fun.  

My Garden is hard work;
Mow the lawns and trim the edges,
Prune the shrubs and cut the hedges,
Rake the leaves to make the mould,
Outside in rain or sleet or cold.
Soon we’ll have the winter frost,
Tender plants must not be lost,
Bring inside the tender Dahlias
Dicksonias wrapped in careful layers.

My Garden is such fun;
Lovely lawn, crisp stripes and edges,
Shapely shrubs and such neat hedges,
My leaf mould is now fine and black,
Gardening with sun on my back,
Winter colour from the heather,
Lightens up the darkest weather
Frost upon the naked trees,
Beauty that will surely please.

My Garden is so frustrating;
My brassicas have fed the slugs,
I’ve got rot in my pansy plugs,
The hail has damaged all my fruits
There’s a leak in my gardening boots,
Where did I leave that little spade,
These secateurs have a blunt bade,
Weeds spring up no matter what,
And there’s a crack in my best pot.

My Garden is so satisfying;
Taste of fresh mint and potatoes
Juicy on the vine tomatoes,
Walking past the scented roses,
Picking my flowers to make some posies,
My Dahlias win the autumn show,
Anemones give such a glow,
Bright swathes of colour from the phlox
Blue tits breeding in the nesting box.

My Garden keeps me steady;
When I come home feeling stressed,
When things are making me depressed,
When worldly cares are besetting
When the news needs forgetting,
I get my hands into the soil
Engage in honest garden toil
Come rain or shine, come sun or snow,
I feel the warmth within me flow.

 Adrian Beckingsale

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Day 60 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS VOCIFERATION augurs fair, the sun is up, and all the birds of morning are twittering and whistling away in the bushes. But Gordon Hoyles and his fair Blossom are still Caged:

Caged

My company is the Blossom Bird.
We nest within the world of word,
aware of all the winds of whether
we feast and pick and choose together
and watching, let the rest go whistle.

Gordon Hoyles

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Tuesday’s child is full of grace, and indeed on this Day 59 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ANAMNESIS, here is Marika Footring who gracefully recalls those hidden hues in the halls of her life:

Hidden hues

In this part of the hall of my life I
stored the holiday you asked to see.
The viridian shimmer that suffused the room: light
filtered through lime leaves
The purple haze on hills
The serried gold and umber sun-lit patch of
plough-scored soil
(my ‘Field of Cloth of Gold’: new-married memory, recalled)
The wine-blush-dusted sloes
Iridescence on the lake
Saffron crocuses….
And other colours which are stored
deeper still.
We shall go now
walk back into light that
will prism into future colours.
Our hidden hues are dyed in us
We save our colours in the halls of our life
and when, at the last, they come looking
they’ll find nothing but
mirrors.

Marika Footring

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Monday’s child is fair of face. On Day 58 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS PANEGYRIC, that exceptional poet Chrys Salt praises the merry celandine, which she observes with a new clearness of vision in these lockdown days.

Lockdown Celandine

I’ve seen you many times
but not like this
dressed up in shine,
I’ve never stopped to say hello,
never spoke. I know
you come in every greening spring
with all your folk
seen in the swift periphery
of passing by;
I didn’t see
your heart shaped leaf gloss,
specificity,
your sunbright single petal star,
radiant yellow yellowness
fine arcing neck
that tips your merry head agley.
.
Today I stopped to look at you,
beyond the hurly burly time,
fur-tuft of stamens in your candid eye.

Chrys Salt

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Sunday morning Day 57 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ALDEBARATION, and we have not yet featured a talking blues. Anthony Watts is our man for that, with:

Talkin’ Covid-19 Blues

I gave my woman a hug and a kiss.
She sprayed me with Dettol and called the police.
Turns out she’d been watching that BBC News
and that’s what’s got me singing the blues.
Now, when we talk, I gotta give her a ring
cos she’s doing that social distancing thing.
Ain’t never too late to self-isolate
cos there’s nothing so mean as that COVID-19.

I went along to Asda and joined a queue
hoping to buy some rolls for the loo.
I asked a ‘colleague’ (that’s a member of staff).
He said, ‘Mate, you must be having a laugh’.
When I went to the checkout, the girl at the till
said, ‘You’ll just have to use the back of your bill.’
Ain’t never too late to self-isolate
cos there’s nothing so mean as that COVID-19.

I was sat in the garden reading Chaucer
when out of the sky comes a flying saucer.
An alien got out, just like in a dream.
Then he saw my mask and he started to scream.
He got back inside and away he flew
all the way back to Aldebaroo.
Ain’t never too late to self-isolate
Cos there’s nothing so mean as that COVID-19.

Anthony Watts

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16 May 2020 and we reach Day 56 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS POLEMIC. What sayeth the curmudgeon Gorgonius this bright Spring weekend? Will people mingle too freely? Is he being too pessimistic?

Spring’s blossom

Spring’s blossom’s fallen from the bough;
old friends have died from Covid – now
the Government is slackening off
restrictions that were seen as tough.
They think that loosening the rules
will set us free. They’re surely fools –
relaxing rules means we must brave
a Covid-19 second wave.
So tell me why they did it, Cupid?
It’s the economy, stupid.

Gorgonius

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15 May 2020: it is Day 55 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS GALLIMAUFRY, and stand-out poet Marian de Vooght has some kind and ingenious words to say, all about words themselves: “Here’s another poem for, and about, the project – I was sewing some face masks today using fabric cut from an old shirt, and then I thought of it. But it’s inspired by your own words!”

The following ‘Ode’ was written to say thanks to Peter Kennedy, for managing the Anti-COVID-19 New Poems Endeavour and for his graceful and funny introductions every single day of the lockdown. (says Marian)

Irregular Ode to the Scraps

O, lovely words that make this Project move,
Each one of you a piece in the Programme of Pow-wow
That is this Hoedown, this Showdown of poems! You groove
In corners and long to Feature no later than now –
But you have to wait your turn.

Your Fanfare of parts makes a fabulous total
And as your Medley suits the Concept of recycling,
Some of you shine more than once in this Chuckle,
Like ‘blackbird’ and ‘blue’ and ‘quiet’ and ‘nothing’.

Some say your Process is just a Fandango,
A Charivari of voices and maybe a Blast.
What counts is the lingo, even some slang, though
You know that your Blitz cannot last.
The essential Notion is the Farrago of now.

We salute you, o Collection of snippets of our brains
That, put together, Joust against depression,
Join in a Caper contra gloom, form a Strategic refrain
Of Fantasia! We Celebrate you in each daily session.

You Cavalcade, you Boxty, you Carousel of joy!
Like leftover pancakes you do save the day,
Your Discourse of Onslaught and Slamfest convoys
Our sanity, and makes us want you to stay,
But onwards you go, you FancySusurrate away!

Marian de Vooght

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Oh-oh, it’s Day 54 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS MINESTRONE and sauntering onstage comes Philip Terry, grandmaster of Oulipo and of the use of constrained writing techniques. You may ask yourself Is Message Clear simply a word soup engendered by AI? And you may ask yourself How do I work this? And you may ask yourself Am I right? Am I wrong? And the answer is that each word is carefully chosen. And each word is correctly spelled. And each word is timely – certainly at the start and at the finish. And they are the Alfalfa and the Omega. And it may seem like a minestrone, but the Message is Clear.

