POEMS TODAY PAGE UPDATED 26 JANUARY 2021

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Our project to publish new poems that will lift our spirits and counteract the Covid blues has achieved more than 300 consecutive days in this daily ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS INITIATIVE.  But  we really do still need more of your uplifting poems… please continue to send them in (sadly not all make the cut, but then that’s the way of it).

Today’s poet, exploring word association, is Aziz Dixon.

SUBMISSIONS by EMAIL  to: peter@plusplus9.plus.com

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

Selected poems will be posted by the Poems Editor, whose decision will be final.

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

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Poets live for words, and our poems take life through the particular arrangements of our words, and the concepts that they express.  Today we have reached Day 311 of the ANTI-COVID-19 “NEW” POEMS ANALYTICAL and our poet Aziz Dixon explores Word games in lockdown.  Such games hark back to the work of Swiss psychologist Carl Jung who founded analytic psychology.  Jung devised the Word Association Test, which he proposed would show the reality and autonomy of unconscious complexes. The test was used to diagnose psychological typology and hence psychopathology; many consider this to be a flawed and to some extent dangerous form of analysis, so let us be content to employ it as just a playful game.

Word games in lockdown

Roll the dice
no words twice
first one to fifty starts

Iceberg
Titanic
struggle
drowning
divorce
so glad we met

Polar
bare
bedroom

Penguins
biscuits
chocolate
intimacy
redacted

Ice-shelf
Ross
Scott
Peter
wild geese
how to write poetry

arctic fox
musk ox
Amundsen
Norway
fjords
our first cruise
was Peter there?
I have to know

Shackleton
skeleton
cupboard
dresser
cross-dresser
very cross

It’s not about winning
I love you too

Aziz Dixon

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Ach weel, this evening ’tis Burns Night, although it will likely matter not a jot to many of our readers.  Now however that this Wivenhoe-based website is successfully reaching out to poets and readers far beyond the confines of East Anglia, let us mark the occasion with some verse of a Scottish nature.  Apologies, however, for dredging up a poem from the distant past, despite the requirement that poems for this website should be “new”.  So on this Day 310 of the ANTI-COVID-19 “NEW” POEMS RESUSCITATION this one harks back to Edinburgh in the mid-fifties.  Not new, then.  In those days before the Clean Air Act the city was dark and smokey, hence “Auld Reekie”.  The village of Cramond is upstream of Edinburgh, on the shore of the Firth of Forth.

Cramond

In Cramond yesterday I walked
and thought that I was free of city air;
the lines of shore and rock were sharp and clear
and in the sky there hung a smokey tear
that trickled from Auld Reekie’s greystone face –
a face that saddened, haunting and austere.
I thought of cobbled streets, of crooked wynds,
of caverned closes and dark houses tall,
and always in the sky a sullen pall
curling and twisting fingers round the blinds
of sightless windows, creeping through their lace.

In Cramond yesterday I walked
and crunched the oily gravel of the beach
where periwinkles huddled on the rocks.
I found a ragged frond of tangleweed –
torn beauty hiding in a herring-box.
A tide was sucking at the stones and shells
and mewing gulls were drifting on the seas;
a mist came down, blue mist among the trees
where from the wooded shore rose thicket smells
and glistening branches dripped in melodies
and on each leaf there hung a sparkling bead.
I turned my steps towards the city’s fumes –
still in my heart I held some grey-blue mist
and in my ears were salt-sea sounds that kissed.
They linger yet in my Victorian rooms.

Peter Ualrig

published in Gambit, 1960. 

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Communications technology today is a life-saver in many ways – easing our isolation by allowing us to be in touch more readily with friends and family, by facilitating online learning, by enabling virtual conferencing.  Something like 95 percent of households in the UK own a mobile phone, and we are now receiving appointments for the Covid vaccine by text.  Poetrywivenhoe is about to host an open mic event on Zoom in four days time.  Our poet Hannah Stone on this Day 309 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CONFABULATION finds herself in a Zoom waiting room, in one of a long series of prose poems she has written in this past year, focusing on the effects of the pandemic.

Avatars for a Zoom generation

Thanks to the drinks gathering being virtual, no-one can tell my glass contains only cold tea. I have already consumed the whole month’s allocation of goodwill, and it’s only ten past six on the first Friday. I click onto Zoom and am held in a waiting room, in dark corners of which lives most of the rest of my life. Male friends tell me they have stopped shaving. My bras coil in limp piles in drawers that no longer glide open. The mirrors have lost focus, glazed over by inertia. My webcam is angled to the darkest end of the sofa, so I prompt my companion to join the conversation, confident no-one will be puzzled by the round amber eyes, wet pink triangle for a nose, and whiskers that require no depilation. Meanwhile, I knit myself a tail from cobwebs, fashion claws out of rose thorns. My joints unfreeze, my spine begins to liquefy; I can smell things I never knew existed. I pour another glass of confabulation, and leer at the screen in time to see the timer count down to the final minute. We all wave frantically as if we are mutating into socially distanced telly-tubbies.

Hannah Stone

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Storm Christoph has brought rain and widespread flooding across the UK.  More snow on the way.  High winds not so much, but plenty of damage and distress.  On this Day 308 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS DISSECTION poet Jenna Plewes draws an analogy between the splitting of a Crack Willow and the splintering of our own lives.  Interestingly, we can read another Crack Willow poem in this series (it was on Day 94, by poet Sara Impey)

The Crack Willow

It must have happened in the night:
the split in the trunk had been
widening all winter, little by little
the calloused weather-beaten bark
cracking, torn muscle ripping apart.

This morning sunlight circles
a shadow dance of dark and light
through fallen limbs, wind plays
with an upright branch or two,
the rest lie twisted out of shape,
splayed in the dirt. 

If I could put my ear against the tree,
I’d hear the heartwood beat; sap
still runs, leaves will appear, a limb
or two will root into the soil. 

In the distance a child laughs, singing
carries on the breeze. A man with a dog
calls across the field, asks me how I am.
We talk about our dogs, our splintered lives,
feel better when we go our solitary ways.

from the lockdown collection ‘The Underside of Things’ which won the Hedgehog Poetry Press competition last year,

Jenna Plewes

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Was it about a week ago that we had the first snow?  Time seems elastic these days.  And now in the North and in Wales people are battling with devastating floods.  But there is a new dawn in the USA.  Our poet Hannah Stone wrote this poem, Fall, four years ago on the day after the election of Donald Trump; “This is not a new poem; it was published in my second collection Missing Miles in 2017. Today, 20 January 2021, it felt appropriate to revisit it. The reference to tool-making animals relates to a comment by Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle.”  It is Day 307 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS DISSOLUTION; Trump has fallen; we face the challenge now  to find the tools “to make a difference”.  

Fall

First snow. Less hyperbolic than forecast.
So it may be with fall out;
the punters get things wrong.
The daily pattern continues. People rise,
get washed and dress, and break their fasts
whatever latitude they inhabit.
In this neck of the woods
the sun did not deign to show itself,
but emails got answered, cats fed.
Conversations with tongues and thumbs
brought no solace.
As daylight seeped back over the horizon
a bowl of apples needed peeling,
and whatsoever bits of them were lovely,
and of any virtue,
I sliced and cooked.
We will still eat, and sleep,
and wake to find the nightmare still around,
and search again, tomorrow,
for whatsoever things are true
or just or pure or of good report,
and keep on looking.
And don’t expect divine intervention
to make a difference. It’s our job
to find the tools or make new ones.
Man is the animal that does this.     

Hannah Stone
from: Missing Miles (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2017)

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A new light dawns in Washington DC – and not just the light of a new Presidency, but the light of new and vibrant poetry.  We hear the words, so rich in phraseology and so clearly spoken, of Amanda Gorman, first-ever US National Youth Poet Laureate:

When day comes, we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid.
The new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.

And we ask, on this Day 306 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS RENAISSANCE, who among our own cherished poets can we invite to reflect the glory of this rebirth?  So with her intriguing poem Tondo of Defence it falls to Ekaterina Dukusina to untangle its glow.

Tondo of Defence
Michelangelo, Uffizi

As normal in trouble you need a cuddle.

But this time it was forbidden. 

So, all options intangible,
I virtually entered the famed ancestral space –
of the Holy family of the Renaissance.                                                           

At first, the primal light,
cutting into draperies as a golden knife,
blinds my eye; when the retina recovers,
I can’t take the brain blinding surprise –
the virgin, snuggling between her old man’s legs. 

I beg for solar eclipse,
but the sun never sets on a rebirth genius’ stance
on the mysteries of holy romance.  

The holy child kicks the last
defying undertones and no one can detect
if he is suspended to the mother or haled up to the father. 

As a double blinding survivor
I saw the glow slowly untangle:
it is both – just 33 years apart. 

And we live our dear lives
in this cutting edge suspense on his expense.

Buonarroti’s Tondo – our ever expanding good defence.

Ekaterina Dukusina

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20 January 2021 – a hugely important day for America and for the world.  Let’s hope it pans out smoothly.  President-Elect Joe Biden shows his humanity on the eve of his inauguration by holding a memorial vigil for the 400,000 US victims of Covid-19 at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.  What can we offer on this Day 305 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS INAUGURATIONAL?   As this day is undoubtedly a moment to remember, let us call upon poet Aziz Dixon, who having carried water in metaphors, and having rinsed his words to dry, will later weave them with sunlight.  Let the sunlight commence …

Birthday in lockdown
after Jamila Woods, after Nazim Hikmet

Today I am sixty-six.
I am driving a steam engine.
I have only waited sixty years
for this moment.
Now it is gone.

Today I can use my bus pass
if I wear a face mask,
do not talk to strangers,
if the buses in this town
have anywhere to go.

Now I am sixty-six
I do not have to work
any more, used to think I would
drop dead today, but
I still chop wood,

carry water in metaphors,
hang rinsed words to dry
in front of the fire.
Later I will weave them
with sunlight.

Aziz Dixon

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It is Day 304 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS VACATIONAL and we read that health secretary Matt Hancock says “people should plan for a great British summer”. Holidays abroad are not going to be easy, as he revealed he has booked his own break in Cornwall.  Our poet Jean Hall looks back at travels in Shetland, in The Relict Tree – a poem recently published in the anthology ‘In The Voice Of Trees’.  Memories live on, like the relict tree …

The Relict Tree                                                                      

                  (i)

It grows where no trees grow,
on the edge of a gully,

safe from grazing sheep
until winter builds ice bridges

A site of special interest,
reminder of an ancient woodland past:

a layer of bark, stiff with sheen,
traces of knots, side-branch scars,

a time of willow, aspen, birch,
wild roses and honeysuckle,

dense coppices where blackbirds
once nested and sang.

The hazel’s deep-veined branches
and its shrub companions:

spindly, sparsely-berried rowan,
thorny strands of dog-rose

resist 100-miles-an-hour winds creaming
cliffs, exposing glaciated slopes, travelling 

like us, down every road
from Muckle Flugga to Sunburgh.

                   (ii)

We walked those landscapes,
found meaning in a cargo of centuries,

laughed with loons, heard storytellers
of doom, seen crofts and cairns, 

brochs in fog, sea-stacks, lighthouses,
rich oceans of flock and fin,

caught crab and mackerel,
dined on tasty seaweed lamb,

heard a choir of kittiwakes, sang with seals,
sighted gannets, guillemots and puffins,

shared bus shelters with sheep,
muzzled by midges at dusk.

On beaches we trawled for fossils,
driftwood shapes and stones to take home.

Memories live on, like the relict tree
still growing, even though you have left.

Jean Hall

‘In the Voice of Trees’  Cinnamon Press 2020

(Editor’s note: ‘In the Voice of Trees’ is an anthology of poems that explore nature in relation to the ogham tree calendar.  Ogham was an alphabet similar to runes, restricted to the Celtic population of the British Isles, and used for Primitive Irish, the ancestor of all three contemporary Gaelic languages – Irish, Manx, and Scottish Gaelic.  Its twenty letters were feda or ‘trees’.)

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In East Anglia two mornings ago we woke to a snowscape.  It didn’t last long.  On the same morning our poet Aziz Dixon, somewhat further north, was Getting out of bed to a land of freezing fog Pennine snow. Today is Day 303 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ANTIFREEZE, the motivational chocolate has all been eaten and the forecast is for light rain and a moderate breeze.

Getting out of bed

There is ice outside
all over the pavements, the garden.
I know this because last night
I listened to the forecast.

Not New England Christmas robin snow,
not Madrid once in fifty years snow,
but now I’ve twitched the curtains
it’s freezing fog Pennine snow

like yesterday, except that
the birds will have eaten
all the sunflower hearts I grew for them
last year when there was daylight,

warmth. There is ice outside
and downstairs the motivational chocolate
has all been eaten
by me.

Today could be a duvet day
like yesterday, like the next
three months of lockdown
but I remember how I used to 

get up in the mornings,
feed the birds on the ice outside,
and I know I can do it one more time
starting now.

Aziz Dixon

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A major aim of this initiative is to raise your spirits in the face of the pandemic and its attendant privations, and on this Day 302 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS DIVERTISSEMENT we can depend on our poet Sylvia Sellers to do just that, as from her balcony she observes the cavortings of the local pigeons …

Lockdown pigeons

The pigeons are defrosting
on the new street lights
in the early morning sunshine
of Day 2 of the second Lock-down
Fifth November
Two Thousand and Twenty.

Two weeks later they’re back
to this elevated perch
abandoning my balcony rail
they’re pecking each others necks with vigour
only one isn’t a pigeon
it’s a collared dove.
Whatever next? 

Sylvia Sellers 

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Over the 300 days of this project there has been a hugely rewarding influx of poetry from the many poets who have been taking part, and it is gratifying to note that submissions are still coming in (we need them).  Today is Day 301 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS INGRESSION and we are halfway through January.  Poet Jean Hall has just sent this poem ‘Arrivals’, and although it is out of sync with the season, it is going up on the page now as expressing – in a natural history sort of way – the complete opposite to today’s news that the government has announced a dramatic tightening of the UK’s borders, with all international arrivals to be forced to quarantine.  We look forward to the return of summer.

Arrivals

The pub’s still boarded up – tables and chairs
strung together with red tape. In outside
space kept for smokers, the air is so clear
everyone can breathe, the silence broken
by chattering birds, fresh from wintering.
Yellow and green flash past, perform noisy
acrobatics on flagpoles, join glossy
blue-black backs and white rumps of house
martins reclaiming their old spit-and-mud
nests under the eaves. Torrents of swifts flood
the sky, move faster than water: soot-brown
darts swooping, skimming wheat fields,
picking insects from the air on the way –
hope and sudden joy – summer has returned.

Jean Hall

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Good grief, this is Day 300 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS FELICITATIONS  – our project has clocked up three centuries; not in years of course but in days.  We have seen during this awful pandemic how the daily news has been driven by numbers and statistics, while we have been notching up our small results day by day.  Seen as a number, 300 pales into insignificance when contrasted with today’s news that the global coronavirus death toll has today topped 2 million.  But let us remain optimistic; the vaccination campaign is being stepped up and therein lies our hope.  The vaccine programme has been a great achievement – so far, pace Gordon Hoyles’ wry little poem on Day 298. Taking a parochial look at our 300 days, we can be proud of an initiative that has promoted the work of so many poets writing in so many different styles.  And today’s poet has good reason to be on our page today: January 15th is her birthday!  The occasion of her birth was fraught with difficulties, but we may be thankful that both she and her mother survived.  Happy birthday, Audrey Ardern-Jones!

All this for me on January 15th

I think about my Polish mother giving birth
to me: she a refugee, a young woman so
far from home, staying with my grandmother:
my father away – I think of the way the world
was then, the way the world is now:  I was
the baby the doctors thought best to be aborted,
the baby that might die, might cause her to die – she
a WW2 escapee with TB in her right kidney:
she cried for weeks leaving me behind, staying
in hospital – the surgeon taking her kidney out 

Audrey Ardern-Jones

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Here come de jab!  Here come de jab!  Now everybody know that here come de jab!  It is Day 299 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS VACCINATION and our poet Adrian Beckingsale takes a wry look at the current state of play, ending with a ray of hope which he feels “may sadly be nonsense if new Coronavirus variants develop which do not respond to the vaccine”.  He alludes to this covertly with lines from Lewis Carroll’s great nonsense poem Jabberwocky (Jabberwocky defined by Carroll himself as “the result of much excited and voluble discussion”).  Beckingsale wonders if the whole course of most of the world’s response to this terrible ordeal has from the start been based on an over-optimistic view of the situation.  Such a view may jar with the spirit of optimism that we are trying to engender; so we are glad to note that he writes “I hope I’m wrong and I certainly want the vaccine when they get round to youngsters like me!”

It’s different now.    

 It’s different now that Covid’s here
The pubs are shut and can’t sell beer,
Isolation! Isolation!
Fear is running through the nation.
Please stay at home! Please stay at home!
In streets and parks you may not roam!
Café, diner, tearoom, hotel
How long they’re shut no one can tell.

Stay home and save the NHS
The hospitals are in a mess.
The carers brave as brave can be
Work on inside their PPE.
The tourist trade’s gone to the wall
Delivery firms have had a ball

Athletes cannot get off their blocks,
Hosiers cannot sell their socks
We have clicked and we’ve collected,
Much less chance to be infected.
Death toll is rising every day
But now a vaccine’s on the way.

Will it bring much needed relief
Get life back from the Covid thief
Well let’s have all our fingers crossed
Get back to work and pay the cost
Let us go on a holiday
“Oh frabjous day, Callooh Callay”

Adrian Beckingsale

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Anti-Covid vaccinations are now happening throughout the land, including here in beautiful NE Essex.  It is a magnificent achievement, but it will take several months to vaccinate all age groups over 18.  And it doesn’t mean that we can relax on social distancing and other preventive measures.  Deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam has explained that the vaccine should protect recipients from severe illness, but he cannot give the assurance that vaccinated persons won’t still pose a hazard to others through transmission.  So Grandma shouldn’t think yet about hugging her grandchildren.  One day, however, one day.  Indeed our poet Gordon Hoyles on this Day 298 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS INOCULATION likens Covid to Humpty Dumpty and predicts its fall.  Possibly.  Many of you will be familiar with our local story of the Colchester ‘Humpty Dumpty’, a powerful cannon which was positioned on the 15th century tower of the church of St Mary’s by the Wall during the siege of Colchester in the English Civil War.  When, under sustained fire from Lord Fairfax’s attacking troops, the gun came tumbling down, it could not be raised again.  Now Hoyles brings the story up to date.  We can but hope.  There is, however, a sting in the tail of his short and acerbic poem – a disquieting element of Don Quixote …

Sketch of the day, January 2021

At all the resources
of all the Queen’s men
‘Brainless’ the Covid
is waving again.

