POEMS PAGE UPDATED 09 JULY 2020

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THE ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS PAGE

We have more than completed 100 days in the daily ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS PROJECT – but we are not going to stop now …
Do keep sending in your poems: we continue to enjoy them during these difficult times. Send in poems to make us THINK, or send HAPPY, or PLAINTIVE, or HUMOROUS new verse…

SUBMISSIONS by EMAIL, either in the body of the message or as a .docx attachment, to: peter@plusplus9.plus.com.
Up to 30 lines will be most acceptable (max limit 40).
Selected poems will be posted by the Poems Editor, whose decision will be final.
Keep sending!
NO HANDWRITTEN POEMS PLEASE

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

In isolation, 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

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

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’s  lips 

       . . .  .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

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

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

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 PEREGRINATION, 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 – maybe soon to be superseded by changes in lockdown regs …

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
and 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 Dònall 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

Dònall 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 FANTASY, 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 HOEDOWN, 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 BLAST 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 NOTION. 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 CHATTER, 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 REFLECTION! 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 MIX, 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 PROCESS, 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 BLITZ … 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 EXERCISE, 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 IDEA, 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 PUSH and I’m 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 DOO-DAH, 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