Message Clear

Stay Alert » Control the Virus » Save Lives
Stay Alone » Control the Virus » Save Liturgy
Stay Alethic » Control Chart the Virus » Save Liturgy
Stay Alexia » Control Stick the Visa » Savage Liturgy
Steal Antidote » Control Stick the Visa » Saunter Litmus
Steam Antidote » Control Stick the Visage » Saturate Litmus
Steam Antidote » Control Stick the Visor » Saturate Litany
Steam up Antidote » Controversy the Visor » Saturate Litany
Steam up Alfalfa » Controversy the Visor » Saturate Litany
Sleep Alfalfa » Controversy the Visor » Saturate Liquidity
Sleep Alfalfa » Convene the Visor » Sanction Liquidity
Sleep Algebraic » Convene the Voracious » Sanction Liquidity
Steer Algebraic » Convene the Voracious » Sacrifice Liquidity
Steer Algebraic » Convey the Voracious » Sacrifice Life

Philip Terry

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Here we are at Day 53 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS SUSURATION and local writer Philippa Hawley discerns some measure of peace in our present troubled lives.

And breathe

The house breathes quietly around the reading man.
A rafter expands with a creak in the heat of the sun.
He closes his book and opens the French windows;
the outside air is unseasonably warm.

He stands and listens to the birdsong,
louder than he’s ever heard.
The cuckoo calls and the blackbirds trill as if interrupted;
they own this air and only share with butterflies and bees.

He searches for planes flying in the higher sky,
sees no contrails playing noughts and crosses on the bluest blue.
The quiet new world, he thinks and returns to his book
and breathes …

Philippa Hawley

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We have reached Day 52 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CAROUSEL … and this Covid nation is balanced precariously. Sylvia Sellers is entertaining thoughts of flight.

Crow

There’s a crow balancing in the wind
On the topmost branch of a leafless tree
Left bare at the end of the year.

The wind is blowing strongly
And I wonder how he stays there, but he does
By moving his tail up and down
One leg above the other on the twig,
He knows a thing or two about balancing.

Then he launches himself skywards
Opens his wings
And lets the wind take him
Where it will –
. . . . . or will it?

Sylvia Sellers

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And now today is Day 51 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CAVALCADE … I do hope that you are all deriving as much sustenance from these poems as I am. They are not going to alter the course of the pandemic. They are not going to change the world. But one or two of you have been in touch to say that taking part in the project has been good for your mental health. And as well as that, Julia Usher knows about the intrinsic worth of Permitted exercise either outside or indoors.

Permitted exercise

Plugged-in walkers
Hour by hour
Talking to themselves
. . . Alone.
Plugged-in runners,
Keeping to the beat
Driven pulses / pulsing
Pounding through their feet
. . . Stop watches.

. . . . . . End of the hour
. . . . . . Must be back home…..

Connecting to a meeting –
Zoom in, zoom out.

Control + Zoom In
Control – Zoom Out
. . . Join Meeting
. . . Join Group

(Generate the Meeting Code)

Clock ticking;
Diurnal cycling;
Keep distancing.

Julia Usher

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Today is Day 50 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS BOXTY. Good Grief … a half-century. These fifty days have gone by like fifty wags of a wagtail’s tail. Irish poet Tim Cunningham knows all about that. Here is his Wagtail bathing, written on St. Patrick’s Day (which was just 54 days ago as it happens). We are gratified to have been given the opportunity to publish this optimistic poem in the face of adversity.

Wagtail bathing

St. Patrick’s Day, 2020

St. Patrick’s Day, but today
He seemed not to ‘bestow a sweet smile’,
Or look down with his love
On ‘Erin’s green valley’.

Rather, it was the year
When a virus called ‘Corona’
Swept across the land like an avenging angel
Smiting at will
With its pestilent sword.

But nobody told the wagtail,
The wagtail that did not curse
The incessant rain but flew down,
Landing in a pool of the purest rainwater
On the avenue to the house,
Dived, resurfaced, fluttered and shook –
This angel sent to remind us of joy –
Then perched on the branch of a silver birch
And whistled along to Satchmo’s
What a wonderful world’.

Tim Cunningham

(Editor’s note: some 20 minutes after posting Tim’s poem I saw – è vero – a pied wagtail hurrying along on the lawn behind our house! As that exceptional poet John Clare put it: ‘Little trotty wagtail, he went in the rain. And tittering, tottering sideways he near got straight again.’)

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Today is Day 49 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS POW-WOW and here we have a Carol Connell lockdown poem. We really do need those belts and braces, there’s a lot of work to be done in this battle against the virus!

Belt and Braces

It’s time for belt and braces
as the lockdown embeds in.
We know if we don’t do it
we will never ever win …

the battle against Coronavirus
that creeps where we can’t see
infecting us when we don’t know,
killing indiscriminately.

What are our belts and braces?
They’re different for everyone.
Is it rising to the challenge?
The caring things we’ve done?

We dig deep for our belt and braces
and securely put them on.
They’re there to remind us daily:
Keep safe, be wise, be strong.

So, cheer for our belt and braces.
Clap for the brave front-line staff.
And, while we’re still on lockdown,
Help each other to cope and laugh.

Carol Connell

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Today is VE Day, and it is Day 48 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CELEBRATION. Your Poetry Editor’s mind is cast back through time to a day in West Wales …

VE Day 1945, Wales

That year of victory in Europe
Ma brought us from Cardiff
to Trefin for a visit to Auntie Bec

whose house was the only one
in the village which had a tap
for running water

it was outside the back door
and I remember
a pump down the street

where people got their water
from the well.
That was the way it was.

In that month of May 1945
we celebrated VE Day
to mark the surrender

of the Nazi forces.
And on the village field
in Trefin on VE Day

our Ma tied my leg
to my little sister’s leg
for the three-legged race.

We ran like fury, but
that was one small war
we didn’t win.

Peter Ualrig Kennedy

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Day 47 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CHUCKLE – and time once again to hear from Dónall Dempsey, who has witnessed a brief confrontation between an elderly lady and an inconsiderate jogger …

The carelessness of the short distance jogger

lockdown
a butterfly
leads the way into town

old woman
in the middle of the road
arms outstretched

“Isn’t great to be
able to walk in the middle
with no cars at all!”

she speaks too soon
a jogger pants by
jostles her

he all dark shades
plugged into
a different reality

his music leaks out
the eye of the tiger
following him

he spins her ’round
her cane goes flying
she topples…totters

now in these Covid times
joggers are the danger
I sidestep one…sidestep another

the old lady
equilibrium recovered
shouts after him

in her best
Dr John Cooper Clarke
“Health fanatics they make me sick!”

I laugh I
didn’t think she
had it in her

we make our way
up the hill together
promising we will

trip
the next
bloody bugger

Dónall Dempsey

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Yesterday Dave Dignum with the River; today on Day 46 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS COLLECTION we hear from Tony Oswick with Man for all seasons, his paean of praise for our posties. And the challenge for all you poets out there is to send in poems about our other hard working colleagues who may remain under the radar as they keep society and civilisation going while we are under lockdown – the milkmen, the refuse collectors, the shop assistants, and more and other essential workers and unsung heroes.

Man for all seasons

Man for all seasons, a fluorescent friend
who braves the icy cold and blazing sun
and does not cease until the battle’s won,
ignoring insults and the jeers of those
who leer and castigate – ‘You’re late’
and ‘Not known here’ and ‘Shut that gate’.

Approved by dint of regal head on stamp,
descendant of archaic Penny Black,
you are the one who every morning gets the sack.
You walk the streets, but solicit not your trade,
and flit like bee from house to house with precious load
deciphering the enigmatic code.

Ignoring ache of blistered, bunioned soles
and springèd letter-box which snaps your hand.
Brave infantry! Defy the odds and
shun all dangers lurking over gate, of
snarling, gnarling dogs, lips lashing for a bone,
or wanton women, home alone.