As this Humpty Dumpty
is taking its toll
by God and St George
we’ll cause it to fall.

As safe in our armour
our lance to the joust
is loaded with vaccine
this dragon to oust.

Gordon Hoyles

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Today’s poet Jenna Plewes ponders on a monochrome landscape which seems imbued with a funereal sense of despair; we are currently frozen in a national lockdown, with the likelihood of even more severe restrictions to come soon.  The colour is being drained from our very existence – but if we can find even a grain of optimism within ourselves we may be able to “colour the margins” and so lighten the horizon with a gleam of hope.  On this Day 297 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS POSITIVITY we can legitimately pin all our hopes on the new vaccines, whose coming may start to bring some colour back to our lives.

Where has all the colour gone?                                               

Black on white

a straggle of hedge
withered beanstalks like
three-day stubble on frostbitten skin 

white on white

a scuffle of pawprints
ciphers in snow
boot studs mapping a frozen field                                                                          

black on black

a long dark coat
a funeral tie
a single mourner in a limousine

black and white weeks
an exercise book
ruled lines stratifying our days

but I can colour the margins
apply a wash of blue
above the smothered fields
soften the outline of the winter trees
lighten the horizon with a gleam of hope.

Jenna Plewes

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Sad to say it, but after many moons of playing the footbass in the popular Hosepipe Band, our poet Simon Haines is afflicted by a certain degree of deafness, possibly of tinnitus too – a real bane of the modern musician – although that has not been mentioned.  Moderate deafness allows him to hear most of a conversation, but some key words are misheard, and so misconstrued.  On this Day 296 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS MISCOMPREHENSION the poet struggles to understand his granddaughter’s surprisingly broad school curriculum …

Sea planes

My granddaughter said in a serious tone
As she painted a unicorn pink
For no actual reason that I could discern
We’re learning about sea planes this week.

Sea planes? I asked sounding slightly surprised.
My! The curriculum has sure broadened out!
No! Not ‘sea planes’! she shrieked with a grin on her face
That’s not what they teach us about!

I said ‘seed trays’ she screeched. Okay, soz! I replied.
Was the problem her lisp or my deafness?
I’ve got a seed tray that’s growing herbs in my shed –
No! Not ‘seed trays’ she exploded, unable to hide
Her contempt for her poor old deaf granddad.

Now listen attentively, watch my lips closely
I’ll say it again very slowly
At school last week we have started to learn
About ‘Steam trains’! not ‘Seed trays’ or ‘Sea planes’!

Simon Haines

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Today is Day 295 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS RUBIFICATION.  Our poet Adrian Beckingsale was inspired by taking down the Christmas decorations on Twelfth Night, and realising that rather than it being a White Christmas the predominant colour of the Season has been red.

Red Christmas

Its been a Red Christmas
Holly berries, kirsch soaked cherries
Breasts of robins, woolly hat bobbins,
Strawberry jam, clove studded ham,
Ribbons and bows, Rudolph’s nose,
Sloe gin sips, lovers lips,
Glowing faces, Santa’s braces,
Royal Mail box, novelty socks,
Christmas cracker, nail varnish lacquer,
Trees decorated, balloons inflated,
Advent candles, Christmas baubles,
Cranberry sauce, vase of haws,
Port and wine, coloured twine,
Trifle jelly, colour telly,
Rare roast beef, Poinsettia leaf,
Wood fire blaze, sunset’s rays
Amaryllis blooms adorn our rooms
Christmas lights on winter nights

Adrian Beckingsale

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The patterns of our lives during this year-long pandemic have been irretrievably altered, but not always in bad ways.  In this tender poem, Filial growth, our poet Maggie Davison  explores a mother and son relationship illumined by the metaphor of a sapling in the wood.  It is Day 294 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS PROPINQUITY.

Filial growth  

There’s a sapling in the wood
we passed many lockdown days. You,
who came home for a weekend and stayed
months in a cocoon not of my making,
called it ‘our tree’.

……………………………..We watched it grow,
from self-seeded baby of watchful parent
to win its first leaves, raising its branches up
from the ground, while we tumbled into old
mother and son ways.

……………………………..In our daily walks, we laughed
at how it couldn’t have chosen a worse place
to set down roots, the middle of a well-walked path.
Come the summer, you left to rekindle your life
in a freer world.

……………………………..And I trod the wood alone,
reporting back, on the phone, about the tree’s
burgeoning importance. Then, in autumn,
it was camouflaged by the forest floor, shedding
its nascent leaves

……………………………..with the first bite of the wind.
These dark January days, it’s hard to spot and you’ve
stopped asking about it. I passed it yesterday.
It was standing in a pool of tears
with mud and ice and water.

Maggie Davison

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What hopes are there that the USA will heal itself anytime soon?  Do you feel like taking bets? Joe Biden has a huge task ahead of him, that’s for sure.  We, in the meantime, are Looking back on 2020 through the retrospectoscope of poet Jenna Plewes from the vantage point of Day 293 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS INTROSPECTION – but what happens next?

Looking back on 2020

If we’d known in Spring where we’d be in December
we’d have vacuum-packed birthdays and foreign trips
stacked anniversaries and school reunions in the freezer
folded up frocks and business suits, bought sloppy tee shirts
a subscription to Netflix, got a regular order from Waitrose.

We’d have curled up like a cat, one eye open, one eye shut
or paced the carpet like a leopard in a cage, let our hair grow long,
had chocolate cake for breakfast, too much wine for lunch
thrown away the bathroom scales and turned the mirror to the wall.

Now it’s the New Year and we’ve done all that, so what’s next?

Jenna Plewes

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O people!  What horrifying scenes of insurrection and incivility do we witness in Washington DC?  We, as peaceful and pro-democracy poets, must surely react, even if only to express our disgust and alarm.  Up until today – which is Day 292 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS INSURGENCY – this website has been dedicated to mitigating our Covid engendered blues, but we break with tradition to respond to the shocking events in America.  We cannot ignore the tumult.  Today’s poem was very likely to have been light hearted and uplifting, but it is tempting to replace it with WB Yeats “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last / slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” … instead, your Editor has turned to that renegade Rik O’Shea who, despite his rebel credentials has his heart in the right place, and who has hastened to pen this improvised polemic:

A disgrace

Democracy is under threat –
is this too difficult to say?
Surely it is anathema
when speaking of the USA?

Trump has ceaselessly repeated
it was a fraudulent election;
his people swallow this as truth,
and so accord the facts rejection.

They have breached the light security
around the sacred Capitol –
the seat of their legislature.
This cannot be condoned at all.

The storming of the Winter Palace
by Bolsheviks in Petrograd
brought down the Russian Government –
can things in US get so bad?

In Britain we fight against Covid;
you’d think that this was quite enough.
Those Yanks are fighting with themselves –
this brave New Year is getting rough.

It is no joke, no mere diversion,
to add to what the people face.
Democracy has been assaulted;
a lasting and profound disgrace.

Rik O’Shea

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Our poet Brian Ford, on this Day 291 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS MANIFESTATION, in writing his Covid Nativity, tells how the Three Wise Men drove up in a tank “volunteering to bring provisions from the local food bank”.  This poem is entirely appropriate for today, 6 January, the Feast of the Epiphany.  “A cold coming we had of it,” wrote Eliot in The Journey of the Magi; and having witnessed the Birth, the Magi “returned to our places, these Kingdoms” …  Often depicted as the Three Kings, the Magi were most probably Zoroastrian priest-astrologers from Persia.  They came to see the newborn Christ on the day of the “manifestation” or “showing forth.”  And in Brian Ford’s words hope was born.

Covid Nativity

We had to make the journey to obey the law,
There’s really no alternative if you are poor.
Bureaucracy demanded I went to my birthplace to find relations,
To furnish written evidence of residential qualifications.
My wife’s labour had started, my family had moved away
In desperation we realised we had nowhere to stay.
The maternity ward had Covid patients in every bed
We had to find a place in a local hotel instead.
Wearily we trudged along the dark streets of the town,
But regulations had closed the hostels and guesthouses down.
We then tried private homes, but they slammed shut every door
When they heard we’d come from a region in Tier Four.
Then an old man said “I’ve a positive result from a Covid test
I’m not allowed to open my home to any guest.
But you’re welcome to take shelter in my garden shed,
At least it’s dry and draughtproof, with an old camp bed.
There’s a disused pig feeding trough to lay the baby in
And clean sacks for bedding, tucked behind the compost bin.”
Romanian lorry drivers, stuck in their cabs that night
Looked up into the heavens, and saw a shining light
And angelic voices telling them to visit us in the shed
They came and shared with us their crisps and beer and bread.
A Bishop, an MP and a Field Marshal drove up in a tank
Volunteering to bring provisions from the local food bank.
Thus, in a locked down country, weary and careworn
The new life that brings love, peace, joy and hope was born.

Brian Ford

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As the awful Covid-19 dragon rears its scaly head to terrifyingly new heights, its horrid rampage pushes the reality of Britain’s retreat from Europe to one side in people’s thoughts.  But not so for today’s poet Norman Staines, who records his thanks to the EU in the following haibun on this Day 290 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS APPRECIATION:

Thank EU

Great party – great big thanks. A bit slow starting. That’s always the way? Then a few bottles opened and it started to liven up. Never seen such a massive lake of booze, swimming in it we were. Brilliant wine and beer. Dangerous bottles with unintelligible labels, I really tried not to have too much of them – honest! Even Teri eased up a bit, but you know her so it didn’t last long. Dave was totally out of it. Absolutely fantastic food. Gold stars for the chefs, we never had  that food at home when I was young. Skinny-dipping in the warm sea was amazing, nobody drowned. Cheers Ursula. Sorry to duck out

………………..have to go now
………………..hadn’t planned to leave you
………………..there’s a mess at home.

Norman Staines

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Our poet Tony Oswick, on this Day 289 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS SANGUINITY, brings us the benign thought that January is about to kick-start the new year.  The poet’s words are optimistic – sweet January, the month of bright promise.  Ah, we hope that this will be so.  It is indeed a month that presages a year of dramatic change; the vaccines are beginning their roll-out, with the hope that mass vaccination will allow us to arrive at a “new normal”, while we face huge economic challenges.  Yes, the pages are pristine, the tale’s to be told, that’s true, and we are keeping our fingers crossed for a brighter future …

January

Forget now excesses of fake festive fare,
Farewell to drink and that false merry air.
The squandering surfeit of superfluous giving –
We return to the mundane of January living.

January, my friend, I’m proud to declare
You’re a month most exquisite, you’re unique and rare.
Condemned by the critics as grey, dull and cold,
Each year I applaud your return to the fold.

You are not pretentious, flamboyant or loud,
You’re not one of the months that stick out from the crowd,
You don’t blind us with brashness, your purpose is clear –
To bury past sorrows and kick-start New Year.

Like an innocent babe you are pure, without blame,
Unsullied by guilty misconduct or shame.
You mirror bright shoots that show through the earth,
Foreshadowing signs of ensuing Spring birth.

The canvas is blank, landscapes yet to be drawn,
We, the artist, can paint what is yet to be born.
The pages are pristine, the tale’s to be told
In words optimistic, in letters of gold.

So Janus, you God with two faces, look on
Lost dreams and missed hopes – don’t think they are gone.
Dream again, hope again, let them both reappear,
Sweet January, the month of bright promise is here. 

Tony Oswick

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We are pleased to say that there’s a small treasure trove of January poems to come, but before we move too far away from Christmas, our poet Aziz Dixon sends, on this Day 288 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS SPHERULATION, a seasonal found poem, taken word for word “from a Government source”.  It is a poem which surpasseth all understanding, so gather ye limits in your tier while ye may.

Christmas baubles

A childcare bubble
is different to
a support bubble and 

a Christmas bubble.
Being in a childcare bubble
does not stop

you from forming
a support bubble
or 

a Christmas bubble.
You might be able
to form a support bubble 

to have close contact
with another household.
You have to meet

certain eligibility rules
to form a support bubble.
Find out more

about making
a support bubble
with another household. 

You must avoid seeing
members of your childcare
and support bubbles

at the same time,
unless otherwise permitted
by gatherings limits in your tier.

 Aziz Dixon

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On this Day 287 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CONCEPTUALISATION, at the very beginning of the new year, we recall the past year of devastation and at the same time we entertain new hopes for the future.   Our poet Jenna Plewes neatly encapsulates these twin processes in a haibun, a marriage of haiku poetry and connected prose which in Jenna’s hands introduces a double invocation of the wall calendar’s charming visualisation of rolling green hills …

A New Year Ritual 

………………………………………..A cloudless sky
…………………………….seagulls following the plough
…………………………………furrows ready for seed 

She takes down the 2020 calendar, turns back the months. She opens the new calendar at January and transcribes birthdays and anniversaries into each month, a ritual that becomes more and more necessary now her memory’s not so good. 

She sits at the kitchen table in the winter sun and reads through the past year – plans she’d made and pencilled in, celebrations, meetings, reunions: ones she’d looked forward to, some she’d dreaded, all cancelled or postponed indefinitely. There are funerals in there too. Quiet, lonely ones with a handful of relatives and without the comfort of companionship. That’s what’s been missing all these months, the chat, the hugs, the reminiscing – being together, being where things happen, having things happen.  

She checks she’s remembered everyone, then hangs up the calendar where she can see it easily. The January picture’s a painting of rolling green hills, a tractor climbing to the skyline, seagulls following the plough, a wide blue sky overhead.

Jenna Plewes

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New Year’s Day 2021: this is a moment of hope for the future, hope for our families and friends, hope for an easier ride than in the previous year, hope for the new vaccines to kick in, hope for health.  Today’s theme, on this Day 286 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS DISCONNECTION was to have been calendar-related – but that will instead be for tomorrow; your Editor has decided to mark the day of our severance from the EU with a short impromptu verse of his own.  Perhaps you will agree, perhaps disagree; undeniably the end of an era, but possibly it will prove to be a new dawn.  A moment of hope?
Happy New Year!

Brexit happens

When we were European,
I felt we were a part
of something great and noble.
I felt it with all my heart.

I felt we were accepted
in Italy and France.
We are once again an island
of offshore irrelevance.

So now we forge ourselves a future
while standing on our own,
controlling every border.
Is this truly a New Dawn?

Peter Ualrig Kennedy

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It is December 31st, the eve of the New Year.  The concept of time as a river is a familiar one; it was three centuries ago that Isaac Watts wrote “Time, like an ever-rolling stream, bears all its sons away …” and this strange and catastrophic year of 2020 is about to be borne away.  And on this Day 285 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS FLUVIALITY our poet David Winfield speaks to us of The Valley Serpent – the River Colne, the ancient river of the Colne Valley.  The source of the river is said to be an ancient spring in a field beside Ridgewell’s St Lawrence church.  And so David Winfield starts our river journey there, at the church.  In NE Essex the Colne is very much our river; after leaving the mighty viaduct at Chappel it flows down to Colchester, past the Essex University and then past Wivenhoe, through the tidal barrier and down to Brightlingsea where its estuary meets the North Sea.

The Valley Serpent

Behind Ridgewell’s Norman church,
a glittering snake advances
through clumps of snow
that have survived the thaw.

The infant Colne has begun to flow,
seeping towards the sea forty miles away.
Deep in a budding wood a sparkling rill,
follows the path of least resistance.

Too deep for stepping stones now,
it instinctively seeks an ancient channel,
enough and more to fill a mill pond
and turn the Wakes Colne wheel.

Tugged by the sea
under forty bridges,
one a moss-covered walkway,
another Chappel’s mighty seven arch viaduct.

The tall birches begin to sway,
fruit is falling in the valley,
tumbling leaves and broken branches
cannot stop its momentum.

Our snake a serpent now,
like a ribbon of peel from a silver pear,
winding  through frozen marshland,
towards the widening views. 

Curlews stand lightly on stiff silt,
until the tide pushes them aside,
on the rise it’s a half mile wide
and forces its way into the sea. 

It has fallen four hundred feet
from its birth in a sodden field,
to where a blurring of the horizon,
melts away to the empty expanse of sea and sky.

David Winfield

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The Old Year is drawing to a close, and your Editor still has one or two poems in the Project earmarked for suitable dates, but in truth the well is running dry, so that on this Day 284 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS SENESCENCE we have been on bended knee to that old rascal Rik O’Shea to ask for some appropriate verse.  In response he has delivered the poem All my words are said, written this very morning.  Please, you other poets, you who have done so well all year; rise once more to the challenge and help us achieve our aim of reaching 300 days; send more poetry …

All my words are said

So many years I trod the measure
  thinking life would last.
so many days I took my pleasure
  though time was drifting fast –
I heard the sirens singing sweetly
  as they tied me to the mast.

My cup of life was brimming over;
  I drained it to the end.
The tide of years a tumbling river
  I could not comprehend;
and every time I took a lover
  I knew I’d lost a friend.

So now alone I face the darkness,
the void that lies ahead;
I trust myself to act with braveness
  since every fear is fled.
Leave me the silence and the stillness,
now all my words are said.

Rik O’Shea

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Almost the end of an iniquitous year.  The virus mutates.  British skiers, who may have been unwise to go abroad in the first place, flee Verbier.  And on Day 283 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS EXODUS our wily poet Gorgonius seeks some tenuous relevance with his poem Bird box about the little bird who came and went.

Bird box

High on the house wall
the bird box
once held
a family of birds

the next year
for one summer season
it was the habitation
of a tribe of bumble bees

and after that
it stayed empty
for some while
until he took it down

he cleaned it out
he made a perch
from an old pencil
he hung it on a beam

soon a blue tit
made visit
and popped inside
to have a look round

then it left
and did not return
it was too dusty a residence
for a house proud blue tit

the spring cleaning
had not been good enough
so he washed it out
with hot soapy water

he set it up again
and now he is waiting
for the little bird
to come back.

Gorgonius

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So that was Christmas; now on Day 282 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS REVIVIFICATION it is perhaps time for fish and chips, as enjoyed in her Yorkshire days by our poet Sylvia Sellers …

Fish and chips after t’Chapel

Out of t’Chapel
Where t’soul’s been fed
Into t’chip shop
Where t’body’s fed.

Join in t’queue
Smell t’sizzling fish
We’ve had God
Now for some cod.

Old mother and son
Are running t’show
In a wooden shed
Where she serves on.

He gets it ready
Cuts up t’chips
Bucketfuls of ‘em
Chucked in t’fat.

Spitting and hissing
He stirs ‘em about
With a giant scoop
They’re lifted out.

Cooked to perfection, golden brown
Crispy battered cod and chips
Salt and vinegar, bits on top
Wrapped in newspaper, warming mi ’ands

Walking home by t’light a t’moon
Food o’ t’gods
Manna to t‘soul
And for t’body too.

Sylvia Sellers

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It was Christmas, and our poet Paul Allchin was faced with a dilemma – an unwelcome guest in the bathroom.  He had to act.  But on this Day 281 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS REDEMPTION our poet may not have reckoned with those arachnophiles who will be reading his poem The Visitor.  Yes, Paul, we are definitely with the spider!  But thankfully, Redemption was at hand – the day after Paul’s attempt at arachnocide, there sat the aquatic survivor and in a fit of clemency the poet jam-jarred the spider and sent him on his way to the outside world, where he will survive and spin.  Well done, poet!  His point in the poem was to highlight that the pandemic has led to such social isolation that even the unwanted spider became welcome and was given a second chance.  (But who can say if it was the same spider?)  What we all need now is the vaccination that will jam-jar the beastly Covid.

Covid Christmas, London Tier 4: The Visitor.

My only visitor, a spider in the bath!
Shower head to hand, I flushed it down the plug hole.
In defensive mode, it froze, its eight legs contracted.
And as a black ball, it rolled down my plumbing outlet.

Un-squashed, yet out of sight,
its fate lay in Destiny’s hands.
Covid news, the next morning on the radio: infections rising.
Mutant strains on the rampage.

Ablutions to fulfill.
And there in the bath,
the aquatic survivor, a black blob,
was dwarfed by white cliffs, and a whirlpool beckoning.

Jam jar at the ready, I scooped him up.
And flung him out of the window…
Another spider web,
to adorn the yard.

Merry Christmas,

Paul Allchin

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Boxing Day.  We hope you have had a pleasant Christmas.  In our thoughts are those less fortunate than ourselves who have had a horrible time, with Covid-19 perhaps, or being affected by floods; not forgetting the lorry drivers stranded in Kent.  Our Boxing Day poet, Chris Hardy, on this Day 280 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CONCATENATION considers the recent planetary conjunction, and the Nativity with its wandering star.  One of the prompts for the poem was hearing Dylan sing, ‘… he not busy being born is busy dying’.  Hardy’s wish for us is to relax, forget all the fear and tension out there, and to treasure the mid-winter fire festival.

Conjunction (21.12.20)

I’ve never felt the story
was comforting, a miracle.
At school we were told
animals and humans might live
beneath one roof,
that wasn’t new, also
what the shepherds saw
in the fields at night –
sometimes stars rustle,
sing like ice,
and wandering cold angels
hold hands
after centuries adrift.
Their slow gaze turns
on our dark barns,
our fire-light yellow windows.
As lanes vanish and
fields become lakes of coal
washing against thorns
our own blue wandering angel
wings folded flies
through nothing.

The Magi have the best part,
their names invite the world,
but not their gifts
of dangerous gold,
a sacrifice of frankincense,
corpse-anointing myrrh.
The end of the story
in its beginning gives
no consolation though
the second my daughter
was born others
left this life,
perhaps to rise in
dawn mist above the Thames,
look down at us,
the baby lifted by its fingers,
arms stretched wide,
fiercely gripping
the anxious midwife’s hands
as she stares into
my child’s unseeing
light-filled eyes.

Chris Hardy

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Christmas Day 2020!  The sun is up and shining bright; Covid-19 may still be ravaging the land, but on this Day 279 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS OPTIMISM we send you our finest Poetrywivenhoe Christmas greetings!  With a Deal (a bad deal being better than no deal) and with a vaccine in the offing (we’re waiting) we are definitely looking on the bright side.  But your Editor is about to bring you down with a bump … the honour of writing the Christmas poem has inexplicably fallen to him, and he has ransacked his old packing case of childhood memories for a short story by Eleanor Farjeon.  He condenses this magical but triste Christmas tale into free verse form for you to enjoy.  Merry Christmas.

The glass peacock
(after Eleanor Farjeon)

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

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

Then, ”I want your peacock”
sobbed her little brother, inconsolable,
who had broken his own present,
“let me have your peacock.”
“You can have it, of course you can”
she said, “here it is, my pet.”

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

All night long the pungent scent
of the Christmas tree was in her nostrils,
and the tiny crickle
of its dropping needles was in her ears.
All night long in her dreams
she could see the soft sheen
of the beautiful glass wings,
the magical crystal wings,
of the glass peacock.           

Peter Ualrig Kennedy 

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Following the Winter Solstice, with its pagan associations, we have now arrived at the Eve of Christmas, while thousands, literally thousands, of lorry drivers are stuck in vast queues near Dover – and Kent, in this fag-end of the Year of Covid, is in Tier Four.  We salute the members of the Sikh community who have delivered hundreds of hot meals to stranded lorry drivers.
On a broader perspective, Refugee Action has said “This has been one of the most challenging years we’ve ever faced. The pandemic put already vulnerable people at extreme risk.  We witnessed some of the most targeted and hostile rhetoric from the Home Office and the media, demonising people seeking safety.  Now, we are seeing attacks on the very principal of asylum.”  Today, on this Day 278 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS HOSPITALITY our poet Antony Johae delves for inspiration into the Carmina Gadelica, a collection of prayers, incantations, blessings, runes, and other poems and songs from Gaelic-speaking Scotland.  These texts were collected and translated in the 19th century by Alexander Carmichael, and Antony Johae’s poem The Stranger is an adaptation of the Rune of Hospitality …

The Stranger
(adapted from a translation of an old Gaelic verse)

He came yesterday.

I put food in the eating place
          drink in the drinking place
          music in the listening place.

When he had eaten
          drunk
………..slept

         I listened to his prattle
         smiled at his stories
……………laughed at his jokes.

The lark sang in her song:
……………often, often, often

      begging like a beggar
…………. drinking like a drunkard
………………….tramping like a tramp

comes the Lord as a stranger.

Antony Johae

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Right now the government is concerned that the  “very worrying” hyper-infectious variant of Coronavirus is “out of control”; it is no surprise that on this Day 277 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS HANDBAGGING our poet Margie North is hoping for a very precious Christmas present.  Is Santa on his way?  Even though it is on her 2020 Christmas List it’s not yet happening for her.  A 2021 New Year List might be in the offing …

The 2020 Christmas List

All I want for Christmas is my . . . . .

No … I have my two front teeth – albeit crowned
No … not a puppy dog – not this time round

Nor King John’s India Rubber Ball … please – I’m 74
No … not even Dior perfume – though I may need more

No … not a new pair of shiny welly boots
No .. . nor a Radley Handbag. I am hand-bagged oot

No … you can’t order it, you can’t buy it
It’s not stocked in the stores of this nation

All I want for Christmas is a
Covid 19 vaccination

“Impossible you won’t qualify”
ThenallIwantforTheNewYearismy . . . . .

Covid 19 vaccination

Margie North

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It’s a few short days to Christmas now, with the world in turmoil because of Covid, and on Day 276 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS SECULARITY our poet Antony Johae is irked that behind the conventions and trappings of “the holiday season” the true meaning of Christmas seems often to be forgotten.  But there is still some logic in language, even though it may be mutable.

Tree Greetings

It irked at first, this Essex message:
“Season’s Greetings from the Alumni Office.
See the holiday tree in Square 3.”
I asked:
Why “holiday”?
Why be shy of Christ’s Mass?
Is this tree unworthy?
Is the Lord’s name hidden in shame?
Why such secular correctness?
These queasy questions vexed like gnats in the night
coming back time and again to suck
away at the day’s good cheer
and resolutions of the imminent year.
Then a mind-window opening they flew away,
Light pouring in on HOLY DAY. 

Antony Johae

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Shortest day, longest night – it is Winter Solstice 2020, December 21st.  Things are getting difficult as the virus mutates, as various degrees of lockdown take effect throughout our four nations, and as freight transport to France is banned for the next two days.  There are myriad human stories of deprivation and sadness out there; so we say to ourselves “yes, we’re struggling, but there are so many worse off than we are.”  On Day 275 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS RETROSPECTION our poet D.C. Laplante writes tenderly of a visit to a garden centre, on the darkest day exactly one year ago, on Winter Solstice 2019, with a loved one who has suffered a stroke.  He speaks for all those whose days have, in the end, been darker than they could know.  Now we look for something to light us through these dark days …

Winter Solstice 2019

We drove to your favourite
garden centre.
I fixed a wonky trolley
to your wheelchair.
You loved our tour
of all the plants
and chose in the end
two orchids, pink and white,
two bromeliads, yellow and red,
to light us through the dark days –
darker in the end
than we could know.

D.C. Laplante

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In recent days the website has received some fine compliments.  One correspondent has written “Since my first visit the Poetrywivenhoe website has been my favourite simply on grounds of quality.”  Well, thank you kindly, sir.  And another: “ I’d like to say, thank the brilliant Rik O’Shea for the Italian!”  Again, thank you madam.  A third comment, “Rik O’Shea’s lines are keeping me busy interpreting.”   Meantime we have prevailed upon the dastardly Rik to provide us with his own rather free translation of Rosa.  And here it is, on Day 274 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ROMANTICISM, a short and moving poetic conte idealising his Italo-Irish antecedents.  We are indeed a nation of mixed origins.

Rosa

The people all called her ‘Contessa’ –
she rivalled the roses in beauty;
her father took daily provisions
to the barracks, as was his sole duty.

The girl often went with her father,
and there she would see the brave soldiery
in the sunshine out on the parade ground
practising swordsmanship boldly.

The O’Shea was an excellent fencer,
his blade flashing bright in the sun –
he won Rosa’s heart, and their passion
will last until Time itself’s done.

  Rik O’Shea

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During these strange and distressing times, our PROJECT persists in attempting to alleviate the mood and to lift our spirits.  The Poetrywivenhoe website remains by and large apolitical.  While this is generally so, there may be the occasion when a particular politician delivers him or her self of such an egregiously controversial statement that they should be taken to task.  Today is Day 273 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS COUNTERBLAST and our poet Denis Ahern has something pungent to say in this clever villanelle:

A Vile Affront

 Every hungry child is a vile affront
 to justice demanding mercy unstrained.
 To Rees-Mogg it’s a political stunt.

 When the weakest are left to bear the brunt
 as want and hardship spread uncontained
 every hungry child is a vile affront.

 Help’s at hand, Unicef at the forefront,
 with food that these waifs might  be sustained.
To Rees-Mogg that’s a political stunt,

An unwelcome prod to a conscience blunt,
a barb to privilege greedily retained.
Every hungry child is a vile affront.

Compassion’s met with a disdainful grunt
from the market motivated, spreadsheet brained,
and to Rees-Mogg, a political stunt.

Is seeking decency a fruitless hunt,
where privilege unearned is thought ordained?
Every hungry child is a vile affront,
yet to Rees-Mogg, a political stunt.

Denis Ahern

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Perhaps you can recall that at the moment of the Autumn equinox, which was Day 186, we ran a pretty French poem, Couleurs d’automne, written by Antony Johae?  We had some nice reactions to that – what a pleasure it was to read something in French, one said.  This Project, while being primarily ANTI-COVID-19, is also pro-European.  And this country is indeed a Rainbow Nation.  Our roots are all over the place!   Today – Day 272 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ITALOPHILIA – we have dragooned the rascally poetaster Rik O’Shea into spilling the beans about his antecedents in Dublin, where his great x3 grandmother Rosa was the daughter of an Italian warehouseman at the Portobello Barracks.  She became captivated by the dashing soldier Patrick O’Shea, who stole her heart, and Rosa herself, away.  In the poem, Patrick was a skilled swordsman – this may be a Rik O’Shea romantic notion.  It was a long time ago.

Rosa

Come una rosa era bellissima
e la chiamavano tutti ‘Contessa’.
Ogni giorno suo padre portava
il cibo alla caserma.

Spesso la ragazza lo accompagnava,
spesso la ragazza guardava
i soldati praticando la scherma
al campo di parata.

Il soldato Patrizio era buono spadaccino;
brillava nella luce la sua spada,
conquistò il cuore della ragazza.
La loro passione sopravviva per sempre.

Rik O’Shea

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As long ago as May, when it was Mental Health Awareness Week, and a lovely week for gardening, our poet Adrian Beckingsale told in neat coupleted verse how gardening was helping to maintain his mental wellbeing.  That was on Day 61 of this project (did any of us then expect the pandemic to go on so long and so fiercely?).  And now today 17 December, on this Day 271 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS AGRONOMY we hear again from Adrian Beckingsale in this list poem.  In his many roles as a gardener, he is content.

I am a gardener

I am a farmer in my vegetable patch and I am a painter with my flower-coloured palette.
I am a nurse looking after my plants and I am a doctor treating diseases.
I am a soldier fighting the pests and I am a general with my army of bees.
I am a charity worker feeding the birds and I am the weaver creating my floral tapestry.
I am a cleaner sweeping my paths and I am a window cleaner in my greenhouse.
I am an architect building bird boxes and I am a censor banning the weeds.
I am Aquarius carrying water in the hot dry summer and I am a teacher training my climbers.
I am a customs officer controlling my hedges and I am the carpenter mending my fences.
I am an ecologist creating habitat and I am a builder making my rockery.
I am an excavator digging with my spade and I am a groundsman cutting my lawn
I am a sunbather resting in my deckchair and I am the host of my summer party.
I am a meteorologist second guessing the weather and I am the custodian of rare plants.
I am a lover in the shady arbour and I am the ruler of all I survey.
I am a creator of my heaven on earth and I am the guide showing it off.
I am the herbalist and I am the aromatherapist.
I am the priest thanking the Lord for the beauty all around and
I am the keeper of this sanctuary.
I am a gardener and I am content.

Adrian Beckingsale

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Whether or not there will be a relaxation of restrictions over Christmas, many cool heads are advising “don’t travel, don’t mingle” and more or less forget the family get-together for the sake of safety.  Which we feel is sound advice, given the persisting, and in some areas escalating, risk of Covid.  So on this Day 270 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CIRCUMSCRIPTION our poet Carol Connell foresees a Christmas this year quite unlike the Christmases we have been used to, and wisely affirms that restrictions are a small price to pay for a safe outcome.  “We’ll keep our hugs and kisses for / when we’re Covid free”

Christmas 2020

Christmas will be different this year we know
But we have to make the most of it –
Ho! Ho! Ho!

We’ll be singing Christmas Carols with a
programme on TV
No Midnight Mass or Wivenhoe’s Carols on the Quay

Christmas cards will just have to suffice
Nativity scenes with Wise Men
foreshadowing sacrifice

So this year’s bubbled Christmas is a
small price to pay
Especially if we’re not with loved ones on the special day

And as we “Merry Christmas” from a distance safely
We’ll keep our hugs and kisses for
when we’re Covid free

Carol Connell

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Whatever happened to nostalgia?  Let’s hear, on Day 269 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS RECOLLECTION, from today’s poet Tony Oswick who transports us back in time to tag-line city in this reflective love sonnet (Shakespearean mode) with social comment and seventeen ancient catch phrases:

Because you’re worth it

Lying here on the listening bank,
you let your fingers do the walking and I’m
lovin’ it. You put a tiger in my tank
and it’s finger lickin’ good, all the time.
Every little helps at work, rest and play,
you’re the best a man can get and,
as we drinka pinta milka day,
you melt in my mouth and not in my hand.
Ah Bisto! You cannot beat a love like ours,
it’s the real thing, my darling tag-line chick.
It’s good to talk so I say it with flowers
and the orgasmic whisper of  Vorsprung Durch Technik.
My flexible friend, please don’t ever stop,
your love ever makes me snap, crackle, pop.

Tony Oswick

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The pandemic, during the whole of this cruel and abnormal year, has eaten away at our freedom, at our pleasures, and at our relationships – and yet there have been many small occasions of happiness.  Here, on Day 268 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS FELINITY, today’s poet Brian Ford tells a true tale of a new-found friendship between cat and man.

An old cat in times of Covid

An old cat came to live with me.
For fifteen years – a cat’s lifetime –
He had been an elderly woman’s only pet.
When she died
Her son and his family took him in.
But the resident cat bullied him,
He ran away repeatedly.
So, he came to live with me. 

He strolled out of the pet carrier,
Wandered round the kitchen,
Saw the litter tray,
Used it,
Saw the cat food,
Ate it,
Saw the backdoor mat,
Sharpened his claws on it,
Ambled into the lounge,
Decided the armchair was his,
Went to sleep in it.

He spends most of his time
Eating, sleeping, purring and washing.
He doesn’t mind lockdown,
He’s happy staying in the house.
He’s content to be in isolation,
A neighbourly cat came to visit,
He spat and swore at it.
We are both glad that he is here,
The sum total of happiness in the country
Has increased by a tiny amount.

Brian Ford

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It has been such a cruel year.  Covid has disrupted families, ruined people’s livelihoods, and has killed so many.  Today, Day 267 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS MALEDICTION our poet Chris Baldwin curses this cruel year.  Will the next year be as cruel?

the cruel year

we have missed the blackberries
this summer’s end, my dear,
I whisper, pretending you can hear

……and I swear at the cruel year

the very last I saw today
one final blister of purple blood
clinging to a needle-bone finger of autumn

……and I swear at the cruel year

I swear while traffic pulls
a grinding dull continuum
on the Blackstock Road beyond these trees

a woodcut crow skulks
in a skeletal lime
and blackbirds pink a descant in the dank, etched hedge

a tired bluetit scissors unseen in a blackthorn
and a wren chits its alarum below
in ragged brambles

I swear at the cruel year
and weep angry tears
beneath the yellowing canopy

an early owl floats a hoot on the thickening gloom
and beeches relinquish the sunshine
stored in June

crab apples and acorns pebble-dash the path
and things – woodland things
fall within trees

twigs, spent rain, leaves
clattering down
to the mouldering ground

……and I swear at the cruel year

Chris Baldwin

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Our poem today, Day 266 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS INUNDATION, moves away from the pandemic to consider a different threat, not unconnected with the climate crisis.  Poet Pete Langley puts forward this poem as “just a reminder of the other crisis we may face”.  He recalls being a kid in Basildon at the time of the 1953 North Sea floods; his family took in an old couple from Canvey who had been rescued.   “The same desolation happened in Jaywick. I wrote this not long after we moved to Clacton as a reflective piece, but it might have even more relevance today.”  Jaywick lies about 15 miles to the east of Wivenhoe along the North Sea coast.  Built on land that was originally salt marsh, it was flooded in 1953, with a number of deaths, and even though sea defences have been put in place since then it remains a flood-prone site.  Jaywick would be hit by floods in the event of a tidal surge over the marshes, and the risk of future flooding increases as climate change leads to rising sea levels.

Jaywick Owe-Zone

These water meadows are borrowed
from the Nordic Sea,
but walled to hold back the pawnbroker
while he allows the loan to accrue.