And when the round extends too far for feet
and daily tasks resemble ten-mile hike,
you heed the Tebbit creed – get on your bike.
Your sturdy two-wheeled frame a steed
to carry all your treasured cargo
like a pedalling Wells Fargo.

Proud history. ‘Twas your forefather who
delivered epistolically from home
to Ephesus and Corinth and to Rome.
Man for all seasons, nobility surrounds
your craft. You know you must not fail.
Man for all seasons, anointed royal male.

Tony Oswick

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Our BBC Essex Radio poetry uploads opened on Saturday evening with Martin Newell, and last night it was Marian de Vooght’s opportunity to read her charming river poem The Waiting. Tomorrow we should hear the wonderful Sylvia Sellers on BBC Essex. Now, on Day 45 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS MEDLEY, the river theme is taken up by Dave Dignum:

The river runs through me

The river runs through us
Giving life in all its forms
Like the blood in our veins
Peaks, troughs, highs, lows, occasional storms
We should only see the good
There is very little bad
The River Stour gives such diversity
It will always make one glad.
Everything can happen by a river
Walks and talks and education for all
You are never lonely near the river
There is much to enjoy and enthral.
Countless fractals in winter trees
Through the willows on misty autumn days
Church bells tolling every quarter hour
All things to admire and praise.
See the reflections in the water
And watch the Autumn leaves float down
Celebrate the different greens
That announce the river of high renown.
For me the greatest joy apart from fishing
Slicing above the water like a knife
On every visit so many kingfisher sightings
The River Stour is truly a river of life!

Dave Dignum

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Day 44 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS SLAMFEST, and Phil East comes back at us with some perceptive Rules of Estrangement …

Estrangement

It is said,
“Absence makes the heart grow fonder”
and, at tearful reunions,
that, “It has been far too long”.
And it has. Nowadays
my shrinking heart no longer longs
for long-lost lovers, rellies, besties;
what’s more, with stocks low,
absent friends can go untoasted,
except for a vinegary whiff from
a cellar-turned-bottle-mortuary.

Expect selective memories to be cut short,
to goldfish proportions,
so, by the time you read this,
like as not,
I’ll have forgotten
your name
your address
your phone number
your funniest anecdotes
your annoying little habits
and what we mean to each other.

Perhaps optimistically,
all can instead be left
to the colour and curves of the imagination;
in the same way
later, one fine day,
we will remember the blur of our splendid isolation.

Phil East

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The days have clicked inexorably round and it is Sunday again, and Day 43 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS FANCY. The redoubtable Pete Langley sees that the blind watchmaker – this fickle biosphere – has been cooking up a storm for us perverse humans, in his poem Bipolar Cooking. Would it help if we mended our ways? It might be our last chance …

Bipolar Cooking

This fickle biosphere
is a mischievous cook

– dresses a salad of sequoia
with a slash of Andreas
simmers a soup of Maldives croutons
with a splash of tsunami
melts fresh polar ice
over a warm and salty sea
bakes a lush tropical medley
into hot brown bread

stirs in a larder of genomes
jet-streamed on a rotisserie
to mix benign ingredients
with crocodile teeth
to concoct a virus
a butterfly
or perverse beings like humans

but is there a meal deal to be had
if we Homo Sapiens
stop being mean
to all the other dishes?

Pete Langley

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Are we really beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel, or are we chasing a chimera? It is Day 42 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ELEGANCE, and poet Adrian May returns with Black-tailed godwit – a poem of which he says “Please note the initial small ‘g’ god for anyone allergic to God! Best wishes to all, Adrian”. I commend his sensitivity. The natural world contains its own divinity, and its beauty is something for us to revel in and cherish.

Black-tailed godwit

At the old dock area in the Hythe
By  the mess of old industry and new flats
The footpaths along the Colne are busy
With people exercising on foot and bike
Slow and fast, with or without kids
At times I step into long grass
So that others can safely pass

I notice an elegant wading bird
With a long beak; every twenty yards
As I go slow towards the lagoons
And realise my knowing my own back yard
Is limited in this avian estuarine direction

Told what they are, I take a lucky snap
On my way back and look up the name
Black-tailed godwit and you can hear
The ‘wit’ in their call but whence the god?

God in long elegance and delicate brown neck
God in long leg and reaching beak, in beauty overlooked
God amid the constant change of the estuary
God in my neglect, in subtle presence
God in almost disappearing by man’s appetites
God in ability to return and remind
And seasonal changing raiment
God in sudden dazzle of black and white flight
God to us shamblers in the light
Clumsily rediscovering our footpath
With various forms of intention, resentment, ignorance, or delight

Adrian May

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It is May Day, feeling much like any other day in this period of lockdown. Unless, of course, you have risen betimes and have essayed forth in the dawn, seeking the dews of the morning. Washing in the May morning dew is said to make a girl more beautiful – and for a young man the dew from a hawthorn tree is just the ticket. Speaking personally, your Editor, no longer young, has eschewed this arcane practice and has opted for an extra lie-in.
Yesterday, poet of the day Oscar Kennedy-Blundell spoke of Gaia breathing deeply of fresh air as the world’s human system sleeps. Today, Day 41 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS NOTIFICATION, it is fitting to be reminded by Wivenhoe’s own poet Martin Newell, in his exceptional and beautifully articulated new narrative poem In other news, of how the natural world is reacting to the human catastrophe of Covid-19 …

In other news

In other news…
across those fields
a tractor combs the furrows now
the seagulls trail behind the plough
and rooks will referee

But further out, and further still
the word in the regretful breeze
is that the townsman rarely sees
the greening of those trees

In other news…
the sulking sun
emerged today from chiffon cloud
Forgave, forgot, then beaming down
Turned every furrow lighter brown

Until the birds, emboldened here
By lack of traffic in the lanes
And absence now of aeroplanes,
Far from fearing something wrong
began to fill the sky with song.

In other news, in other news
The shoppers in their cautious queues
Began exchanging pleasantries:
pleases, thanks… and after-yous

In other news, the lark ascends
Declaims the ides and the kalends
as March the noisy tenant goes
A breezy blackthorn blossom snows
across the woodland paths

On country roads, the ghosts of cars
glide soundless, after countless years
Till silence settles on the ears
like months of Sundays in arrears

In other news, a chilly night
The frost upon the rooftops light
On weekday mornings strangely calm
A dog barks on a distant farm
answering the lambs and ewes
In other news, in other news…

In other news… the morning bus
will judder into town un-filled
Where bees awake and
blackbirds build
In copper beech and churchyard yews

Now lychgates yawn and railings rust
The tiny specks of sunlit dust
are all that occupy the pews
In other news, in other news…

Through leafy square
down market street
A single pair of shopper’s feet
Goes tapping past a covered stall
And all along the Roman wall
the stone recalls how echoes fall
Of earlier times and other queues
In other news, in other news…

Martin Newell

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Today, 30th April 2020, is Captain Tom Moore‘s 100th birthday and we send our good wishes and congratulations to a remarkable man. He has raised, from his walk, by today (last day of donating) over £30,000,000 for NHS charities. What an achievement! Well done Captain (now Colonel) Tom.
Now, who will be found to have the strongest hand at the final showdown? Will it be society, will it be the oil moguls, will it be the human race itself? Or will Gaia be the true survivor? on Day 40 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS SHOWDOWN poet Oscar Kennedy-Blundell casts a wry glance at just what is going on in this period of lockdown …

the true screen age

this is the true screen age
now everyone is teen aged
we don’t spend any quality time
only interact online
while we wave on Thursdays
and nod from the edge of pathways
sociality has imploded
with the onset of Covid
but Gaia’s lungs breathe deep
fresh air as the system sleeps

Oscar Kennedy-Blundell

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“Let us imagine …” writes that remarkable poet Pam Job, in her wonderful poem today on Day 39 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS FANTASIA – let us imagine a world of calm and light. Let us imagine our bright future …

Let us imagine a time . . .