An eon gone, Vikings cursed
the languid strangle of this Essex mud
and the churlish and repelling tribe
that peopled it – still might,
if they could see the forest
of bay windows and bingo signs
where elms were the only bulge
to their horizon.

Suddenly,
in the greenhouse behind the wall,
Uncle Freds and Auntie Flos
are growing yuccas far from a Tropic,
watching the tide rise,

awaiting a swallow from the sea
and the recovery of a longstanding debt.

Soon,
the lender will lust for his due
then lunge for an old bed.

Pete Langley

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It is 11 December.  Last night Poetrywivenhoe held its fourth, and final, Zoom poetry event of 2020: it was a very special evening of strong and sinewy poems from guest reader Steve Pottinger, who Zoomed in from the Black Country.  And today, on Day 265 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS QUOTIDIANITY, poet Saran Green examines, from Zoom to Zoom, all our reactions to this benighted year, in this Untitled Poem:

Untitled Poem

How many of us,
How many of us when the clock struck twelve
Jubilantly swore,
Hand on heart,
‘2020 is going to be my year!’?
Propelling that positive affirmation out into the atmosphere.

Time for change!
I’m going to be stronger,
Fitter,
New flat,
New attitude!

New virus?

Each day,
Each week,
Each month
from that COVID-19 Update,
Our resolutions dissipate.
Weight gain from weekly batches of baked boredom
What’s your poison?
Cupcakes?
Takeaways?

Lazing around the house in pyjamas because you’re too afraid to go out.
Outdoors –
where a stranger stalks,
Where no one walks…

Silence.

My mask hides my anxiety,
And the dissolution of fleeting dreams,
Pinging emails, tormenting ringtones,
and wailing ambulances
Create a cacophony 

Loud!

But is anyone listening?
Listening to the updates,
The ongoing racial debates,
The cries of the grieving,
The sighs of the suffering,
The bellies of the starving,
As some of us travel to exotic lands,
Via recipe books,
Stopping for cups of tea and a cheeky biscuit, biscuits,
From room to room,
From Zoom to Zoom.
Going nowhere
fast.

This too shall pass…

Saran Green

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Our poet Gordon Hoyles, on Day 264 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS PLICATION, gives us a metaphor explained, in this crisp haiku: it has, in his own words, nature, slow-moving untroubled country cottage bliss and a Christian recognition of the hand of God.  All the ideals in seventeen syllables. 

Folding re-folding,
those unseen hands knead the bread.
A murmuration.

Gordon Hoyles

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We have been lucky enough occasionally to post poems from France, from Holland, from Lebanon, from the West coast of the USA, and from the East coast of Australia; today, on Day 263 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS SAURIANITY, poet Neil Reed remembers the East coast of Africa, where he once shared his house with two geckos.  Spoiler alert: sad ending …

Baby

Galahad and Guenevere
live behind a painting
of this house that we inhabit,
the three of us,
a house with a veranda,     
under palm trees, looking out to sea.
The geckos are flat-to-the-wall lizards
with four blob-fingered hands and a tail each
that they sometimes forget to tuck
behind the picture-frame.
They look like they’re made of
plastic, pale-skinned, artificial.
They eat the insects on the wall,
the mosquitoes especially
that can kill you, kill me, with a bite.
It’s a bite and bite situation. 

Once, on the aluminium
of the draining board beside the sink,
I found an egg smaller than a pea,
round like a pea, pale white.
I put it in a glass jar
and punched holes in the lid.
It’s always hot here on the Swahili Coast
so I didn’t have to sit on it,
or anything, to keep it warm.
Later there was a perfect little
gecko stuck on the glass of the jar,
so I saw the undersides
of its tiny hands.
I opened the lid and the gecko
waited. And when I came back
there was just a glass jar.

A week later,
as I was going out the door,
I noticed something stuck
to the wood of the door frame.
It was a perfect miniature
gecko squashed flat.
I wondered if Galahad and Guenevere
had recognised it or felt
as tender as I did,
having mothered it
and seeing my baby,
flat as a skin. 

Neil Reed

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The 8th of December 2020: ’tis a misty moisty morning on this Day 262 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS IMMUNISATION but there is a certain joy in the air, as the Great Vaccine Rollout begins!  Something to celebrate at last … and time for a laugh alongside our poet Ray Pool.  It was at a recent Dempsey & Windle 1000 Monkeys Zoom open mic event that Ray read his poem ‘The Planet Suite’, which put a smile on everyone’s face.  Then yesterday, on D&W Newsletter No 71, the poem appeared in print online with the intro “Ray Pool has a surreal shopping experience” – and here it is, by permission of both the author and D&W Publishing.  But note: we are not near Basingstoke.

The Planet Suite

I tried to order the Planet Suite from a furniture showroom
But there was some confusion.
‘Do you mean the Thanet Suite sir?’ I was asked.

‘Does that have a black background with star patterns and whirls?’

‘No sir:  that comes in tweed or leather,
pastel shades.’

‘The one I was hoping to obtain is by Gustav Holst
the interior designer, using an art deco styling.
My cousin put me on to it when I visited him.
He said he’d seen one in the rest room.’

‘I can’t help you there I’m afraid,
But we do have a Thanet Suite, as I said,
That comes in tweed or leather and
We do have them in stock;
I’m looking online now, and none of our stores
Sell the Planet Suite,
Sorry I can’t help you.

If you care to reserve a Thanet Suite
We will be pleased to accommodate you
on our waiting list; they are coming in as we speak.’

‘Oh not to worry. My cousin wouldn’t be best pleased
if I was to question him on the specific issue,
as he is often sedated
and suffers mood swings.’

‘Are you near Basingstoke?
Because you are welcome to pop in
and browse our latest range.’

Ray Pool

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Our previous poet, John Bartlett, asked “Are we there yet?”  Today there’s no longer any doubt about it, the vaccine – thanks to the amazing work of so many scientists, and of course of volunteer recipients, and thanks to the huge logistical exercise of bringing it here and distributing it – is at last available.  Carol Connell, our poet on Day 261 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS VANQUISHMENT, can legitimately be confidently hopeful that we may eventually beat the virus and win the day.

Let’s…

Let’s …
… Put on a sparkle
Lift spirits with a smile
Wear something colourful
Shine if only for a while

Let’s …
… Increase the laughter
Diminish lurking fears
Act with love and kindness
Reduce loneliness’s tears

Let’s…
… Be patient with one another
Count blessings one by one
Take time – be in the moment
Enjoy safe caring fun

Let’s …
… Be confidently hopeful
Remember a new year’s on its way
Keep on being determined
Beat the virus
Win the day

Carol Connell

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Most of us will immediately recognise that insistent question “Are we there yet?” – a question which will become more insistent still throughout the whole world as the cavalry bearing the precious vaccine come galloping with quite astonishing speed across the horizon.  Today, which is Day 260 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS EREMITISM our poet John Bartlett sends us mesmeric images from Australia, preceding this dreamlike sequence with a stirring quote from which it follows that since the bad has lasted so long a time, the good is close at hand.  Which may be a fallacy, so let us continue to tread the earth reverently – like reclusive red hermit crabs.

Are We There Yet?

It is not possible for the bad or the good to endure forever.” (Cervantes)

‘All we have is now’
according to my shirt label
……………– was this good or bad news
and – hadn’t that ‘now’ already vanished ?

breakfast cereals too were delivering
messages determinedly evangelical
‘we believe in wholesome goodness’
……………– epigrams, maxims and aphorisms
……………(even sermons)

were erupting overnight
like unexplainable cold sores
……………– harbingers all
like the cormorants busy drying their
funereal wings and isn’t that Satan I see
doing deals on his mobile
walking up and down the empty spaces?

……………– so masked and sanitised to the bone
we must  tread the earth differently now,
reverently – like reclusive red hermit crabs,
our eye-stalks flattened by addiction to
counting curving charts, as we
protect our soft under-bellies
from rumours of indefinite detention

who guards the emergency codes
that we need to  pause this
daily download of bodies to our hard drive?

CAUTION-
PLEASE ADJUST your own mask before
stampeding towards the emergency chute

John Bartlett

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Set sail, if you will, from Wivenhoe, drift downstream on the ever-widening Colne, tack into the wind around the nub of Mersea Island, and venturing the Blackwater Estuary you may reach Tollesbury Fleet.  Or come by road from say Tiptree or Maldon, driving into the east towards the atmospheric Essex marshes, as does our poet David Canning on this Day 259 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS DOXOLOGY.  As he walks in the uncertain light, wavelets slap at nodding keels and the tugging wind will slip him from his moorings.  This beautiful invocation is the final poem in David Canning’s most recent collection, The Celestial Spheres:

Tollesbury Fleet

Sometimes I feel a pull to drive into the east,
to walk the Essex marshes, along their ragged shore,
in Spring or in the Autumn, when the light is as uncertain
as the tides that coil its rivers and creeks like questions,
drape weedy threads like random thoughts on silted banks
glossed and salted with frost, brilliant with sun and busy
with birds billowing like flecks of sleet or embers, blown
in the restless air, faint with the smoke of distant fires;
then I will cease my hurrying, being neither here nor there,
as wavelets slap at the nodding keels of boats not coming or going,
I’ll invite the tugging wind that rattles their masthead halyards,
to slip me from my mooring, and tack the sails of my heart.

David Canning

from ‘The Celestial Spheres’ (Camulus Poetry 2020) available from Red Lion Bookshop, Colchester, or from David Canning.  Read the review in London Grip Poetry – see our Reviews page for a link.

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We woke to snow this morning in Wivenhoe, on this Day 258 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS APPREHENSION.  Here a snow-covered path runs down one side of George V Field, our local open space (do you remember the poem on Day 15?  No – far too long ago of course).  It divides into two on the way to the village.  There the resemblance with the dividing path of today’s poem ends; our poet Jenna Plewes is walking through a landscape of moor and stony field.  The sea ahead stands most evocatively as a nameless blue plaque on a wall of sky.  It is a beautiful but somehow anxious scene:

Where the path divides
there’s a final signpost;
a finger shrunk to bone,
its message muffled in lichen. 

A harvest of scabby beans
waits to be ploughed in
starved and stony ground. 

A path
tunnels through blackened stalks,
another
             follows the spine of the hill.

Ahead the sea’s a nameless
blue plaque on a wall of sky; 

behind, the moor’s a crumpled
towel spittled with cloud.

A gust rattles the beans
like a dry cough. 

We strike
               out across high ground,

our shadows, dark ghosts
                       stumbling in our wake. 

Jenna Plewes

What better way of checking out the George V Field poem of Day 15, and other early poems, than by purchasing our fantastic anthology of the first 50 days of the Project, The Tales Told by Birds?  It is available from the wonderful Wivenhoe Bookshop directly or by mail order.  See the Home page for details …

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In today’s poem by our poet Julia Usher, a robin is granted permission to hop close to his mysterious microworld and to fossick about for a worm.  We humans, up here on Day 257 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS VERMICULARITY in our Covid-infested macroworld, are waiting for permission to have the vaccine, once it becomes available.

A robin reflection

I kneel at the bed-side,
Pulling up weeds from clay;
Tossing  them aside, to be swept away.

A shadow flicks;
Fleeting and swift,
A flash of red, a line of white
Unrecognised, the tilt of a head.

I see weeds, and stones, and grass;
He spots food, and dabs;
What he sees, swallows, is
Mysterious.

I put my eye down low,
Looking close as I can go:
Magnifying what I find below….
…..And suddenly, I see…

The smallest seeds, the finest twigs
…..– as if I magnified the task,
………..I see a hint of worm.

Shall I take  the worm and starve the bird?

Lips pursed, I whistle my robin tune, softly,
…..and as if given permission,
……….he hops so close,
…………..perches on the bag,
………………..snatches a bite……

And then is gone.
…..I carry on digging, and quietly talking,
Telling him what I am doing…
…..He pops out again, comes nearer;
Fearless at music, at gentle chat,
…..As if granted permission.

Julia Usher

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What do Val Binney’s grandfather and your Editor have in common – not to mention Bill Nighy?  Well, several days ago Val was writing about her grandpa’s hands, on more or less the same day that your Editor was writing about his.  Simple coincidence?  Let’s hear, on this Day 256 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS SYNCHRONICITY just what your Ed. has to say:

Dupuytren

Who was that guy Dupuytren? you might ask –
a French dude whose given task
was to bequeath his name to a contracture of the fingers;
in my own left hand his notoriety lingers.
A military surgeon whose craft and guiles
gave him success in treating Napoleon Buonaparte’s piles;
and yet the legacy of this surgical jackanapes
does very little to help with my guitar chord shapes;
but then I think of Django Reinhardt and feel subdued:
he played guitar with three fingers missing – now there was one real cool dude.

Peter Ualrig Kennedy  

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Today being the 1st of December is one way of saying it’s the beginning of Winter.  Here on the banks of the River Colne it has been a beautifully sunny morning, brisk and bright, while on this Day 255 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS HIEMPS, poet Sylvia Sellers has been having breakfast in bed.  But at the same time Sylvia is concerned about the less fortunate who may be “sleeping outside and shivering all night” and as she says “We ought to take stock in winter / There are wrongs that need putting right.”

Winter

I’m snug and warm having breakfast in bed
A good view of trees is what I see
Showing their bones, stripped of leaves
By frost, rain and wind, it’s very bleak.

Out there it’s cold and grey
But through the gloom I see some blue
Appearing and yes, the sun is out of bed
And showing itself on the garden shed.

Birds shake their feathers and are flitting about
A pigeon’s breast is pinker as he puffs it out
But it’s cold and it’s going to rain and blow
And come afternoon it might even snow.

Wintertime when the living’s not easy
Remember you have it easy
Your bed’s snug and warm
Try sleeping outside and shivering all night.

Nature rests up in winter
For just a few short weeks
Then she too has to get out of bed
As the sap puts a spring in her step.

Does she get bored with showing off
The old routine of turning green?
It wouldn’t seem so, it always happens
But will day always follow night?

Times are a-changing as man interferes
And things are not quite right
We ought to take stock in winter
There are wrongs that need putting right. 

Sylvia Sellers

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Visitors to Wivenhoe will find a thriving community, with its glorious history of shipbuilding – now sadly defunct – on the lower reaches of the River Colne.   The Colne rolls down to Brightlingsea, where its estuary meets the North Sea, and there, round the tip of Mersea Island, it is joined by the estuary of the River Blackwater.   This is a land of sky and water, and on Day 254 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS TRANQUILLITY our poet Antony Johae recalls a far distant day of sailing out on the Blackwater in a silence “quiet as Quaker calm …” and pays tribute to his father as one of the Cockleshell Heroes:

Sailing into Silence    (for Rod Usher)

We are out on the Blackwater
my uncle, my cousin, my brother and I
with motor chugging, sails unfurled.
We’ve set off on a rising spring tide, choppy
with the wind from the west breezy
to leeward in the bright midday.
Uncle spits orders out – mains’l’s hauled up
flapping in the slack; jib’s full
yearning seaward beyond the estuary.

The engine phuts off . . . silence . . . silence . . . quiet as Quaker calm . . .
deep, deep . . . time’s held fast, avast, avast . . . nature’s opened . . .
hush and gentle swish through water
sail filled, rattle of boom let out, we heel,
pull ropes tight against the wind, cleat them
and tack off towards the Bradwell Point.

Now my uncle’s tranquil at the helm
with wings drawn on fair and friendly thoughts
his worthless worries left on Mersea’s shore.
And standing tall at the prow, cousin Chris
whose best boat, and hope, got storm-smashed
one night, thrown up on Brightlingsea wall.
Timothy and I sit small in the cockpit
in thrall of high water, unsteady heaving sea,
wind’s keen gusts, the lurch and shudder
as we go about – gybe – and rush fair wind away from land.

Our father loved his ocean-goer, Mina Dhu;
he’d tie up in North Sea ports,
anchor off cosy Jersey coves,
pass lit liners in the night, dark cargo ships,
wave back at passengers on Channel ferries,
mark trawlers’ trailing nets, look out for bobbing buoys
and with lovely land in sight follow courteous pilots in.
In war he took Dunkirk soldiers off
then laid her up and waited for the end,
for he found peace in thinking of the moment
sail would unfurl, chugging stop, and immanent silence enter.        

Antony Johae

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A few days ago our poet Jane Monach was writing about the seasonal changes in trees and their clothing of leaves – and is it not a real treat to get away from those interminable discussions many of us are having about Covid and the national restrictions?  So we reminisce, on this Day 253 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS SOUBRIQUET, on the soothing feel of green plants and of the natural world.  Jane Monach returns with this memory of childhood.

Mind-your-own-business

bright green
it crept along the cobbled path
up and down stone walls,
wept in folds about the sundial
near my swing

it was my childhood garden mat
no sting
unlike the nettle family’s touch
it soothed

we never knew its different names
Baby Tears
Prim Pollyanna Vine, Solieroli,
Angel Tears,
even worse, some call it Corsican Curse

I didn’t know
it is a common weed
that people want to banish
I just squished my dancing-feet
into its dampness

Jane Monach

…………………………………………………………………………….

On Day 252 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS HYPNOPOMPIC, we hear once again from poet Patricia Walsh – who presents a poem of such linguistic invention as to exercise to a degree our lexical and semantic comprehension … here it is for you to read and contemplate.  Luxuriate in its wash of words.  The more you read and ponder this mesmeric piece, the more wonderful it becomes.  Or maybe you will think otherwise.  Over to you for scrutiny …

Dollface

Terms of aggrandisement spill into favour,
promise of proper order goes through motions,
not as good as the initial, constructively downsized,
like the railway system, skeletal to a fault
walking through this dream to save whenever.

Used to further agendas, a cozy partaken,
arrested mobility an entity liked, still different,
Allowing alcohol to take the cautious bait,
getting the best accommodation, bought and sold,
never returning from hell, over another’s head.

regret for the ball rolling, not smothered enough,
the worse, the better, into an aggrandised phase,
the aged mirror does its own proper job,
renovating to a fault, the window’s lie,
relaxed in the purpose no one can reach.

Mocked into submission, the horror of a vacant space,
attention paid and sought for, supporting fantasy,
probably loved as is, progress demanding,
pitied one and all, refusing to apply the brakes
something interesting refusing food and water.

Revenging fashion, dusting through a known death,
only to falter gloriously a cause overwrought
constructive burning of vanities, weathering deaths
laughing at this whole nut over the relaxed,
secure in the knowledge that the common hour.

Patricia Walsh

……………………………………………………………………………….

It’s no surprise if you have the Lockdown Blues.  Lockdown in England may officially be about to cease on 2 December – only to be replaced by the restrictive Tier system.  But let’s face it, what other means short of a vaccine do we have to combat the pandemic?  Will the use of a clever figure of speech save us?  On this Day 251 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS SYLLEPSIS our poet Adrian Beckingsale teases us with a Zeugma …

Lockdown Zeugma

Locked down again and others out
Following the news and the rules
Digging deep and in the garden
Growing old and vegetables
Holding on tightly to sanity and my wife
Missing family hugs and live shows
Ordering my life and on-line
Getting fed up and deliveries
Keeping up my spirits and appearances
Masking my face and my feelings
Feeling down and my age
Taking exercise and my tablets
Cutting the lawn and calories
Shedding weight and tears
Filling in my time and crossword clues
Travelling nowhere and on the Covid journey
Locked down again and others out

Adrian Beckingsale

………………………………………………………

Here is a slightly bizarre coincidence – yesterday your Editor composed a short verse about his own contracted fingers (left hand) and only a brief few hours thereafter, along came this submission from poet Val Binney …  Today is Day 250 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CONTRACTURE, and although the poem is about Grandpa’s hands, the resemblance ends there – there has been no farm in your Editor’s family for several generations.

His Gnarled Hands

Bill Nighy has the same condition;
watching him, I can’t take
my eyes off his stiff fingers,
seeing grandpa there,
by chance so alike, the same

lean clothes-horse frame, the slightly
exposed look, of some unspoken pain
half-disguised as humour.
And in an instant, I see him there,
muttering stories in his chair,

his hands knotted, mom always said,
‘from guiding his tractor in all weathers –
African sun, snow or hail stones big
as the apricots they knocked off his trees,
he’d be out – his fingers bending’

to the shape of the wheel.  I know now,
it’s a disease of the tendons shrinking
but in my mind, it’s the weather still,
part of the warp and weave of who
he was and his farm in the hills.

Val Binney

……………………………………………………………………..

Observation of the natural world can help to sustain us against the depression brought about by Covid, and on this Day 249 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS REVITALISATION poet Jane Monach descries the seasonal clothing of trees, clothing that always seem just right.  The froth and twirl of their boisterous leaves can refresh themselves and can refresh us.

Tree Fashion

I wish to be refreshed each year like trees                                                    whose clothes, unmeasured, always seem just right.                                        An extra froth or twirl of boisterous leaves                                                        are never criticised, nor deemed too tight.

At increased weight, on limbs and trunks, no sign                                              of disapproval. Colours: shades of green,                                                          grey mist, dark moss, jade, malachite and lime,                                  accessories of blossom adding sheen.

Despair of wardrobe searches, not for them,                                                     nor shopping for the best attire in vain;                                                    material and style, neckline and hem                                                           perfect for every season, sun, wind, rain.

Their outfits always turn to autumn gold,                                                          and every year adjust as they grow old.

Jane Monach

…………………………………………………………………………

In a world of change, our poet Sylvia Sellers spots an altered relationship in the ongoing saga of the Goose Who Thought They Were a Swan, here on the waters of the River Colne at Wivenhoe.  We have reached Day 248 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS MENAGERIE and the little white goose appears to have a new family …

Two swans and a goose no longer

It’s three years since I spied
That pair of swans and their adopted child
In the River Colne at Wivenhoe
And three weeks since I spied them again

But this time it was three swans
And that poor abandoned goose
Swimming three swan lengths behind them.
Was I imagining sadness

In the eyes of that once
Happy little goose
Protected fiercely
In the middle of Mum and Dad?

Sylvia Sellers

…………………………………………………………………………………………

This morning, Day 247 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS BENEDICTION, the dawn sky to the east was a rosy pink; our poet Gorgonius is tempted to walk out for his legitimate exercise.  Those old shepherds, what did they know?  A walk in the woods, whether in Wivenhoe or in Shasta (see yesterday’s eloquent poem) will be beneficial for mental health …

Woodland walk

My dearest, we held hands together,                                                           walking the woodland ways                                                                              under interwoven boughs;

in shafts of sunlight                                                                                                  we stepped over muddied paths                                                                           and gravelled tracks,

through arches of trees                                                                                          and in birdsong we went,                                                                               towards the field gate –

the blue house as we passed                                                                                gave its blithesome benediction                                                                               to our going.

Gorgonius

……………………………………………………………………………..

In these troubled times, with news of an increasing death toll from Coronavirus all over and especially in the USA, and curfews in California, it is refreshing on this Day 246 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS AMERICANA to receive a poem sent all the way from the west coast of America for our project.  Poet Ruth Dekker, on going for a walk at Shasta, muses on the movements of a she-bear and her cub.  (Shasta is a mountainous area of California, and manzanita is an evergreen shrub with the Spanish folk name manzanita or “little apple”) …

A Walk by the Woods at Shasta

I found a bear print in the mud                                                                        Baked hard after spring rains were done.                                                             At twilight she clambers away                                                                      through bushes, herding her cub.                                                                        She delicately lumbers up the bank                                                                        as red earth and jagged quartz chunks fall                                                through manzanita, crushing Indian paintbrush.                                             Raising her hefty head, she sees                                                                       rough white tassels of sky fading                                                                   quickly blushed mosquito electricity,                                                     awakening frog calls in the ferns.

Ruth Dekker

……………………………………………………………………………………………..

Here we are at Day 245 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS IMPOUNDMENTdully accepting of lockdown, struggling with lockdown, coping with lockdown; we are confined.  We may face many more weeks and months of this house arrest, while hoping for release through the availability of a vaccine.  Myriad souls in captivity, we bob about inside our four walls like galaxies of daphnia in ghost ponds; like our poet Colin Hopkirk we yearn for light and air …

Ghost Ponds

In ghost ponds
in sediments and silts

galaxies of daphnia                                                                                       centuries of seeds

dream of light                                                                                                    playing through water

a little warmth
some good air

anything but this.

Colin Hopkirk

……………………………………………………………………………………..

There is much of interest in the news today – which we compute is Day 244 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS SEPARATION – but let’s pick out the Booker prize result.  Scottish author Douglas Stuart has won the prize for his first novel, Shuggie Bain, a story of a boy growing up in poverty in 1980s Glasgow.  Those were bad times, but Glasgow is today a vibrant and exhilarating city; your Editor knows it well and indeed has a granddaughter living and working there.  So let’s hear it for Glasgow and for Douglas Stuart – while ruefully reflecting that today Glasgow moves into the tough Scottish Tier 4 restrictions.  It is going to be a hard struggle for so many people; our poet Celia McCulloch reflects on the realities of the anti-Covid restrictions which affect us all and which intrude so hurtfully even into our private lives.

Social distancing:  Covid’s Ars Amatoria

I dare not look at you                                                                                         across the room:                                                                                                        My hands tingle                                                                                            forbidden                                                                                                                      to touch your face.

Celia McCulloch

………………………………………………………………………………

Each year, when we reach Autumn, people will often say “Where has the year gone?” and that seems particularly true of this benighted year of Covid. The days, the months, may have been full of difficulty and one disaster after another, and yet if we look back, those days and months have been swallowed by a black hole. We should not, however, be blind to what Nature can provide at this time of year. Scanning the event horizon of this Day 243 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS SEASONALITY our poet Celia McCulloch finds delight in the generous fruit of the season. Oh, sing. Dance. (Bill Bailey is excelling on Strictly).

Autumn 2020 / Covid Year 1

The mulberry is losing its leaves.
Like a worn curtain,
it lets in more light,
more naked sky,
day by day.

We have limits imposed
on making music
on singing
on dancing.

The grapevine, the apple tree,
the pear and quince
weigh down
their generous fruit,
give themselves.

We stretch up for top fruit
or kneel for windfalls.
We take them in.
They become our flesh.
Oh, sing.
Dance.

Celia McCulloch

…………………………………………………………………………………..

To read the papers today, mainly concerning the (outgoing) President’s continuing machinations, brings on a certain hallucinatory feeling. What universe are we in, where truth is routinely repudiated and spurned? The time is out of joint. O cursèd spite. So on this Day 242 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS PHANTASMAGORICAL we may share in poet Aziz Dixon’s discovery that he (and maybe we too) are part-other – we are stardust, we are golden (pace Joni Mitchell) – perhaps the poet will escape the Guide, and get himself back to the garden, even though he must reset the future of his antediluvian ancestors. Anything to get away from under the heel of this lousy virus …

You would not believe

what I found in the cellar. Records of my ancestors back to before the Flood,

images of the Teleporting, exodus from the blue planet. Seems I must be part-other,

like the Controllers. Now I will apply for a time-bending machine.

I want to meet my family, stare into their eyes, tell them

it will turn out well (though not for them, I’ll not mention that).

I will escape the Guide, reset their future even though it will end my own.

It must be better than living with the virus.

Aziz Dixon

……………………………………………………………………..

The feared second wave is here with a vengeance, and although on this Day 241 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ASPHYXIATION we are beginning to receive welcome news of breakthroughs in the development of effective anti-Covid-19 vaccines, we realise that they are still a long way away on the horizon in terms of availability. And so we struggle. Poet Gordon Hoyles, in his Sketch of the day, paraphrases Stevie Smith: The second wave and drowning …

Sketch of the day

The ugly in the great correction
chorus with the banshee howl
seeking gain by adding burden
watching as the vapours prowl.

Black death, plague and ‘flu 18
were Covids in a different gown,
and now the dying done revisits
a-tishoo, a-tishoo, we all fall down.

The second wave and drowning.

Gordon Hoyles

………………………………………………………………….

Today we have reached Day 240 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS PREDICAMENT, and because of certain problems with the website, our Editor has chosen a relatively short submission: this one is from that aficionado of the limerick form Adrian Beckingsale. It certainly treats of the moment. Unfortunately the website is still having collywobbles, and the lines are not behaving themselves. We are working on it …

President Joe

There was an old man named Joe Biden
Whom the Democrat Party relied on
He went out masked on the stump
To defeat Donald Trump
So now he’ll be President Biden

Adrian Beckingsale

…………………………………………………………

Perhaps we are shocked, on this Day 239 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CRINOSITY, to hear that a mutated form of coronavirus which has been found in mink could potentially hamper the effectiveness of a future vaccine / perhaps we are shocked to hear of the mass cull of farmed mink in their millions in Denmark / perhaps we are shocked by images of these animals confined in tiny cages / perhaps we are shocked to hear that Denmark is the world’s biggest producer of mink fur / perhaps we are shocked to hear that most of the world’s farmed fur is produced in Europe (fur farming is banned in the UK) and is exported mainly to China … today’s poet Marian de Vooght tells us that the Dutch are “as guilty as the Danish”. In the province where she grew up, Noord-Brabant, there are, or rather were, numerous mink farms. The government had already decided some years back that they should all be closed by 2024, but the Covid crisis seems to have brought that date forward now.

The End of Mink

And Pantalaimon didn’t say “Why?”, because he knew / Philip Pullman, The Amber Spyglass

We came in various colours — chestnut or near-black,
silver-blue, pearl. Personally,
I preferred our wild pelage, brown. Wild — we used to be,
a European kind but were almost all American of late,
and caged.

Liberal little countries
farmed us for our skins and sold them on. Stiffened,
sent elsewhere, we were beyond
their scruples. Our lives,
our furs, served
the vain desires of people craving to show
affluence and glamour. We delivered
not warmth, as in the old days — just might and shine.

Many months ago, there was a Yewei market.
Humans buying wild
animal meat got infected by a virus.
Far and wide.
We could not escape it — we are no longer caged.
We lie in lifeless heaps. Finished,
done for.

Marian de Vooght

………………………………………………………

Even though we are in lockdown in England, exhorted to “Stay at home”, momentous things are happening in the world outside. Political shifts and adjustments, a Covid vaccine shimmering like a mirage on the horizon, confusion about lockdown regulations. Words hammering at our ears. On Day 238 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ECHOLALIA we hear from poet Phil Cohen – we hear him speaking in tongues:

The Pandemoticon

It all began with a hand clenched experimentally to ear not so much a fist as a makeshift mouthpiece designed to broadcast miracles speaking in tongues:

‘habari, kangarooshni, slapit nego, nego, unulti possum! craaghi ipsit cunnilingo ? es krampit Covid todo kwa heri’

a polyglot mother tongue Nordic vowels, Slavic consonants Swahili syntax, Latin verse with just a touch of Lewis Carroll to stitch into proper nonsense

in the hope some passers by might stop and listen, become alarmed, enough to stop a passing drone and guide me to a ‘place of safety’ where the only voices heard are broadcast in my head.

But all they see is an elderly gentleman clutching a smart phone and doing foreign dumb talk into his high vis mask to someone just like them in Karachi, Prague or San Francisco

Once upon a time before the pandemoticon we lived in another country where language was affordance enough . One day, tuned to a secret station on my very own pirate radio I was talking to my imaginary friend ……when suddenly she grabbed

a fistful of vowels out of my mouth and …………..cartwheeled down the street shouting oy, oy look, no hands….

Phil Cohen

From Things ain’t what they used to be : extracts from a lockdown diary eyeglass books January 2021

……………………………………………………………………….

It happens today to be Day 237 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS KERFUFFLE and the Poems page has been frozen. It became stuck yesterday, like an insect trapped in amber. I could not edit it, so this morning I temporarily posted the daily poem on the Home page. Simples. And in deference to our regular contributors, who might not have wanted their poetry to be overlooked because of not appearing on the correct page, who better (?) to throw into the mix than that rascal Rik O’Shea, to provide us with one of his shameless limericks. A limerick in slant rhyme, forsooth. What is the relevance of a 17th century Flemish painter from Brabant, even one so very famous, to today’s troubles? You may well ask …

Rubens

Sir Peter Paul Rubens, a painter,
Drew girls who were large, by their nature.
When asked “Why so fat?”
He replied “It is that
I’d be sad if they looked any thinner”.

Rik O’Shea

………………

So what went wrong on this Day 236 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CAT’S ATROPHY? The Poems page froze and could not be edited. Behind the facade, the page was blank.

It so happened that had I used the appellation TABULA RASA just the day before to complement Jan King’s poem “A Table” – as things turned out, it would have been eminently suitable for today when the website malfunctioned. We really did have a clean slate. And as for poetry for that missing page, what could be more appropriate than those tender lyrics of the Sex Pistols’ 1977 song “Pretty vacant”?

Oh we’re so pretty

Oh so pretty

We’re vacant

……………………………………..

Armistice Day, 11 November 2020. “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old” (Laurence Binyon). Your editor will be observing the Two Minutes Silence at 11.00am. And then he will be on his way to the Wivenhoe Dental Surgery for an arranged Two Hours Dentistry. To take his mind off that, today’s poem – on this Day 235 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS TABULA RASA – is about a table, a bright white table. A table? A piece of furniture with a flat top and one or more legs – a dining table; a kitchen table; an operating table; a pool table. Or perhaps a flat surface of a gem (we like that). Or a set of facts or figures systematically displayed. Our poet Jan King’s table is more subtle than any of that; more subtle, more sensuous. It is a table to be valued, to be admired, to be celebrated for its catalytic potential. Especially in lockdown. Matron! The screens!

The Table

I have a table
A bright white table
Curved subtly at each end
Implying side by side.

It lets you face each other,
Link fingers,
Look into one another’s eyes,

Run your palms over
Its bevelled edges,
Feel the smooth curve
Of its flank,

Disclose your thoughts.
Draw down the blinds.

Jan King

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

Wales has just come out of its firebreak, but in England we are once again in lockdown. Our poet Norman Staines, on this Day 234 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ANTICIPATION, imagines, in this brief haibun, the face-to-face meetings that will one day deliver us from our isolation.

In Suspension

Of all those things that bring release this would rise above the others, an easing of isolation, the face-to-face. Real meeting of real people. Familiarity comes naturally. Friends eager and content forget in this moment how long was that moment. We intend a mighty conference, we delegates from out-of-way, yet it is ordinary. We almost omit to mention what we’d done.

Ignoring, like time,
we had been in suspension.
Unready for the next

Norman Staines

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

Yesterday I was tempted to use the appellation JUBILATION to mark the result of the US election, but then felt it inappropriate for Remembrance Sunday. So let’s use it today, this Day 233 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS JUBILATION, for Rosemary Drescher’s poem, even though we are imprisoned and the season is out of joint! Set in the Spring of this year, on the atmospheric Heysham Head on the coast of Lancashire, it describes the first lockdown, when the globe went four-walled; now, we read it today in Autumn during the second English lockdown. Jubilation is in the celebration of trees, flowering plants, and landscape. We may be in lockdown, but Nature has unlocked herself to the poet’s sensibilities.

Heysham Head in lockdown

In a new April, in a year
the globe goes four-walled,
I take myself walking on paths
permitted, unlocked to me petal by petal:
gradients of bluebell hover fragrance-like
over ground the trees tend –
chestnut, sycamore, beech and lime
out for the first time in months;
everywhere alkanet, stitchwort,
campions with their crimson flare;
jack-by-the-hedge by an old stone wall
tips ivy-leaved toadflax shyly reaching down.
Brambles, among resurging nettles, re-group,
staking their pent up claims.

Along the headland gorse lights the way,
horsetail is emerging other-earthly beside
bracken once again shooting fractals
and ribbed plantain costumed in auras of sepals –
the extra-ordinary ordinary.
Thrift and sea campion prepare to root
where the edge of land is a wound
resected and swabbed by the sea
and the shore is a tumble of boulders,
bladderwrack, foot prints disappearing in sand.

Rosemary Drescher

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

So it’s 8 November 2020 and it is Remembrance Sunday. Also Day 232 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS MEDITATION. An important moment in history, particularly as America has spoken! Ding dong and all that, with sanity returning to the United States – but as any fule kno, “it ain’t over till the fat lady sings”… which won’t be until January. Indeed our poet Philip Dunn says – turning also to the response to the pandemic, and lockdown – “What would Miss Austen have made of it all?”

Cant and Culpability

Gentlefolk kept apart
a seeming age between visits.
Grand Tours cancelled
in the face of enforced stays abroad.
The prospect of boredom, of company reduced.
Gossip elevated to prophecy.
An outbreak or two of good deeds.
The flutterings that come
with an imminent military deployment.
The turning inward everywhere.
Personal fortunes subject to
violent pitch and yaw.
The importance of self-control, magnified.
The rueful re-examination of roles
in a fast changing polity.
What would Miss Austen
have made of it all?

Philip Dunn

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

The morning light through our window, today 7 November, is a little misty, but benign. In the great wide outdoors, however, as poet Paul Allchin reminds us on this Day 231 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS IMPERILLISATION, the awful virus is still a deadly threat. New national restrictions in England have been instituted from 5 November. Meanwhile on our legitimate walk for exercise we console ourselves with the beauty and magic of the natural world.

Covid-19 Second Wave

Remember remember
the fifth of November.
Bright blue skies.
Autumn trees glistening,
red, yellow, brown, green.