Let us imagine a time
when our children sleep safe beneath trees,
fallen blossoms gentle in their mouths;
a time when our minds are filled with forests,
when we lean against beech trees and call them our friends,
a time for travelling beyond the woods
into the heart of the waterfall.

Let us imagine a place
where birds stay close to us and decorate
the air with small symphonies; and where
to sit in the shade of an olive tree
is to sit beside time itself.
Here, on my morning path, a ghost of a smile
hides in the white blackthorn.

Pam Job

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Yesterday our poet of the day was concerned about meeting people on the street – today, on Day 38 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ONSLAUGHT, to Paul Kennedy even the peaceful village green has a sinister aspect.

A potential threat

Sitting on my bench, looking across the Green
Quite a few people that I’ve never seen
Every human being a potential threat
What they breathing out?
How far does it travel?
Is my fragile hold on health
About to unravel?

Paul Kennedy

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It is time for a little spleen from Phil East, on this Day 37 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS FARRAGO.

Unsocial Distancing

There are two types of people
you might greet on the street:
Friends and Strangers;
a stranger only being a friend
you’ve yet to meet.
That’s all fine and dandy
but in our Brave New World,
in this instance,
both of the germy bastards
can keep their distance.

Phil East

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The bright sun has returned this morning to where we are in East Anglia, and the night skies in recent times have been beautifully clear. Venus, the Evening Star, has been shining low in the western sky like a beacon. Today is Day 36 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS POT-POURRI, and from the Kingdom of Fife our friend Gordon Meade sends this limpid poem:

The Sky At Night
In memory of Walter Beckwith,
amateur astronomer

There is only one star shining
in the sky tonight. I think it must be
the Pole Star but I cannot be sure.
Perhaps it is the planet Venus.
If he was still alive, Wattie would
have been able to tell me which
one it was, but he is no longer
with us. All that is left is a single
star shining in a pitch black sky.

Gordon Meade

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And so it goes: late April, the temperature has dropped quite sharply (that’s Wiv-centric, I know), and of course we are still in lockdown. It is Day 35 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS FANFARE, and our good friend Tim Cunningham – lately relocated to Ireland – has this advice for us (remember, every demon has a sting in the tail):

How to Recognise a Demon
(during the Corona virus pandemic)

He is not the one who spits
In a policeman’s face
Or vomits on the streets
On Saturday nights.
Neither does he burgle homes,
Break speed limits
Or drive straight through red lights.

But he burdens the state
With free TV and travel,
Adds to the hospitals’ overload,
And when election results are crazy
He is the one who voted the wrong way.

He will betray himself with courtesies
Like opening doors for ladies
And offering his seat on the bus.
Never will he jump the queue.

He probably writes letters
And still reads papers and books.

And boy can he complain. Eat your heart out
‘Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’.
He will complain about the cold,
Complain that everything is changing for the worse,
Complain that he was champion babysitter
But now can’t hug the kids,
Complain he stacked the supermarket shelves
Where he is no longer welcome.

He castigates the government,
Its heavyhanded rules
That even lock the churches,
Put God in quarantine, return Jesus
To the nightmare of Gethsemane.
And, jealously, he grumbles when his peers
Still hold high office,
Like pope or president of the USA.

All valid clues, but the one infallible way
To recognise a bona fide cap and gown
Graduate from Demon
School is to know that he survived
The biblical three score years and ten.

Tim Cunningham

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Remember those days, those silvery days, before this national lockdown when you could shake a friend’s hand or hug them, or even high five them … well, here on Day 34 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS JOUST our esteemed poet of the day Kathryn de Leon introduces her High Fiving Angels in a poem of strange and ethereal beauty. This poem has been previously published in Calliope magazine, so it is not strictly a “new” poem, but it is new to us, so that’s all right. Thank you for this one Kathryn, it’s a beaut.

High Fiving Angels

It’s hard to see their hands,
they are so bright.
They are soundless locomotives coming at you
through the darkened tunnel
that is your life.

Their light is so tall
you have to raise your hand high,
even jump a bit
to reach them.

They wait like closed curtains
hiding a brightly lit stage,
just a hint of the upcoming show
shining through.

You’ll wonder why they chose you.
You’ll feel unworthy
of their attention.

Remember:
You’re not dead yet.
You’ve not seen their halos
nor their rich abundance of wings.

Just accept the moment and enjoy:

Your life is going right.
Your life is good.

Kathryn de Leon
published in Calliope magazine

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Spring is amazingly beautiful this year, but we remain in lockdown. It is Day 33, and counting, of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS JAUNT. Our poem today, from Jan King, is an enigmatic Paradise Lost for our time …

Hortus Conclusus
(enclosed garden)

Within the confines of the garden wall
The Virgin sits tranquil in her bower
Enrobed in royal red and blue
Bright angels hovering round her head.
The pretty flowers at her feet
Symbols of purity, love and truth.

Beyond the confines of the garden wall
Something apocalyptic on the loose.
You cannot see it with the naked eye
And yet the deaths reveal its power
While desperate people panic buy.

Within the confines of the garden wall
Virgin and angels all now fled.
Starlings swagger, blackbirds bully,
Stabbing at eyes for first in line.
An enclosed garden is a Paradise
But not in these tenebrous times.

Jan King

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Today is Day 32 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS GRUMPINESS and we have numerous poems jostling for next up on this page – but we still need more. Please keep ‘em coming!

I have promised you HAPPY, especially after yesterday’s gloom-laden lament. So old friend Bryan Thomas pops up again with his tale of a Nightshirt. Even this cheerful little poem has a sobering moral note at the end.

Nightshirt

Mister Micawber would have felt at home
Ebenezer Scrooge would welcome it for free
A nightshirt with a matching cap in blue and white
circa eighteen fortyish and very fetching you’ll agree.

A birthday gift at ninety-one-years old, this nightshirt
in its blue and white with matching cap
suggests a change of character is due.
Accept a fresh persona, “Grumpy Older Man” perhaps.

Not much change from last year then?
Should be locked up with his nightshirt in the white and blue,
the gaudy striped apparel so suitable for
Wormwood Scrubs or Pentonville to name a few.

Can’t avoid it, age is creeping on apace.
Love’s young dream long gone as you can see.
The nightshirt in the stripy blue and white with matching cap
suites “Grandpa Bryan” to a Tee.

“Oh, must you darling – it shows your age”
“Hush my dear. The gown might have some other uses, too.
If I catch this viral thing – just keep your distance, please,
it could save the NHS a bit, especially as it’s new.”

Bryan Thomas

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It is an accolade to all our contributors that although a whole calendar month has gone by, we are still receiving submissions for this project.
It is Day 31 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS COLLOQUY and a bit over three weeks since I said in an email to you all that we might post a new ‘poem for europe’ recently published in The New European.  The poem does not fit into our criterion of ‘happy’, and it’s not about the coronavirus pandemic, but it reflects the threatening times in which we live, and in a way it follows on from yesterday’s poem by Dónall Dempsey. In fact the Coronavirus pandemic may act as a wake-up call for humanity, and perhaps – one might hope – there may yet be some beneficial spin-offs for the planet after our awful agony of illness and deaths has passed. So let’s see the poem in that light as, yes, relevant … So, with apologies for its sombre mood, I have decided to unveil it. More happy poems from tomorrow.

Not just Europe

when we began to lose our sight
it was a creeping insidious loss
at first a blind spot
which slowly spread
until all vision was gone

when we began to lose our mind
it was a creeping insidious loss
the first to go was recent memory
then all our back catalogue went
and we were undone

when we began to lose Europe
it was a creeping insidious loss
at first a mere thought
then all was broken
and we were alone

when we began to lose the world
it was a creeping insidious loss
at first a small change in climate
then all the insects died
and we were next in line

Peter Ualrig Kennedy 

published in The New European 19 March 2020

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Good Grief! it’s now Day 30 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS DISCOURSE. Step forward Dónall Dempsey with your minatory warning for us humans:

The tales told by birds
(for Shyam)

The civilisation of the birds
will prevail

and they will tell their eggs
stories about how

the humans
nearly destroyed the earth

and how now they only survive
in the stories that birds tell

to frighten
their little hatchlings

who don’t really believe
that such creatures

could ever have
existed.

Dónall Dempsey

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Strange how the days seem to have lost their moorings; they merge one into the other. We are waiting. Today is Day 29 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS SELECTION but it is also SUNDAY, and the sun is shining – definitely the day for an uplifting and beautiful poem such as this delightful revery by Marian de Vooght. We are waiting, and while we are waiting there is wonder in the life all around us. Feel the landward waters rise, taking us up towards the sun. The poet has a truly delicate way with words:

The Waiting

The first hour has begun—there is no wind.
We lie still, moored on the mudflat. I did not sleep.
I lie on the cabin bench, stretch and watch the sun rise.

The second hour brings the birds. Blackbirds first. Their song
lifts me. I rise, stand on the deck, observe the trees on the bank.
A robin lands on a branch at eye level, sees me.

Red shanks arrive in the third hour. Long beaks poke holes in the wet sand,
pull out worms. Water fills the holes, murmurs audibly.
The sun softens the water. Small ripples shimmer. I settle.

Walkers in the fourth hour, just above my head, curious. A cormorant
airs his wings. I hear oblivious dogs and their owners’ good-mornings.
They pass and I look up. My overalls on the tree are dry.

The fifth hour’s sky is still and bright, bright and blue as can be.
It brings the magpie who chooses the path. Stepping quietly, she looks up
and sees me. But magpies roam in twos and here comes her mate.

On the sixth hour the balance is struck. Landward water raises the boat,
now flush with the path. I prepare to sail seaward. The river
will take me home. Geese take off and I smell the salt.

Marian de Vooght

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Are we getting a bit stir-crazy yet? It’s Day 28 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS SCENARIO, and I hope that you are able to get out into the fresh air for a short period of exercise once a day. If you can’t do that, keep your eyes and your ears and your mind open at home for mental sustenance – music, poetry, art. Step forward Anne Boileau, who has been listening to some strange conversations while sitting at her desk in these days of isolation …

A conversation overheard by an isolated writer

I’ve been watching you sitting on the desk
just out of reach by the blotter.

I’ve been aware of your thirsty gaze. You just need to fall into the right hand.

When the sun shines on your bottle it glows in sapphires, emeralds and topaz.

I am dark blue.

And I’m a Pelikan, bottle green with black stripes.

You’re very fine. But without me you are nothing.

I’m not nothing. I have my own presentation box.
My small parts are made of nine carat gold.
Precision made in Germany.

And I, without you, am nothing but a hazard,
a potential blot, an indelible stain.

But together, we could be powerful. You and I together, we could sign away millions,
seal contracts, record births, marriages, deaths;
we could inform, persuade, protest,
profess love, make poetry, write music.

Why have we waited so long?

Modern technology, that’s why.
You, me and paper: we’re obsolete.
They’ve got new ways of doing things.
Haven’t you seen her, tip tapping away at the keyboard?
Letters appear on the screen. Then she hits ‘send.’
No pen required. Nor ink. Nor paper.

My ancestors were made from swans’ primaries,
they called us quills,
or pens, like the female swan.

My ancestors lived in wells; quills were dipped into us every few words.
Relief pens were the next thing. Then they invented your sort, the fillers.

Yes, and how I ache to be filled!
I want to dip my gold into your wine-dark depths
and suck and suck and suck. I want you to fill me up.

One day, you’ll see, our union will be recognised, re-consummated.
Between us, we shall change the world.

Here’s looking at you, Ink.

Here’s looking at you, Pen.

Anne Boileau

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It’s Day 27 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS FORECAST, and the lockdown continues. Meanwhile I am pleased to be able to share with you Philip Terry’s clever and prescient reconfiguration of W.H. Auden’s Gare du Midi

Untitled
after W.H. Auden

Jetlag after a long flight,
the shrill voices of tour guides,
crowds at the ticket barrier, a face
to welcome which the Pope has not contrived
mitre or stole: it stares up at the famous ceiling,
craning the neck, and takes a picture,
and at once a figure approaches saying: “Noc amera, noc amera”.
A slight cough at which no-one bats an eyelid.
Rain is falling. Clutching a red umbrella
to protect himself from the sudden downpour
he walks out quietly to infect a country
whose terrible future may have just arrived.

Philip Terry’

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Day 26 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS STRATEGY, and no doubt many more to come. The plight of care homes is a major current topic, and Norah Mulligan – herself become a recent resident of one such in Colchester – inveighs against her situation in this plaintive new poem:

To Coronavirus

You’re just the sort of bug we need around.
The kind that takes the old and spares the young.
Enter the Care Homes. Weed them gently out.
Snuff out the lives whose pleasures all are past.
This is the way to do it. Get it done!
Money devoted to more useful things,
and younger lives left free to please themselves.
Seventy years and ten then twenty more –
that’s time enough to make one’s mark on life,
and these last years are often hard to bear.
And yet, huge doubt when welcome drink is brought
by bloke who coughs near cup, I’m less than pleased.
Why is that I wonder?
Don’t I want to go?

Norah Mulligan

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It’s a beautiful sunny morning, a bit cold, on Day 25 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS INITIATIVE, and here we are, keeping our spirits up, quite buoyant, when out of the dark waters of doubt up bobs Derek Adams to remind us that today, 15 April, happens to be the anniversary (108th) of the sinking of the Titanic. Coincidentally he has a villanelle about it … we categorise it as a plaintive poem; it is an excellent poem by a master poet, and so it warrants its place here …

My heart is oh so cold
(15 April 1912)

I wait for you my love, my heart is oh so cold.
Come to me across the night,
and welcome me with open arms, be mine to hold

There is more to me than meets the eye I’m told,
here in the dark, alone and out of sight
I wait for you my love; my heart is oh so cold.

We will be linked forever, like Tristan and Isolde,
imagine me as your white knight
and welcome me with open arms, be mine to hold.

Across dark water, a ship’s bell tolls
as you float so prettily dressed in light.
I wait for you my love; my heart is oh so cold.

Your fiery heart’s as new, as mine is old.
Our courses by time and tide aligned
to welcome each with open arms, our future to behold.

The depths that you will sink to could not be foretold
but we are destined to meet on this April night,
so come be with me my love, my heart is oh so cold,
and welcome me with open arms into your hold.

Derek Adams

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It’s heartening to read a report today that the Co-op (in general, not just here in Wivenhoe) hopes to raise £30m to help those hardest hit by the coronavirus lockdown, by allowing members to donate their unspent shopping reward points to a new support fund, which will also draw on the chief executive’s salary. That is a bit of encouraging news, set against such items as continuing concerns over PPE shortages. Britain, we hear, missed three opportunities to be part of an EU scheme to bulk-buy masks, gowns and gloves, despite the evidence of a pandemic building up. So “what if” we had been better prepared? “What if” is of no help, but now that we’ve reached Day 24 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ENTERPRISE, we have Melanie Wright’s well-crafted poem, “If” to sustain us …
Melanie, we wish you well. Stay safe.