Cold air refreshes my face.
Between suburbia and the London Green Belt,
I walk on mushy leaves underfoot.
Magical light illuminates through the trees
sculpturing an enchanted yet deadly world.

Paul Allchin

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

As this strange year works its way into November and as we enter lockdown for the second time, our good friend Adrian Beckingsale feels that he should look back in humility at all that has gone on but should also look forward with hope and optimism. He has turned to what has been one of his favourite poems since he first read it as a child and marvelled at its rhythm and at how Masefield could evoke so much in those three short verses. So here, on this Day 230 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS FREIGHTAGE is his “humble homage” to Masefield – homage maybe, but we consider it to be a quite brilliant pastiche …

Covid Cargoes
with apologies to John Masefield

Deadly little virus with a spiky surface,
Sweeping through the country in those mad March days,
With its cargo of headaches,
Fever, dry cough,
Breathlessness, anosmia, and hospital stays.

Welcome the delivery van coming out in lockdown
Bringing us our groceries from the online store
With its cargo of bread rolls,
Cooking oil, broccoli,
Chocolate, cereals, and much, much more.

Will vaccine from research labs coming by the New year
Bring us home to haven and be there for Valentine’s?
With its cargo of Freedom,
Immunity, Hopefulness,
Mobility, Safety and Happier Times?

Adrian Beckingsale

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

Today, on this Day 229 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS QUANDARY the Great Lockdown begins in England. It will last one month. Brian Ford finds himself locked into a dilemma; will he make poetry or will he make pastry?

Poetry / Baking – A Covid Dilemma

One day,

I decided to write a poem about Covid.

……….Failed.

What could I say that was new,

Or interesting?

Could I hope to match the skill and fluency

……….Of far better poets?

I gave up and made sausage rolls.

The next day

I tried to write about the previous day’s failure.

……….Couldn’t do it.

I’ve never been one to dwell on my lack of poetic ability.

I baked a Victoria sponge instead.

Today –

Shall I write about yesterday’s aborted attempt

To write about

……….My inability to produce a poem

On Covid?

Or shall I make some jam tarts?

Brian Ford

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It is Day 228 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS EXPECTANCY and it is October 4th 2020. The world is waiting, holding its breath, waiting for the result of the election in the United States. That rascally poetaster Rik O’Shea is trying to find a metaphor for his own wavering anticipation …

Old suit

She threw his suit
out of the window
of their second-storey flat.
He quite liked that suit.

It was his “demob suit”
– he had just qualified.
They were recently married,
and he quite liked that suit.

A sturdy double-breasted
in sober grey herringbone weave,
wide lapels, wide legs,
turn-ups.

The suit was flying for the first time.
Never been thrown out of a window before,
so the grey d.b.
tried flapping its sleeves a bit.

The suit opened its double breasted self
to the emptiness of the air.
It swooped one way and then the other,
while continuing inexorably down.

Soon it landed in the area
at the foot of the basement steps,
at the front door of an oddments
and bric-a-brac shop.

Madame Doubtfire’s shop was dimly-lit,
crammed with second-hand
clothes, antiques, and it possessed
the distinct aroma of cats.

The sign “Madame Doubtfire,
cast-off clothing of all description,
invites inspection”
amused the local gentry.

Madame Doubtfire stepped out
to see this truly cast-off
clothing descending
from the sky above.

The double-breasted suit
was manna from Heaven to Mrs Doubtfire,
and so the young husband
never saw his suit again.

Rik O’Shea

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It’s now 3 November, and on this Day 227 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CODIFICATION, two days before the re-imposition of full lockdown, we press the ever-faithful Gorgonius into action, with his message of hope and feather duster …

Ship-shape in lockdown

Why keep the old house ship-shape?
Because there is a code –
we should dust the cobwebbed corners
and tidy the abode.

See the shed out in the garden,
with its paint all cracked and grey,
it is heading for a pardon,
it will make its getaway.

As the days of lockdown lengthen,
as we live on bended knee,
all our sinews we must strengthen,
for one day we shall be free.

Gorgonius

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These many months of isolation and lockdown have taken an emotional toll on so many families. To some extent, technologies such as Zoom and FaceTime have ameliorated our anguish, but that’s as far as it goes – nothing will be so good as to meet once again in the real world. Two days ago Roger Caldwell made it known that his place “is on the other side of the digital divide” and similarly today’s poet Jenny Hockey, on this Day 226 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS RESTORATION anticipates the dissolution of “the fine mesh between me and the world”, looking forward to being with her daughter …

Over

When the fine mesh
between me and the world dissolves,
I’ll look at my daughter’s face
not a screen, look at my daughter’s face
lit by the afternoon sun of Leith.

I’ll put a cup of tea in her hand
and feel the warmth of a log in her grate,
her shoulders within my arms.

Jenny Hockey

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A late posting today, but no matter: this website, in introducing our NEW POEMS PROJECT, cheerily states “we shall continue this daily wordfest to counteract the Covid blues” – we should and we must continue to keep our spirits up. Yet on this Day 225 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CALAMITY we are actually facing catastrophe, be it a very large epidemic with loss of the ability of the NHS to meet needs, or economic collapse. Or both. Today’s poet Aziz Dixon says he is worried about becoming paranoid. Your Editor is no longer worried about becoming paranoid, he’s paranoid already – it’s the new normal. This week a paper by an economist at the University of Warwick suggests that the Chancellor’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, the aim of which was to reboot the hospitality industry, may have triggered a significant rise in Covid cases by encouraging large numbers of people to visit restaurants – where the virus can spread easily – over a concentrated period. Safety came second to economic concerns. This is plausible, even if not proof. Could you make it up? Aziz Dixon has in his poem – not about an economist, but about a statistician. Close enough …

Interview for a statistician

I’m worried about you.
Most people, after they choose
the eye drops
over the red pills,
their vision improves,
sharp focus on

how wrong they were
to question lockdown.

Do you remember the sunset
from the Old Man of Hoy?
the face of your lover
before we invited her here?
the birth of your son, the look in his eyes?

I am improvising, you understand,
best bit of the job.

Says here you were a literary chap.
Maybe you remember the rats;
hungry they were
in yer face rodents.
Some dead writer came up with that one.

We can try it if you like
but tell me there’s no need.

You can have a new life
as a statistician.
All the maths
is done by algorithm.
What we need from you

is conviction, whatever is true
on the day,

infection rate by postcode,
R number
compared to last week.
Say it like you mean it,
like your eyesight depended on it.

Tell me,
do you have what it takes?

Aziz Dixon

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It’s the last day of October 2020, and it’s Day 224 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS IMMURATION – new and more severe lockdown regulations are on the way. We yearn for a world in which one can have real contact; poet Roger Caldwell eschews the virtual alternative, finding that he is in a combat zone; the party’s over, and the world is flat.

Those Coronavirus blues

My place is on the other side
of the digital divide –
I must have real contact, can’t make room
for its substitute on Zoom.
I need a world that I can touch, taste, smell –
no alternative can serve me well.
I don’t go to virtual pubs, I fear
they would only serve me virtual beer,
and acquaintances I’d made on-line
could never be true friends of mine
unless I could meet them face to face
in real, and not in virtual, space.
Coronavirus has put paid to that:
the party’s over, and the world is flat.

I catch a bus to town – no bustle there,
Closed signs are hung up everywhere.
Masked faces and averted eyes –
they are like walking alibis,
those people who can’t smile, or laugh, or sing
but are adept at social distancing.
I’m one of them, I have no end in view –
here I am a masked stranger too,
and can’t make these streets my own,
but find I’m in a combat zone:
all about me are potential enemies –
if they come too close, and cough, or sneeze.

All usual pleasantries are banned –
this is a zombie-wonderland
not a town where I can freely roam.
No option’s left me but to go back home,
to take the vodka-bottle off the shelf
and have a conversation with myself,
then, once in a state of muted bliss,
scrawl out a poem much like this.

Roger Caldwell

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Sarah Nichols, on Day 223 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS HARLEQUINADE, writes that she has received a present of Ian Macfarlane’s ‘The Lost Words’ which contains acrostic poems celebrating words taken out of a Junior Dictionary. Sarah says “It inspired me to have a go … I find myself counting magpies very carefully these days and making sure I am polite; saying ‘Good morning’ and asking after ‘the Missus’ if I see him on his own!”

Magpie

Monochrome marauder firing
Ak Ak volleys of argument.
Garrulous gossiper with
Pied plumage, instantly recognisable.
Ill-omen if seen singly, so
Each bird carefully counted.

Sarah Nichols

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“Water exists on the moon, scientists confirm. This unambiguous detection of molecular water will boost Nasa’s hopes of establishing a lunar base.” So say the papers – so that’s good, isn’t it? We just have to stay in our cellars for a while longer, until we can get our tickets to the moon. Flying Mother Nature’s silver seed to a new home, sort of thing. On this Day 222 (we do not believe that the number 222 has any spiritual significance whatsoever) of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS LUNATICISM our poet Aziz Dixon is staying in his plague-free room, longing to feel the rain. Forget the moon – is there life still in the market square?

Rain

I hear there is water
on the moon, life
in the market square.

I do not know what to believe
any more. I used to stay
indoors, away from the windows.

Now I have moved
into the cellar, only go
to the hatch for deliveries

at full moon,
according to the calendar
on the wall of my plague-free room

or when the man in the screen
says it is safe
for young people to walk

in sunlight. On the screen
I can choose sunlight
but I long to feel the rain.

Aziz Dixon

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Today is 28 October 2020 and furthermore it is Day 221 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS REVIVIFICATION. Why so? Well, following on Brian Ford’s ‘The Plants in the Gutter’ your Editor invited our erstwhile Wivenhoe resident and poet Elly Robinson (lately domiciled in Suffolk) to bring back to life her heartfelt poem from the past, Sonnet for the Shipyard. It may not be a new poem, but frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn. It is too good to be consigned to history. Elly writes “Thank you for appreciating my Sonnet for the Shipyard. On condition that you retain the original title, of course you can put it on the Poetry page! I do think that the fact that the shipyards, once Wivenhoe’s raison d’être, are now dead and literally buried, is the most poignant point and relates in spirit to the Plants in the Gutter piece.” So here it is; the very names sound like an incantation – alkanet, germander, fleabane, melilot. What wonders have been lost …

Sonnet for the Shipyard

Alkanet, blackberry bramble and broom,
colt’s foot, goosefoot, goosegrass and germander,
dogrose, daisy, jack-go-to-bed-at-noon,
lizards and newts and the local dittander,
buddleia, buttercup, poor man’s brush,
cow parsley, cow parsnip, jack-by-the-hedge,
blackthorn and hawthorn, sharp-flowered rush,
goatsbeard and hawksbeard and salt meadow sedge,
herb bennet, herb robert, poppy, plantain,
pink campion, white campion, ragwort, restharrow,
crane’s-bill and stork’s-bill, thistle, fleabane,
kidney vetch, tufted vetch, toadflax and yarrow,
red clover, white clover and ribbed melilot,
all gone; the developers levelled the lot.

Elly Robinson

First published in poetrywivenhoe 2008, Wivenbooks 2008.

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Tea may be the Cup that Cheers, but to our poet Ekaterina Dukas (and to Powiv HQ), Coffee is King – and on this Day 220 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CAFFEINATION she welcomes the magic bean with its whispered story of old times …

Oldcaf

It has travelled a long way
has crossed many a borderline
to reach this isolated morning of mine.
I welcome it with fresh water and sweets
and offer it its favourite pot on the fire.
It begins whispering its story of old times,
of goats that went mad tasting its beans,
of chirpy birds that alerted mystics to it,
of songs farmers sang at harvesting,
of shooting tropical stars seized by its bloom,
spying now under its soft eyelids,
hiding behind its silky veil
which in a minute is slit in pieces
by a starry lava erupting to reveal
the caffeine spirit of 800 aromatics;
800 smooth conquerors capture the air,
my day breathes their jubilation
in a cup of coffee of old times
sat by a suspended isolation.

Ekaterina Dukas

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The seasons march on. Day by day it’s cloudy, it’s sunny, it’s wet, it’s dry. And we poor mortals carry on too, coasting along with the seasons but having to cope day by day with the vicissitudes of life. On this Day 219 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS VEGETATION our poet Brian Ford pays tribute to The plants in the gutter. A paean in praise of weeds, for weeds are flowers too.

The plants in the gutter

Who notices the plants in the gutter?
Couch grass, fescue, wall barley, timothy.
They are only weeds.

Who cares for the plants in the gutter?
Poppy, scarlet pimpernel, herb Robert, willow herb.
They belong to no-one.

They are dwarfish things, the plants in the gutter,
Dandelion, mallow, hawkweed, yarrow.
Stunted.

Some creep and crawl.
Speedwell, bindweed, knotgrass, cinquefoil,
Out of control.

Some have escaped.
Buddleia, columbine, periwinkle, goldenrod.
They are not where they should be.

What shall we do with the plants in the gutter?
Sowthistle, charlock, groundsel, goosegrass.
They are so untidy,
And free.

They are liminal, ephemeral, the plants in the gutter,
Fat hen, shepherd’s purse, chickweed, scurvy grass.
Changing, obscuring the boundary.

They cause unease, the plants in the gutter,
Sun spurge, ragwort, toadflax, buttercup.
Disguising the edge of the safe pavement.

The plants in the gutter have withered and died,
But they’ll be back,
I hope.

Brian Ford

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A report in the papers four days ago: “The court of appeal has quashed a Home Office policy of removing migrants from the UK without access to justice.” To us that seems the right attitude, and on this Day 218 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS HUMANITY our poet Simon Haines describes the issue in the context of the natural world:

Asylum Seekers

They felled the trees where the rooks built their nests
To make way for a new estate.

Now the birds build their homes in our chimneys
The ones which we no longer use
A home for their eggs and their nestlings
Safe from our cats’ teeth and claws
Chimney sweeps warn of the dangers
Of letting these visitors stay
They’ll probably block up your airways,
Or stop you from sleeping, they say.

Then they closed all the cafes and restaurants
Where wildlife found food after dark.

Now the rats scamper under our floorboards
Building their fast grand prix tracks
Never venturing out in the open
We leave them no holes, chinks or cracks
Our cats hear them scratching and scuttling,
They don’t understand what they are
They’d slay and devour them for dinner
Lick their lips and purr Hmm – caviar!

They don’t bother us – they’re surviving.
We don’t mind them sharing our home.
Those rooks and those rats are quite harmless
We’re happy to leave them alone.

Simon Haines

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Poets are, I think, partial to rainbows – who isn’t? Rainbows are a symbol of hope, and during the dispiriting but necessary lockdown measures of this year rainbows have been appearing at people’s windows and doors throughout the land. Our poet Carol Connell has been out hunting them, and although they seem to have been diminishing in number lately, on this Day 217 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS POLYCHROMATISM, Carol finds rainbows in unexpected places. They are indeed still a symbol of hope, evidence of sunshine after the rain …

Hunting Rainbows

Few now on people’s windows
to brighten up grey days
the rainbow’s disappearing
The end of the craze?

Hunted them in cloudbursts
when the sun came shining through
no rainbow there to lift my heart
none shone into view

Stopped hunting rainbows high up in the sky
stopped hunting them in windows
the days just drifted by

Then saw some unexpectedly …
in a pair of smiling eyes
in a raindrop on a window
in bird-wings flapping by

Kept my rainbows safely
tucked deep inside
remembered them on tricky days
radiating hope, dreams and smiles

When you find your rainbows
store them somewhere safe
they’ll be there for you to draw on
bring a smile to a masked face

Carol Connell

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Today, which is Day 216 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS EVOCATION poet Bryan Thomas recalls a procession of Transports of Delight, as he spools backwards through his years of car ownership. What would he give today for a reincarnation of his “first real car” I wonder? The Alvis Speed 20, made in Coventry, was a truly dashing looking sports tourer. One imagines Bryan driving about the country in his beautiful open top car, the cynosure of all eyes. His poem, however, belies a sadness within, as Transports of Delight brings with it a memory of his much loved younger brother who died at the end of March.
Here it is:

Transports of Delight

?My brother, Colin, in his wheelchair, today.

I, mounting my new buggy at the Café door;
the salesman puts the parts together and demonstrates,
before my test drive round the shop’s back yard.

The scraped blue Honda Civic – Vision,
parked in Frinton while I sipped coffee
and wifey did the Charity Shop round.

Our trusty old VW did many miles until the splash
of sea water etched away her strength and like her
forebear, expired in salty brine – the Barrier not closed.

Oh, memories of an ageing Volvo full of mid-term
parents and of growing youngsters. Tales of crazy
camping, magic mushrooms, Scottish castles.

A sporty soft topped Triumph for a second courtship
Leather jacket and a yellow tie; the arty
architect’s love plighted on a dual carriage-way.

Blue-grey the Hillman as the children grew. Holidays
were sparse and damp. Counting sheep or lampposts,
the windows dripped – the washing never dried.

The Rolls Royce at a misty winter church in Somerset.
Top-hatted marriage with dark suits, white shirts and
those rare smiles in black and white, now faded brown.

My first real car. Shiny black with running boards
and aluminium wings; bold P9 headlights, too.
A second-hand Speed 20 Alvis dated 1934.

The battered rusty pedal car. India in the last days of the Raj.
Two curly headed brothers – banshees,
grinning wide, about to be transported on life’s odyssey.

I can’t recall tomorrow.

Bryan Thomas

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Do I thank often enough those of you who have so steadfastly contributed their poems day after day to our Anti-Covid project? Absolutely not. So I thank you now for sticking with it for so long. We need your verse, even more so now as things take a bad turn with infections nationwide. Here, on the morning of Day 215 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS TEMPESTUOUSNESS, our poet Adrian Beckingsale brings us this metaphor for the current Covid pandemic, saying “we have certainly had some windy and wet weather recently. On our way to Southwold not long ago we were rather delayed by a large tree which had fallen onto the A12. It inspired me to write this little poem.”

Trees and Storms

The cruel, wet, wild, wicked wind wails through our trees.
Some go with a sudden crash,
Amidst the moaning and groaning all around,
Ripping holes in the garden of our lives.
Some struggle on but now broken-hearted
Never regain their majestic form.
Others, though battered, still stay evergreen and strong
While small supple saplings ignore the bitter gale
And come again to spring with fresh clothing
And shoots and buds and spreading roots unfettered.
Too many old oaks are taken by the storm
While the young still gladly breathe new oxygen
Into the fabric of the world.

Adrian Beckingsale

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Day 214 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS TRANSPORTATION and Manchester is having a terrible time in more ways than one … the city is in the forefront of your Editor’s thoughts (family connections), but to divert our gaze, poet Dennis Tomlinson is here to bring Putney – and public transport – into the picture:

Two Buses

A bus up to Putney –
the stern-voiced driver
lets nobody on.
14 maximum.
Only a mother
with baby buggy
can make him relent.