If

If you loved me the way I wished to be,
how would my life be different than it is?
I’d still wake up uncaffeined grump; bum knee
would still refuse to bend or straighten. This
old bed would still be lumpy; radiators
still need bleeding, children feeding, cat
need combing, socks need pairs. Nor would the craters
in my meteored heart be patched by that
sudden unexpected polyfilla
mannaed down. I’d stand there trowelless, baffled,
unsure how to proceed. At root I’m still a
prisoner of doubt, expecting scaffold
not reprieve. But if you were to do it,
I probably could get accustomed to it.

Melanie Wright

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Easter Monday and I guess that lockdown will continue for quite some time yet. Now it’s Day 23 of our ANTI-COVID-19 POEMS FANDANGO and time to give Denis Ahern his head, with a strong swipe at you-know-who …

The Money/Life Thing

In Jack Benny’s memorable joke
The hood with the gun thundered,
‘Gimme your money or your life.’
Benny said nothing, just pondered.

‘Gimme your money or your life,’
The repeated threat was shouted.
Benny nodded acknowledgement
And said ‘I’m thinking about it.’

But now, ‘Your life for my money,’
A brutal thug demands today,
Giving orders from the White House
To the good people of the USA.

‘These epidemiologists –
Experts,’ he proclaims with a smirk.
‘Un-American. Doom Sayers.
Ignore ‘em. Fake news. Back to work.’

‘Save the economy,’ he calls.
‘And we’ll keep America great,
Wall Street safe and profitable,
That Chinese virus will abate.’

‘I’m thinking about it,’ Jack Benny said,
Replying to a villain’s call.
Think deep on this one, you good folk.
Your President doesn’t think at all.

Denis Ahern

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Wishing you a Happy Easter is a bit of a stretch in these unhappy times, so I shall wish you a Safe Easter. Wishes are only a way of keeping our own hopes alive, while the reality is that people are dying, and when it is people that we know, people who were our friends, it really hammers it home. So now that we have reached DAY 22 of our ANTI-COVID-19 POEMS ESCAPADE we more than ever need a bit of humorous verse to make us smile. So here is a suitably irreverent piece from A B Beckingsale. It has a message pertaining to untrammelled tourism and foreign travel (I’m thinking flygskam) and the story – of course – bears no resemblance to the truly terrifying experiences of any particular person or indeed politician …

How I brought the virus from Hunan to the World
With apologies to Robert Browning, “How they brought the good news
from Ghent to Aix”

We rushed to the airport, the virus and me,
And we boarded a plane cause we wanted to flee,
And we travelled and travelled as far as could be.
Not a word to others, we kept Social Distance,
And we flew to Peru and then on to France.
We rushed round Versailles the rooms were all full,
Then went on to Spain to watch them fight bull.
The pain in our chest and the shortness of breath,
Made our knees buckle, we felt just like death.
We escaped from the lock-down and headed for home,
A circuitous route via Pisa and Rome,
Then on through the States, where we ate in a diner,
And I thought of the virus I was bringing from China.
We got back to England, the pubs were not shuttered,
So, we went to a bar where we coughed and we spluttered,
And they shouted “You isolate quick as can be”.
So, we went by the Tube to an Airbnb.
We sat with our mobile and looked at the world
As news of the awful pandemic unfurled.
The pain in our joints and our muscles and head
Made us lie on the floor and wish we were dead.
Then the symptoms departed and as you can tell
I am now feeling healthy and really quite well.
The virus, she left me without a goodbye
And I felt such a joy that I didn’t die.
So, I went to the doctor who confirmed what I knew;
I had gone and survived a case of Man Flu.

Adrian Beckingsale

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Easter Saturday today – and in New York they are burying the dead in mass graves. Three weeks into our ANTI-COVID-19 POEMS FOOLISHNESS, we are now at DAY 21, and by golly we need a bit of humorous verse to make us smile. So step forward once again, Sylvia Sellers, and tell us about your naked cavorting on Brighton beach … I think there’d be a bit of “move along now ladies, go home” from the Brighton constabulary if you tried it on this weekend!

Brighton nudists

I’ll shed some light on the situation
Bare bottoms, boobs and bits on Brighton beach
Playing volleyball without a care
As we all just stood and stared.

Dashing about in late middle age
Crepey, droopy, dangly, ghastly
What’s it all about?

So off I stripped in gay abandon
Smashing, digging, shouting, falling,
Obstructing, running, jumping, calling
We won the match
Feeling foolish on Brighton beach.

Sylvia Sellers

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rhododáktulos Hwc, ah yes, Homer’s rosy-fingered dawn … she has not reached us quite yet, although there are the beginnings of encouraging news from China and South Korea (if we can trust their figures), and indeed today from beleaguered Spain. It is Good Friday, Easter weekend, lovely weather here, and we must continue with isolation and social distancing to the best of our ability. It is DAY 20 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POETRY CONCEPT and Adrian May sees not a rosy-fingered dawn, but thunder in the morning. And, as well, peace and cures for illness. There is hope yet:

The Thunder

For many weeks we had been kept indoors
and then we began to hear the thunder.
It came in the early morning and
was not predicted by the weather forecasters.
There seemed no explanation for it
and few aircraft were in the sky,
while spring winds blew gently;
but some heard it as anger
as if of gods; ones we’d forgotten.

Some didn’t hear it but
children alerted their deaf parents
with wonder rather than fear in their voices.
No rain, no lightning,
just the rumbling in the morning,
like a rumour of some wider world
or some deeper travel;
something natural we knew nothing of.

Then one morning the huge glider came,
with the thunder louder than ever
and hung over the town suspended
and the women with bright but human
brows and hands descended on lines
and cleaned the earth with their all-shining
gazes and hands:
we somehow knew this, without a word
being said by them or among us below.
They wore robes, some said, with designs
of apples and moons on them,
like some old English Morris fool would wear,
giving a strange softening to their presence.

And peace and cures for illness
came with their brows and hands
and when the huge glider rose
with a clap and rumble of sunlit thunder,
we knew we could not go back, ever,
to the way we had lived before.

Adrian May

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“Curse this stupid virus!” – as Snoopy would have said. Coronavirus-2019 Disease rampages on through the land, deaths are increasing in number, lockdown will continue, justifiably, into and beyond Easter. Every family will have had their terrible anxieties or indeed their tragedies. But eventually the pandemic will have run its course, and the sooner the better; there are hopeful indications coming out of China. And here on DAY 19 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POETRY CONCEIT the iconoclastic Gordon Hoyles brings the human race down to size with an acidulous haiku …

Virus

It likes us a lot—
on a socialising spree
we are the free lunch.

Gordon Hoyles

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The PM remains ill in hospital, and along the corridors of power the murmur goes “Captain, art thou sleeping there below?” … with a nod to Sir Henry Newbolt (1862 – 1938); and it is DAY 18 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POETRY POTION. We feel with Kathryn de Leon both the confusion of illness and the harmlessness of shadows. Today may be lost, but one day we shall recall the yellow silence of sunlight:

The harmlessness of shadows

A room of shadows.
So many
but none are mine.

I have turned my back
on my life.
I have forgotten more
than I remember.
Today will be lost
like so many days.

I want to keep today,
let its generous blood
soak into these pages
and stain my hands
with the words I am writing.

I want to remember
the persistence
of this curtainless window
that displays a sky of simple blue,
snowy earth,
and trees as bare as my arms.

I want to memorise
this day of shadows
so that when I am so old
remembrances are painful,
I can easily recall
the yellow silence of sunlight
falling in a single bright sliver
on the pale quilt
I sleep alone with,
the easy colours of afternoon
safe in the window,

and the harmlessness of shadows
surrounding me like sleep,
like dreams.