A bus down from Putney –
schoolkids crowd in
at every stop,
laugh at their classmates,
lounge in the aisle
as carefree as ever –
almost.

Dennis Tomlinson

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It is Day 213 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS VITRIFICATION and poet and musician Julia Usher has sent these heartwarming words for all you faithful and talented poets who have been supporting this endeavour since the beginning of the year:
“The Great Lockdown Collection of words, words, words,
Outpouring from so many people, with brilliant imaginations, word – music……
I’ve been working through (them) this morning, with delight and gratitude for all you do.
Makes me want to write, and write again……
Thank you…… all.”

So thank you Julia – and here is your fine and pebbly poem Sea Glass …

Sea glass

What leaden tears
Have melted the stained glass sky windows?
Molten, raining these milky pieces on the shore?

Frosted with rubbing, abrading, and grinding;
No more reflecting the Sky light,

But each edge worn down smooth
By a million million waves;
Then sanded finer by this silica spilling between my toes.

In this huge population of pebbles,
Why do I choose the glass first?
Like uncandled lanterns, their light is spent.

I like to hold a cool, smooth, lump,
Knowing its birth in light and heat;

Even now, if I raise my arm back toward the sky,
It will relight itself with pearled reflectiveness,
That age and sorrow bottled up.

Lyric for a soprano song

Julia Usher

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Let me ask you: how is your timing these days? Are the days of the week all jumbled in your mind? Those of you with fixed events during the week will perhaps have a better perception of the passage of the days. But how about the passage of the months since the first lockdown at the start of the year? Indeed where has the year gone? Well, today is a Monday, and it is 19 October, and in terms of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS EPHEMERALITY it is Day 212. Our poet Sue Wallace-Shaddad says “Descent was written in April, but of course now we are heading to another peak, so maybe I should write another poem! The Ascent!” Her poem reminds us that a downward descent can be tricky, and so it has proved – after the heady feelings of relative freedom in the summer months of this terrible year, the virus is in the ascendant again. We never made it to base camp …

Descent

We are past the peak
but as everyone knows

the downward descent
can be a tricky slope

fraught with icy dangers
crevasses that open up.

We need to keep our crampons
firmly secured, safety ropes

in place, knotted well.
Strung out along a line

we must trudge forwards
along the allotted path

back to base camp
changed for better or worse.

Sue Wallace-Shaddad

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The cry goes up across the land “Give us our missing Day 209 back!” in a reminder of the Calendar Riots of 1752 … sorry, can’t be done, and we have remorselessly progressed to Day 211 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS RESTITUTION – but your Editor will attempt to recompense you with an East Anglian poem that, in particular, continues the theme of Pete Langley’s skylark:

Burnham Overy Staithe

The wide sky stretches
cormorant wings
to the offshore breeze

blackheaded gulls drop
to pick and prick
at silver silt

two avocets
step daintily
in the shallows

a shelduck at the water’s marge
swivels a questing beak in mud
tracing out its name

an oystercatcher pips and pipes
in swoop and wheel
across the saltings

while one small skylark hurls
its heaven-bent heart of song aloft
and aloft

I reach the valley of the dunes
I breast the rising hills of sand
and at the crest fall to my knees

last man alive
in this sounding
void

of beach
and sea
and sky.

Peter Ualrig Kennedy

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Whatever happened to Day 209? A sudden attack of brainfog on the part of your Editor? It should have been 16 October … still “Yesterday don’t matter if it’s gone” (Keith Richards). And now another threat (following on after Sarah Nichols a couple of days ago): on this Day 210 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS THRENODY our poet Pete Langley voices concern over the decline of one of our most charismatic birds, the skylark, and points his poetic finger at the concreting over of much of the countryside. But things are complicated. Skylark numbers declined rapidly from the mid 1970s – indeed by 75% between 1972 and 1996, when the rate of decline slowed. The national Breeding Bird Survey has shown further decline, the continuing decrease being severe, sadly, here in eastern England. The skylark likes open countryside, and particularly arable farmland; this frightening decrease of skylarks is largely due to the development of larger fields and denser growing crops, with a widespread switch from spring to autumn-sown cereals, which has resulted in a dramatic reduction in the number of chicks raised each year. Concreting over farmland is certainly a contributory factor. The skylark may be inconspicuous on the ground, but it is easy to see when in its distinctive song flight, as Pete Langley now observes. The loss of a part of nature so distinctive and heart-stirring would be (will be) catastrophic …

Sky Lark

She is absent now

Here were meadows thick with life
when small boys wore short trousers
and brushed their muddy knees
through fescue and thistledown
to start up a skylark.

The bird chastised their invasion
with a constant blissful trill
as she soared high
into clean, empty sky
above their tousled, empty heads.

Only for now,
is this fertile earth
asleep under concrete
and the birds fix-winged.

Pete Langley

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And so this awful pandemic stretches into all our futures, overshadowing everything; yet other existential threats still loom. On this Day 208 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS IMPERILMENT poet Sarah Nichols is deeply concerned that in Coggeshall – one of Essex’ most picturesque villages – there are proposals for quarries and an incinerator right on the doorstep (a few yards from Grange Barn even!) This picture and subsequent ekphrastic poem came along.

Deep England

After the painting Farmhouse and Field ~ Eric Ravilious 1941

“..and that will be England gone…” Philip Larkin

An Essex farmhouse crowned with Tudor chimneys,
overlooks fields with rows like ruled pages
closely written with copperplate crops;
sits beside thick hedgerows, spotted with eglantine,
cut and laid to regenerate green boundaries
of this place of Deep England.
This house still stands today, I know;
a time-shifting yeoman would recognise
and walk these familiar fields again.
Should I tell him that this landscape is under threat?
A threat that he would not understand nor should he;
of vast quarries, stretches of landfill,
of far taller chimneys than this house boasts,
built to send bitter clouds into our shared skies.
Deep England, a memory, framed, of a former time
of stillness and peace in our heartland, his and mine.

Sarah Nichols

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Sadly, terrifyingly, it has arrived. The second wave. And we knew it would happen. We have known for months that it might happen: “Beware of the second wave of COVID-19” – The Lancet, April 2020. So on this Day 207 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS IRREVOCABILITY our poet Nicky Matthews expresses desperation at its frightening inevitability.

Second Wave

I had learnt to navigate winter’s gloom
Or so I thought.
But in the whispering dark I wake,
As another lockdown looms.
I cannot stop the encroaching night,
Or hold those dear embraces in my grasp.
I cannot keep the stranger
From returning to her towering prison,
Or help the dying,
Dry the tears from his child’s face.
I cannot change one jot
On this inevitable page,
Or give expression to
Humanity’s unrelenting rage.

If I am to ride this wave,
Neither clinging to the light
Nor raging at its loss,
I must, once more, give way
To the the tick ticking
Of passing time and seek
The treasures of the looming dark.
As age slips by to age,
The world is changed.
In these silent hours I call
my wayward thoughts to heel,
And write my way to you,
With whom I wait, for hope
To rise in the shadowy light of dawn.

Nicky Matthews

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One has to admit, on this Day 206 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CONSTANCY, that things are looking pretty dismal. So it is a relief to read this pretty poem by Sarah Nichols, with its sensitive observations about the quiet life of a pair of doves …

Dovetail

A pair of collared doves appear in my garden daily.
They have made their home here;
their sanctuary, as it is mine.
I sit quietly and watch them, happy to share.
Like a long-married couple used to each other’s ways,
as one feeds or drinks the other watches and waits.
Side by side they lean inward,
groom one another by “a peck on the cheek”.
Nesting materials are presented as a gift;
a union of courtesy and companionship.
Occasionally one will appear alone,
marital timeout for some self-grooming;
Tail feathers fanned, head lowered,
like a poker player discarding an unwanted card.

Sarah Nichols

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The restrictions which are necessary for curbing the spread of virus take a great toll on our lives. Technology and video links go some way to assuage our feelings of isolation, but in many ways life remains on hold. On Day 205 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS VISUALISATION we hear that Adrian Beckingsale’s forays into Zoom with his family have brought about the writing of this affecting little piece:

Zoom

Family on Zoom
It goes too fast
Keeping in touch
But no hugs
Social media close
Physically distant
Washing our hands
Not our brains
Masking our faces
And our feelings
Self isolating
Together
The second wave is breaking
Over us
The news is history
Repeating itself
Life on hold
Holding on to life

Adrian Beckingsale

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On Day 202 poet Tony Oswick was employing his words in a playful bilingual manner, and now on Day 204 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS STUPEFACTION our poet Patricia Walsh gives an astonishing display of language in which the meaning and significance of the incumbent words are bent in a striking fashion to the poet’s will (yes, I know, me neither …)

Scenic Direction

In your strong, capable hands I fall,
jumping off conclusions bloodied same,
trite announcements bedevil the glossary,
celebrating nights off with an illicit part.

Hand-held meaning mourns the exactitude
the terrible conversation regales manifold,
favourably ugly through its own mothball,
not paying tax for future plans.

Kissed in a proper corner, forbidden parts,
the slaughtering rain turns its own head,
not learning anything from the theatrical piece,
venturing into the uncharted punishment is key.

Garnering favour, the better to see with,
the sale of bitter beer redeems the coloured eye,
the esteemed search for words remains beautiful,
the accents signifying nothing through hindsight.

The watched noticeboard cossetts its partners
the wired agenda sets its own roots, agaze,
dissected through the classroom’s canopy,
available to all corners, a seemly dissertation.

Mislaying one’s mind, the distant the better,
fed turgid breadcrumbs not fit for the birds,
in the pay of industries, ignorant following
a euro for thoughts caught in the doing.

Patricia Walsh

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Mrs Editor and I are bravely taking a short East Anglian break to celebrate our anniversary (see Day 200) – the first time this year we’ve been further from home than Brightlingsea. I felt I wanted to share my apprehension and relief with you, so here is a snippet of early morning verse on this Day 203 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS THANKFULNESS

Benediction

Covid haunted my dreams last night
and as I wake
the sun glares down
in fierce brutality
on this seaboard town

its triumphant light
strikes
with implacable ardour
the steely surface
of the Northern Sea

it brings a benediction
I am amazed

Peter Ualrig Kennedy

Post scriptum: by mid-day it was raining. Of course.

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“Carpe diem” said the Roman poet Horace in Book 1 of his Odes (23 BC); “Seize the day, enjoy the moment”. Well 23 BC was a long time ago – now the diem in question is today, Day 202 of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS POLYLINGUALITY, so let us indeed enjoy it. Speaking of which we enjoyed our first poetry Zoom meeting yesterday evening, with a group of invited readers from the first 50 days of this very project. Some comments: “Fabulous poems and a very convivial atmosphere”; “I enjoyed it very much and I am amazed that people from far and wide took part” and “I’ve been filled up this evening with such rich words in the midst of a difficult time” – the success of the occasion really exceeded my expectations and trounced all my fears. In accordance with our much vaunted polylinguality, we were introduced to a couple of esoteric French words– matelote and typicité – since you ask. Which brings us to the agile bilinguality of today’s poet Tony Oswick, who addresses his Latin Lover, magnum opus to the fore:

Alma my Latin Lover

Amo my sweet, amo my sweet, my dearest Alma mater,
My love is everlasting, not pro rata, not errata.
Mea culpa, I admit it, you and me should be an item,
I promise I will love you, sine die, ad infinitum.

I remember when we first set eyes, I was persona grata –
You adored my magnum opus and impressive Magna Carta.
I delighted in the veni, but the vidi was too much,
And I never got to vici – you would never let me touch.

It’s not your alter ego – it’s you I like the best!
I just miss you in absentia, in camera id est.
I know you think me silly and de facto, very dumb
But I’m thoughtful, de profundis – cogito, ergo sum.

Quo vadis? That’s the question. Do you still want me to go?
Give me a pound and I will stay – call it a quid pro quo.
I will cherish you forever, with lustful force and vigour,
Post mortem will not part us, nor a mortis full of rigor.

And though it’s a non sequitur, I’d better now be quick
For ad nauseam I’m ailing, yes I’m very, verry (sic).

Tony Oswick

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It’s Day 201 – is a new dawn approaching in this new century of our ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS EXPECTANCY? It seems not. ‘I tell you naught for your comfort, / Yea, naught for your desire, / Save that the sky grows darker yet / And the sea rises higher.’ Thus G K Chesterton in The Ballad of the White Horse. Our poet Julia Usher however is more optimistic, and looks towards Christmas …

Food: Germ-in-nation
Poem for October, 2020

Sweet Chestnuts swell on newly watered trees
Still green, above, below;

They too begin to fall,
Their spiked cases pierce my fingers,
Needing surgical gloves to collect – them – all.

How like the Covid virus germ they seem,
Yet their inner core is not contagious.
Indeed, if ripe, they feed
The ground-bound creatures all around –

And if they last, and we last too,
Will grace our Christmas table.

Julia Usher

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Together, on 7 October 2020, we have achieved something phenomenal: two hundred consecutive days of your very own poems! Today is Day 200 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS BICENTENARY – and guess what? It also happens to be your Editor’s, and his lovely lady’s, wedding anniversary. So I hope you will forgive my self-indulgence in posting a poem that I wrote several years ago. Although it concerns St Valentine’s day, I put it forward now as befitting today’s anniversary …

Dear Heart

Ah, dear heart, these fifty years
on each St Valentine’s you’ve found
at breakfast time, or with your morning tea,

a simple heart shape, red, not signed
but that’s no matter. For my dear
you know it comes from me.

First published online on Rebecca Goss’s blog for Children’s Heart Week
May 2014 (rebeccagoss.wordpress.com)

Your Editor

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Today’s poet Tony Oswick notices that some of the recent poems have been a bit on the depressing side – well, yes, and there’s a certain feeling of desperation in the air. So why not, on this Day 199 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS VOLUPTUOUSNESS, why not cheer up and sing the praises of the cheeky Rhubarb?

In praise of Rhubarb

Herbaceous perennial of the earth
whose fleshy stems reveal a crimson red,
primed for fondling around an ample girth,
enticing naive suitor to your bed.
Your leaves allure – fibrous foliage full –
attracting ever-onward to juicy
stalks, ready, succulent, ripe to pull;
that siren promise of vitamin C
and five-a-day beguiling the humble
admirer to protect his love-sick heart
with a crispy-covered crumble
or tasty, pastry, custard-coated tart.
Majestic vegetable of renown –
let’s propagate! Let me divide your crown.

Tony Oswick

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It is a tragic fact that the coronavirus crisis has dramatically increased domestic violence against women, new research has revealed – reports The Guardian. Three-quarters of victims say that the lockdown has made it harder for them to escape their abusers. On this Day 198 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS TRIBULATION we read a harrowing poem by Paula Stubbs which explores this gruelling territory.

Repeat

If I could run out of this door
I’d run
Faster, stronger than ever before
Before I…
Before you…
Before all ways of exit were blocked to me
By your manic smile
Your tone of voice
By the way you don’t talk to me at all.
By the way you make me feel stupid.
Useless, replaceable, like the shit
Left by a careless dog owner.

That’s too good for me you said
Breathing’s too good
You said.

They furloughed my job like so many others
And I get it, I know why, but…

Shut up, shut up!
Sit there. Get up. Go to bed. Wake up.

Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Children are crying, sobbing,
Hiding under their duvet,
Muffling their breath
When you hit me over
And over
And over
Again.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Waving to the next door neighbour
Who exchanges a half hearted reply,
Not meeting your eyes.

They know.
They hear it.

Thumping at the door.
Whose door?
Are they here for me,
For you?

I hold my breath and wait…

Paula Stubbs

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Today, 4th October, we hear that POTUS will have a stay of a few days at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and that this is precautionary. You wouldn’t wish Covid-19 on anyone, so the hope is for an unimpeded recovery … which might possibly be spun to his advantage? The world holds its breath, wondering which way things might go, on this Day 197 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS INSECURITY – but wait: the rascal Rik O’Shea has something to say about this whole challenging situation:

It’s challenging

Woke up this morning, my hair was plastered to my head,
Woke up this morning, my hair was plastered to my head,
I had a sudden understanding –
at the very least I wasn’t dead.

I was suffering from Covid, in a military bed,
I was suffering from Covid, in a military bed,
but with remdesivir and bleaching
I will recover, like I said.

Struck down by a virus. One of the Deity’s bad jokes –
Struck down by a virus. One of the Deity’s bad jokes –
when I bounce back full of energy
I can say it’s all a hoax.

Woke up this morning, I said “I wanna be your man.”
Woke up this morning, I said “I wanna be your man.”
The Covid has not cowed me,
and I have kept my orange tan.

Give me a second term, and you can take off every mask.
Give me a second term, and you can take off every mask.
You can disregard the Covid –
just vote for me, that’s all I ask.

Rik O’Shea

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It’s all a bit gloomy today, the Day 196 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS DESPONDENCY, and even the usually ebullient Denis Ahern is in a bleak and introspective mood …

A Disappointment

These months of isolation may have contributed.
My usually dependable cheer-up diversion,
reading ‘A Subaltern’s Love Song’ brought tears,
not stirrings of lust after the Hunter-Dunn girl.

Was it knowing the Aldershot world of lawns
in summer evenings of conifer scented warmth,
with a waiting Hillman on the orderly gravel
was and always had been unobtainable?

Or was it my perpetual plague, darker thinking,
seeing the down side, slums in Whitechapel,
single enders in Glasgow, humbler dwellings
of my tennis idol’s contemporaries?

Who knows?
The suspension of ordinary, even mediocre interaction
tints every view with sadness.

Denis Ahern

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Whole seasons have come and gone since the accursed virus jumped species and began to stalk the land. Now it is October and the day – Day 195 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS ISOCHRONALITY – is distinctly autumnal. Our poet Anthony Wade is finding blackberries in this nicely alliterative poem.

Different Days, Different Desires

Stepping out on our prescribed daily walk
we stride each with a washed yoghurt pot dangling,
so sensible with its handle to carry home
small pickings of plumped blackberries
now richly ripened on boisterous brambles bursting
from thickly briared hedgerows lining treeless lanes.

Like a murmured barely-heard benediction,
a breath of breeze from the north-east
slides softly across the stilled surface of the lake,
a sigh of memory of those apron-bound mothers
who once needily scoured these hedgerowed footways
as clean as they brushed their lowly floors.

Today port-wined fingers, blackened tongues,
selfie-captured testimony
to socially applauded aspirations,
will be proudly shared to the world,
and at breakfast tomorrow we’ll enthuse over
forage-fresh fruit garnishing low-fat yoghurt
modestly heaped on our carefully chosen
from-sustainable-resources organic granola.

Anthony Wade

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Today is October 1st (where did the year go?) and it is Day 194 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS DEBACLE. It is also National Poetry Day, “the annual mass celebration on the first Thursday of October that encourages all to enjoy, discover and share poetry.” Which is all good and proper, and of course quite unlike someone else’s National Embarrassment Day, the occasion of “a quarrel in a far away country, between people of whom we know nothing” pace Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, September 1938. So where can we go for poetic sustenance? To whom can we turn for the promised rainbow? For the arc of the covenant? Why, to none other than our poet of the day Hilary Nicholls …

The arc of the covenant

Now it almost is, but not;
Rainlight only, as if it has just ceased to be;
Gradually, it emerges from unbeing
Slight, transparent, bright segments
red through grass green on blue sky
Now all hues on rainlight, on cloud;
the arc of the covenant.

Hilary Nicholls

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This poem, The Spirit of Lockdown, was submitted early in August, and here we are on the very last day of September, this Day 193 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS PROCRASTINATION. Ideally Janet Murray’s pretty poem should have been posted while still Summer. Your Editor can find no excuse for this tardiness and will clothe himself in sackcloth and ashes for the rest of the day …

The Spirit of Lockdown

There is a sluggishness around,
flaming sky at night, rain next day.
A bee has wedged itself in
an agapanthus flower.
It doesn’t move. I’m not sure
whether it’s exhausted, or dead.

A blackbird couple are nesting in
overgrown wisteria. The female is
plucking ivy leaves. I walk
behind a large wood pigeon. It allows
me to follow for a little while, then
launches itself, not very high,

doesn’t regard me as much of
a threat. Now the blackbird sits
on top of a neighbour’s
blossom tree. It starts to whistle,
falsetto then throatily. I whistle back,
it seems to be, in the spirit of things.

Janet Murray

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The pandemic has reached a terrible milestone. On this Day 192 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS CLIMACTERIC the number of people worldwide who have died from Covid-19 has now exceeded 1 million. The fact that this figure does not yet approach the death toll of the 1918 influenza pandemic is scant comfort. Our poet today, Paula Stubbs, writes that her poem White is inspired by the recounts of patients on Covid wards – a proportion of sufferers with serious symptoms do survive. These are some of the memories they may retain …

White

White is the colour I wear
Clouds that glide, fill the sky
With their beautiful symmetry
The shapes that twist, that move,
That turn and turn again within the blue.

Then blue, from azure to the palest shade
Bursts into my gaze, taking my breath away
As you morph, spin your threads through
The trees, my breath and ocean waves.

In these two shades, more now come into view.
Weaving, mixing, they bring both light and shade;
In their embrace, a myriad of colours
Stream through my veins, carrying me,
Lifting me, until I am weightless.

No words are needed.
Just the touch of your hand.

In the silence, I hear you breathe,
I hear you breathe with me, for me.

A steadfast gaze is fixed upon me;
I am your focus and nothing
Will take you away from me.

Paula Stubbs

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In certain parts of today’s world – today being towards the end of September 2020 and indeed Day 191 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW INTERDICTION – refugees fleeing from whatever terrors and hardships have beset them are being denied safe harbour. One reads of pushbacks by teams of men (we’re talking about somewhere in the Med) who intercept boats of refugees and forcibly return them to those waters from whence they came. A reaction to migrants so tangibly different from the ancient wisdom of the great Chinese poet Du Fu, whose words in the poem A guest arrives – words that still speak to us after centuries – are rendered for us by our own poet Anne Boileau.

A guest arrives
a poem by Du Fu 712-720

My cottage is surrounded by water.
All I see each day is a flock of crying gulls.
The flowery path has never been swept for a guest.
But today the wicker gate creaks open for a gentleman.
I have only meagre left-overs to set before him.
The wine by the chimney place is stale and cloudy.
I agree to join my elderly neighbour for a drink.
I’ll call to him over the fence, and we’ll finish the bottle.

Version by Anne Boileau

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Looking for the good news on this Day 190 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS HOSIERY? Well, whaddya know – David Beckham is rockin sandals worn with socks. And he is pairing this look with an anorak and oversize trousers; comfort has overtaken cool as a work-from-home priority. This is better news than that some communities in Texas have been advised to stop using tap water because it might carry a deadly brain-eating amoeba. Don’t go thinking that this sort of scare only happens in America – Naegleria fowleri is the reason that no-one today is allowed to bathe in the original Roman baths in our own ancient city of Bath. Plus there is a concern that with climate change the number of N. fowleri infections will increase because the amoeba likes warmer water! And so our poet Pete Langley reminds us that there is another pesky bug around just now wreaking havoc:

Mother

Viruses have been around
through the Ages. I know,
but I have a bug
threatening to run out of control.

These tiny beasts
have ravaged my skin
and putrified my breath,
raising my temperature.

They have set my lungs afire
with inflammation
and clouded my amniotic fluids
with the detritus of their consumption.

Their movement around me,
their mindless need
to proliferate and dominate,
is clogging my metabolism

but I am Mother Earth
and I will prevail.
These viruses called Man
will fade to their rightful place.

Pete Langley

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Walking in Unquiet Landscapes today, on Day 189 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS TREPIDATION, we are in double jeopardy. Poet Kate Lammin depicts the extreme weather events that have desecrated our environment. But now the uniquely dangerous virus persists unseen, threatening to wreck our lives and our humanity.

Walking in Unquiet Landscapes

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

Kate Lammin

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Du Fu (712-720), one of China’s greatest poets of the Tang dynasty, was acclaimed as a ‘Sage Poet’ for his compassion for others. His poem Travelling again speaks of familiarity with remembered pastoral scenes. Here, on Day 188 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS PREOCCUPATION the Coronavirus is rising up once more against us, becoming more contagious and more prevalent. We face re-imposed restrictions and it feels very much as if we’ve been this way before; however in this admirable version by our poet Anne Boileau, we are comforted by visions of flowers and willows, and our sorrows fade away. Will this really come to pass one day, or is it but a chimeric dream? We must continue to fight, and to hope for better things.

Travelling again
a poem by Du Fu 712-720

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

Version by Anne Boileau

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It is Day 187 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS MALADMINISTRATION and we are in fear of a second wave of Coronavirus and a second lockdown. It is a disquieting situation, in which we have no need of fools. No; technical, economic and scientific experts are required to devise a road map for our uncertain future. Brian Ford knows this, and shares his concern …

Fools are a problem

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

Brian Ford

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So yesterday was the Autumn equinox, and today – Day 186 of the ANTI-COVID-19 NEW POEMS FRANCOPHONALITY – has indeed begun to look rather autumnal; so how goes the season across the Channel in our old adversary-cum-ally France? Well, lots of things do happen there, but news of Europe gets overshadowed now by the awful reality of the resurgence and spread of Coronavirus in this country. Paris is due to unveil tighter restrictions against the pandemic; there is also for example outrage (#BalanceTonPorc) at stories of girls being told off for what they are wearing at school – but in contrast to such gallic concerns, poet Antony Johae directs our attention to the beautiful colours of Autumn. His poem is set in November, so admittedly we have posted it about six weeks too soon; however “la neige viendra” – an apposite metaphor for our troubled times.

Couleurs d’automne

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

Antony Johae

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

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

Relationships

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sylvia Sellers

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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

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

Seagull

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

Sea airs support and comfort him in flight

……………sustain him as he breathes;

………………. wings spread wide he soars

……………………unbound by gravity or need

……………………. Drifting down he lands,

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

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

and paddles to the bank to feed.

The tide is falling and as the mud unfurls.

………. He stakes his claim along its edge

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

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

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

…….as the daylight fails.

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

I must not stay grounded but will

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

……………………….. …..my

…………………………of

……………………….thermal

………………………a

…………………….on

………………….lift off

Bryan Thomas

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

Consolation

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

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

Anne Boileau

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

Time-shift

– April 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic

There are surprises beside the hedge –

memories unwritten in the earth

like stitchwort stars and cowslips

that emerge from the depths

of history.

Hornbeam and maple coppice in this green lane

where an ancient wood once stood

… . – are a line of thought –

between the fields of rape and winter wheat

… . .and the skylark singing.

Where the headland meets the furrows

the stem of an old clay pipe

protrudes from a ploughman’slips

. . . .in my bridled mind

and the war

. . . . ….and the Spanish flu

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

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

Mervyn Linford

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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

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

…………………………………………………………………………………………….

A moving and prize-winning poem from Pat Job

The Parcel

Mother, open the parcel,
the brown paper’s greasy,
it’s creased at the corners,
untie the string.

Your fingers are shaking,
out tumbles the crumple
of khaki, or feldgrau,
rough-textured and damp.

It lies in your hands with a sigh
and you smother your face
in the fog of its cloth and gag
on the acid of gas

which furs up your tongue
but you hang onto the belt,
its cracked polished leather
dishonoured with mud

and then find the buckle,
still brassy but bent,
it shines out of this mess
that is all we have left.

And look how the uniform clings
as you hold it against you
and then when you drop it,
it folds up like death.

Pam Job
by permission from so too have the doves gone

…………………………………………

Steve Pottinger was our guest reader on 28 May 2015

DRY LAND DROWNING

The seals haul themselves ashore
to pup on the rock flats every year,
and you arrive,
frayed and torn as sea-tossed rope,
cloaked in the stink of the city.

You breathe the air deep as before,
say how good it is to be
somewhere there’s space
while your eyes burn with fever
and your talk of pubs and clubs and chemicals
lights up your face
with homesick and longing.

And you will speak – again –
of poverty and injustice
with eloquence and anger
and only the silence of what remains unsaid
hints at your increasing fear,
while in the evening,
gathered round the burning peat,
rain lashing the windows,
you will entertain with anecdotes and tales
that leave us helpless with laughter.
A talisman, more than ever now,
to beg us not to forget you.

And you will leave as suddenly as you came.
An eager moth yearning for
the city’s cold and glittering flame.
And I will sit and ponder how lonely you have grown,
how brittle,
and the seal pups wait on a tide
to sweep them back to the sea.

©Steve Pottinger
from Island Songs (Pottinger) Ignite Books 2012

”’;’;’;’;’;’;’;’;’;’;’;’;’;’;’;’;’;’;’;’;”;’;’;”’

“””‘”””‘”””‘”””‘”””‘”””‘”””‘”””‘”””‘”””

Martin Malone was our guest reader on 26 March 2015:

WOOD ON THE DOWNS

After Paul Nash

We have been here before. Uffington, Hackpen,
Grim’s Ditch, Ogbourne St.George, Wayland’s Smithy,
Sparshott Firs, Bishopstone and Barbury;
all the trodden way from Overton
to Beacon Hill. Each place its genius loci,
a favourite colour: Ash-Blue, Ochre,
Payne’s Grey, Terra-Verte, Lamp Black, Sienna.
But today you ditch your winter tones
and bid for late spring. The trees are in leaf,
the chalk from the downland reflects light
from a milder sky. Through field glasses
one sees a landscape that one can see
in no other way. Here, then, is yours:
the stiff cilia of trunks – a brown-fringed
platoon lost on Hill 60 – ghosts of the vortex,
the leaching colours of pending summer,
the breast, lumbar and hip curve of hill
prone upon the bed of Buckinghamshire.
And there I join you eighty years away,
with my Trojan girl; lifting her face
to mine in the dappled light of the wood.
We have been here before.

Martin Malone

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

HERE IS THE WINNING POEM FROM THE POETRYWIVENHOE POETRY COMPETITION 2014:

Watching The Jewel in the Crown

Daphne Manners is wearing round tortoiseshell
specs like the ones you wore in that photo Dad took

as you nestled beneath the paper parasol,
in love. She has on a flower print sundress like yours

as she lounges on the verandah at Mayapore
sipping gin fizz with ‘aunt’ Lili Chatterjee.

Perhaps at the convent in Bruges the other girls
teased you, that old lie about men not making passes,

because I’ve seen the snaps of you without your glasses,
on the beach, with the collie dog, on the pillion,

but that was before he proposed, before the rains
came, making the air in the hills smell sweet

and misting up your lenses, so that it was harder
to identify the men from the Bibighar Gardens.

But I forget, that wasn’t you, you had moved back
to the house in Berrylands where, every so often,

a parcel arrived in the post from Darjeeling
and, having settled the child, you’d sit in the kitchen

tasting your tea and dreaming of the moment
he’d walk through the door, kitbag on his shoulder,

camera in hand, and the monsoon in his eyes.

Stephen Boyce

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

.,.,., .,.,., .,.,., .,.,., .,.,., .,.,.,

Fishing

A great blue heron, as the tide
comes in, follows it in, ransacking each
pool in turn, just before their rims

are overwhelmed and they give
themselves up to the anonymity of the sea.
The fish in the pools are frantic;

knowing in their many bones that,
at any moment, they will be either dead
or free. It is this frisson the heron

loves the most. As he swallows down
the last fish’s forlorn hopes he can almost
taste its fear, seasoned with salt.

Gordon Meade

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Arrival at Rafik Hariri International Airport

The queue wasn’t long for foreigners;
the other for Lebanese, guest workers
home for a few days from the Gulf,
stretched back a bit. I stood on the yellow line.

He stamped the man before me
and beckoned. “Bonjour,” I said and he smiled.
I handed him my passport, he flipped through the pages.
“You are coming from Kuwait?” and I nodded.

“What is your occupation?” “I teach at the University –
English . . . English Literature.”
He looked at me and then at my picture,
again at me and said:
“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”

Antony Johae

Published in the North 50 (2013)

………………………………………..

In the reading room at the British Library

you can hear the sea. And in this noiseless place,
a pin drop from a milliner’s grip some ninety years
away, or a wren caught in the eaves of a sudden thought.
There’s a finger, sweat greasing its trigger at dawn
as it eases back to join the volley of twelve Enfields
in the yard, dust falling from the walls as we all
fall in time. A rage of sound exalted to stillness
and it carries down the decades. Even after-hours
the librarians whisper here, afraid to weigh their loss
or private joy against the din. As though one
misplaced word could creak like a nightingale
on a parquet floor, jar like a note in a symphony
of counted bars at rest, could make you miss the atom
cracking with the thunder of a goldcrest’s heart.

Allison McVety

from Miming Happiness (smith|doorstop, 2010)

.’.’.’.’.’.’.’.’.’.’.’.’.’.’.’.’.’.’.’.’.’.’.’.’.

IF I WERE PRINCE OF LIECHTENSTEIN

If I were prince of Liechtenstein
and you were princess
you would drink the best champagne
you would eat quinces

I’d not have such a crusty air
nor spike, nor thistle
but I would have love to spare
living in a castle.

Happiness would not come hard
peace would step lightly.
Up on the mountain we would stare
down on the city

see each at his humble hearth
workers with worries
know but for accident of birth
we would be likewise

and our eyes would fill with tears
at how hard their life is
and we’d try to calm their cares
with all our good wishes.

Perhaps the secret of life’s pain
is not so mysterious:
keep happiness a thing one’s own
the misery vicarious.

Easier said than done.
The doctor, my dear one,
until I’m prince of Liechtenstein
gives no such prescription.

Roger Caldwell
(from his Waiting for World 93 collection)

””””””””””””””””””””””””’

Here is a poem from Emily Berry, who was our guest on 27 February 2014:

My Perpendicular Daughter

grew taller than they said she would

when I got her; I wish they hadn’t lied

like that. I thought a daughter would be

light and quiet – not at all; they hung her

upside down inside me: now she sticks

straight out, gets in the way when I stand

close to walls. I tried to take her back

but they said I should be glad a man had

known me, and I’d only got what I’d been

begging for. Would I like a booklet?

Instead I asked for milk and tipped its

long white screech right down; it left my

tongue all feathery. ‘There are no returns

on daughters,’ they pointed out. She was

under my dress like you-know-what: ‘This

is how the end begins,’ I said, and aimed.

from Dear Boy by Emily Berry (Faber & Faber, 2013)

……………………………

Luke Wright was our guest on 23 January 2014.

A12

England’s crude appendix scar,
the Essex/Suffolk artery
salt-baked, potholed, chocked with cars
across the Orwell, Colne and Lea
the Roman’s great, paved Inter V.

From Blackwall mouth to Breydon Water
worlds away from London noise
the Orbital’s delinquent daughter
friend to suits in suped-up toys
and wood chip-larynxed good ole boys.

Where Witham trees are linocuts
against an endless swirl of blues,
where rat-faced booners slice you up
and eighteen wheelers rumble-snooze
en route to Brussels, Bonn or Bruges.

Worst road in Britain, so they say
the bridesmaid with the snaggletooth
you’ll never be a motorway
your tar tattoos are too uncouth
ground down for years by tyre and hoof.

But I will have you, ruts and all
your grey macadam’s in my bone
transport me from the fug and sprawl
to Suffolk’s icy brine and foam
just take me home, take me home.

Luke Wright

———————————————-

Here is a poem by Rebecca Goss, our guest reader on 28 November 2013:

LEOTARD

He comes across it by accident.
His washing pile muddled with hers.
It’s slippery, black, has a nice stretch to it.

There’s a mirror, an empty flat,
so he strips, feels goose bumps spread
the back of his thighs. He pulls it up too fast,

has to re-tuck his balls inside the narrow gusset.
Once on, tight and shiny, he distorts his physique
with high arm stretches. The cat purrs approvingly

from the edge of the bed. One last glance,
Lycra wrapping the round of each buttock,
he inhales and exhales, gets ready to leap.

Rebecca Goss
— in collection, The Anatomy of Structures, 2010, Flambard Press, first published in Smiths Knoll, 2007.


A poem by Tim Cunningham who read for us in September 2013:

HIS LETTER

Opening the letter,
Words flew up like butterflies,
Exploded with rainbow wings.

I part the yellowing pages now,
Brittle as fallen leaves;
Unbandage the past.

He writes of where he is:

Of guard duty tinselled with frost,
And stars like sixpences
Reflecting on his bayonet.

Remembers where he was:

His mother’s fingers sculpting flour,
His father’s feet and his
Welcome through acres of neighbouring fields.

Dreams of where he longs to be:

Alighting from the troop train,
Seeing his Venus’s green coat
Appearing from a cloud of steam.

And, knowing the pencil’s lead would sink
In the pages’ white rapids,
He asks her to re-write his words in pen.

Then the poem’s pencil-sketch of love,
Of life disappearing
Like wrens into a bush.

I read his testament,
Follow the vowel and consonantal
Roads we might have walked.

But mostly I watch her hand,
Observe it tracing faithfully
The loop and line of letters;

Her pen climbing his wordscape,
Its warm ink intimate on pencil
Like skin on skin.

Tim Cunningham
(from his Siege collection)

………………………………….