Kathryn de Leon

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On this day 7th April we express our hope for an unimpeded recovery from Covid-19 for the Prime Minister, and send our good wishes. And this day is also DAY 17 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POETRY RECUPERATION, in which Bryan Thomas sings praises to his new-found favourite nurse:

Staff Nurse Merlyn
The Girl with the other Tattoo

Is she King Arthur’s wizard, ‘Merlin’
with chainmail-tattooed arms?
Or Morgan le Fay, his wicked sister,
or Lady of the Lake, lifting high
Excalibur above the scalding waters,
to lead the battle against men?

In valour male. A girl in years.
Hell-bent adventurer, a swift
two-winged Harley-Davidson
below her thigh? This handsome lass
quicker to a Midwest field of dusty corn
than to a wedding? Maybe not –

for in the ward she’s Guinevere with
tenderness and care for me, her Lancelot.
Her silver nose ring taunts my eye.
Her soft hand cleaves to mine
and squeezes out a grain of nerve
empowering the magic in her gentle words.

Bryan Thomas

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Wow, it’s already DAY 16 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POETRY REMINISCENCE! Where does the time go when you’re in lockdown? Today David Winfield recalls that uncomfortable feeling of not fitting in at school. Here is his gentle poem, so evocative of those distant days – thank you David

No One Said To Bring Conkers

No one said to bring Conkers.
So why is everybody playing to day,
Whilst I stand and watch.
I had been collecting of course,
it was the season,
but no one said to bring Conkers.
Who decided?
A playground password, I never knew,
a code I could never break,
the inner circle, a ring I could not enter.
I had cigarette cards
when Marbles where required.
Empty pockets
when they should be full of Fivestones.
I had to wait so, so long
before my name was on the team sheet.

David Winfield

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Now we are into DAY 15 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POETRY DISTANCING, so let me take you down, cos I’m going to George V Field – with a contemporary poem by concerned Wivenhoe resident Gorgonius. Hear how the Spring winds blow in this poem, complementing the same breezes as in Antony Johae’s poem of yesterday. Hope you enjoy this spirited piece of dogg-erel …

George V Field
let me take you down …

You can call me Mister Lucky
with my handkerchief of garden,
as I sit here in the sunshine
with a coffee in my hand.

I’m self-isolating wisely –
there’s no hint of early pardon –
it could take another half year
with this blight across the land.

Spring winds are blowing mildly,
and we’re keeping Social Distance –
the dog-walkers on the Field
hold their pooches on a lead;

but occasionally an owner
allows their doggy to run wildly –
other owners then are horrified
by such a foolish deed.

So let’s everyone be sensible,
be kindly and considerate,
be helpful with the shopping
for the vulnerable and old.

Let your actions be defensible
and in no way reprehensible;
for one day this bloody virus
will be a tale to be told.

Gorgonius April 2020

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DAY 14 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS UNVEILING, and it’s the weekend, beautifully sunny here in this NE corner of Essex; time for some UV and VitD. Antony Johae senses that Spring breezes are blowing:

Sale

The window shows off shop dummies
as bare as the day they were made.
A sign says it is Just Fashion;
another points to a Hot Trend.
With spring-winds blowing, I wonder:
will clients warm to a garment reduced?
70% off a birthday suit?

Antony Johae

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Friday 3 April: Well it’s been another sleepless night for me, so I am up betimes, on DAY 13 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS LEXICON, and I have taken on the task of providing a glossary for Brian Ford‘s clever poem. Brian is of course no fool, but he has been fooling us; he is indeed a corrupter of words, as Shakespeare says.

couth is in fact a real word, whose meaning has changed from the original Middle English couth “known, usual, customary”. It died out 16c. but was reborn 1896, with a new sense of “cultured, refined,” as a back-formation from uncouth. And this of course is what Brian is hinting at. uncouth itself moved from meaning “unknown, strange, rough,” in the Middle Ages to “strange, crude, clumsy” first recorded 1510s.

ruth: another real word, now obsolete; early 14c., from reuthe “pity, compassion” thus giving ruthless, “without pity”.

stantial was never a real word, it comes from substance + ial.

ruly meant “governable, controllable; well behaved” i.e. capable of being ruled, and it is the origin of unruly.

reck: “to take heed of or to have caution”; hence reckless “lacking caution, heedless of danger”.

gainly: “graceful and pleasing” – ungainly: “awkward; clumsy”.

feck is a Scots term that means “effect”, from an alteration of the Middle English effect. So feckless means “without effect, irresponsible”. All this of course is quite different from the Irish use of “feck!” as we hear in Father Ted

Brian’s ebriated is a sly one, as it actually means “drunk” and inebriated is not its opposite, but is from Latin inebriare “to make drunk”.

effable is capable of being expressed in words; hence ineffable: too extreme to be expressed in words, indescribable.

pudent: “modest, decent”; impudent is its opposite “without shame, shameless”. From Latin pudens, meaning shame.

scrutable: “capable of being understood by careful study or scrutiny”; and its opposite inscrutable: “incapable of being analysed or scrutinised; impenetrable”.

So there we have it, Brian‘s effable poem has been analysed and found to be quite scrutable. Written with a fair degree of reck, it proves to be both gainly and pudent. And now I have a strong inclination to go away and get ebriated, but it is a bit early in the day. Anyway that’s enough for now, and we shall have another of your poems tomorrow.
So it’s “all the best, stay safe” from ruly Brian and feckless me.

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Into April now and DAY 12 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS DIVERSION. Brian Ford has a ruthless way with words:

I am indeed not her fool but her corrupter of words
(Twelfth Night Act 3, Scene 1)

If Genghis Khan was ruthless, was St. Francis of Assissi Ruth?
Has anyone ever described Noel Coward as couth?
A trip on a bus that only goes to Setting Down sounds rather a lark.
Why are there so many signs telling Private Forecourt he can’t park?
Going on a bus to Sorry Notinservice doesn’t sound too jolly.
How can the supermarket be so certain that there are no children in my trolley?
If substandard means below standard and substantial means large, what does stantial mean?
Some people want to bring back corporal punishment, where has he been?
If a door must be kept closed at all times, why is it there at all?
Wouldn’t it be simpler just to have a brick wall?
I’ll be reassuring and calming to any alarmed door that I meet.
I’ll take care not to knock down children when they are crossing the street.
If I said a Toyota was palindromic,
Would you think I was gnomic?
I will be ruly and reck,
Gainly and feck
I will be dirty shaven.
I will be ebriated and effable
Pudent and scrutable
And look for an unsafe haven.

Brian Ford

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Today is not only DAY 11 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CAPER, but it’s also April 1st, and the human race is being subjected to a horrible April Fool attack. It’s certainly no joke. So let’s counterattack with a suitably irreverent limerick …

An Egyptian

An Egyptian with Coronavirus
Finds the loo paper shortage quite dire. As
A temporary solution
He aids his ablution
With sheets of ancient papyrus!

Adrian Beckingsale

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March is almost through, and it’s DAY 10 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS OVULATION … let’s have our day brightened by Sylvia Sellers’ happy hens!

The Horkesley Hall Hens

You were banished from your acres
on Open Garden Day,
not too happy, I should say.
Yet you still laid me eggs
to be eaten next day
coloured duck egg blue, pure white and speckledy.

Wandering through your territory,
me instead of thee,
walking amongst the daffodils, primroses and trees,
showing bark of cherry and white
Peeling incessantly.

We had coffee and cake on your lawn
got wet, tried to shelter from the storm.
But you, Horkesley Hens, had your little houses
and feathers to keep you warm.

I ate the speckledy egg for breakfast
with good bacon, it was divine.
The duck egg blue topped my bubble and squeak,
the pure white one I’ll try next week.

A perfect morning despite the weather,
take care, Horkesley Hens
Speckledy, Lilac and Chanticleer,
I’ll see you again next year.

Sylvia Sellers

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Now it’s DAY 9 of our ANTI-COVID-19 POEMS DESPONDENCY, and Phil East wants to break the mould – and why not?
“Hi Peter, Ah-ha! So the moment has come to introduce some inappropriately miserable, tongue-in-cheek love poetry! I must say that I’m very impressed with everyone’s submissions, Adrian May’s piece especially.”

Don’t Go

Don’t go.
Don’t go.
Don’t go.

The house is already
homesick for you;
though left feeling low and dry,
at least the spare room’s unborn children
will be too young to fully understand.

The pets will miss you too:
the cat will caterwaul,
the dog growl doggerel,
the goldfish’ll say bugger-all
but grieve just the same.

Maybe more,
for no one sees them cry.

Phil East

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It’s DAY 8 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POETRY PRIMAVERA, and Nicky Matthews has a poem, appropriate for the time:

Spring arrives

Spring arrives,
Like so many others
Brushing our cheek
With its lovely promises.
But this spring,
This rusted wingéd thing
Cannot lift the sadness
That holds all humanity
Captive to uncertainty.

She breathes..

And remembers a time
When humanity
Was the gentle partner
Of her bounty.
A time before we
Sought new ways
To exploit our mother
In pursuit of our
Capricious pleasures.

A bird sings ..

Our loss it seems,
Is gain to this good earth.
Who offers us
Healing in return,
If we could but wake
From this dark day,
With clearer vision,
And determined brow
To hold back our passions
And make the difference
Now.

Nicky Matthews

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DAY 7 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POETRY CHARIVARI and Adrian May writes: “Wrote this little walk poem last week and wondered if you’d like it. Best wishes” … yes, we do like it, with its image of the old Hythe now in lockdown with only memories of the comings and goings of its previous maritime heyday; a metaphor of course for our own isolation.

The Stranding of ‘The Virus’

Ships when not at sea
look uneasy
abandoned
in need of the
urgency of voyages

My constitutional by
the Hythe houseboats
passes various stickers
in mud and decays,
waitings for tides
which have retreated from
usefulness

The old knowledge
of the propitious
time and season
gone to ground –
maintenance needed but
not done, no
ship-shape to be had

No new love-boat
could sail away
now, or be free
We are grounded
like ships when
not at sea

Adrian May

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DAY 6 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POETRY REVERBERATION and your Editor is a sucker for a well-crafted limerick …

El Greco

There was a young man named El Greco
Who enjoyed the odd glass of Prosecco
He exclaimed “My, that’s fine!”
Then repeated the line
In a clever attempt at an echo.

Paul Kennedy

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And now it is DAY 5 (26 March) of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS FEATURE. It is also the day that we had planned to be entertained by Luke Wright and Martin Newell but sadly of course we have had to CANCEL.
Still we are fashioning our own entertainment with our ANTI-COVID-19 poetry, and here comes Pete Langley with his delicate free verse poem Dancers:
“Well. you asked for it, so here`s a piece I wrote after watching an old couple on the Lido Deck, on a cruise in January.
Cheers mate & stay safe. Pete”

Dancers

Decades gone their last hurrah,
the dancing school still survives
with younger limbs than theirs.
Dancers they were, always hoofing it,
He , of  upright manly posture,
she so, oh so light of foot.
From the long and lean days,
they sashayed through redundancy
and pregnancy
to promotions and exhibitions,
competitions even.
But time and tempo
are uneasy bedfellows.
Her weak knees and his trick back
made for an unrehearsed discord
and early baths.
“Not done!” they cried. “We are one!”
In old age, we see them not so svelte,
strolling arm in arm,
each with a walking cane in the other hand,
his trick knees and her weak back
seeming to strike a balance.
Their tiny steps are now
a syncopated hobble
and the sticks tip-tap
the rhythm of a slow foxtrot.
Pete Langley

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So we are at DAY 4 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS WORD-PLAY, and here is Simon‘s second CROSSWORD POEM:

4 Down

The four down clue (6-6)
Was Slight defect
What were synonyms for slight?
Came up with trivial, little, and minor
It must be little, or so I thought.
Great that’s at least a start.
I moved on next to defect
Could be blemish, fault, or weakness
But none had just six letters.
Back to the drawing board – Sod it.

A clue across gave me a V
For the second word’s first letter.
Then an S for the third
Little visits seemed possible,
But highly unlikely.
Then an N for the last letter.
Vision would fit
But little-vision meant nothing
And certainly not with a hyphen.

So I threw down my pen in frustration
And awaited the solution next day.
Tunnel vision was the answer.
I shrieked and looked back at the clue.
Clean spectacled and peering closely
I read again – ‘kin hell
4 Down – Sight defect (6-6)

Simon Haines

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Now it’s DAY 3 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ENDEAVOUR, and Simon Haines – who in a parallel universe would have been, along with The Hosepipe Band and Martin Newell, entertaining us in one month from now, but is banged up like the rest of us – has written “Just seen your email asking for light-hearted poems. Here are two recent ‘crossword poems’ of mine.”
I am very pleased to post them here; one today and the other tomorrow. Clever and hilarious.

Nine across

Nine across “Memory loss”
Got any letters?
Begins and ends with A
Sorry – can’t remember.

There’s a name for that, isn’t there?
Name for what?
You know – if you can’t remember
The word for loss of memory.

Oh yes – No, don’t tell me
It’s on the tip of my tongue.
I knew I’d get it in the end
Anaemia

Simon Haines

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DAY 2 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POETRY PROGRAMMEJulia Usher has sent this amusing chain of five short poems:

Nonsense

1 (SIGHT)
I caught myself
Washing round my glasses;
Near to making a spectacle of myself,
Sight – unseen.

2 (HEARING)
Toying with an earring,
I subtly cup my earflap forward
To entrap the spoken word.
Fearing social affliction,
One preserves the fiction of perfect hearing.
Pretending only to minor diminishment;
With chagrin –
Driven to lip-read
Aided by manual trumpet.

3 (SMELL)
I cannot tell
If modern hybridisation
Erases the bouquet that was this rose;
Or whether
It’s a faulty olfactory bulb
Unnerving my nose,
That kills my sense of smell.

4 (TASTE)
Playing young, I mouth the lemon rind,
Smiling with peeled-yellow teeth at you.
Then chewing, as it fizzes on my tongue, I find
The acid drops have rendered me
Tasteless.

5 (TOUCH)
Once-fluent digits falter as worn joints swell;
I do not linger much
To pluck at dust with thumb and finger.
I suppose it doesn’t matter; I’m
No longer touch-sensitive.

Julia Usher

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DAY 1 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POETRY PROJECT
Here is Jan King‘s evocative new poem ‘The Kingfisher’.

The Kingfisher

On a drizzle-grey afternoon
Not yet spring but no longer quite winter,
Our thoughts caught between hope and fear,
We open the shutters of the hide
To let in the light.
Nothing but a few mallard to be seen.
The pewter sky’s reflected in the water
Bordered for miles by bleached-out reeds
Land and water leached of colour
Or so it seems, but then
A sudden flash of brilliant iridescence
Streaks turquoise along the muted margin of the pool
And vanishes.
The rain stops. Dabchicks squabble, dive and re-appear. The sky brightens like a blessing.

Jan King

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MORE NEW POEMS TO COME EACH DAY

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For more poems see the Poems Archive page