LOCKDOWN

    poems in isolation

CALL CLOSES MIDNIGHT APRIL 30, 2020

Music for St Valentine's Day

               (Written on St Valentine's Day, 2020)

Here we go. The amps are warming up,
the room goes still and people hope for magic –
ah! – we love to fall in love
and through the most impartial things
we fall in love
and music does it time and time again,
but one-eyed darkness - its hair full of ravens
is peering through the windows of the club,
so hungry, it will swallow every note,
or else the sea comes knocking
like a figure that must drown a sleeping town
because a myth has taught it how to kill,
and still the song’s undressing like a tree,
and you’ll believe the leaves
as if they’re gifts, as if they’re blessings
just for you.
Perhaps they are.
 
I hope it’s true.

 

                      Gary Bills (Ledbury)

The poem was actually written on St Valentine's Day this year, when I felt an unusual level of unease, perhaps without understanding why at the time...Ultimately, I hope the poem is a kind of blessing, reminding us that we will soon be able to gather socially in groups again, as hopeful and loving human beings.

Lockdown

 

Shut in, locked, barred, bolted, enclosed, confined

outside the sun, the sky, the spring, the swoop

 

of swifts coming home to eaves, the imagined ease

of a field lush with soft grasses to step on, to roll in

 

do you like butter? a flower’s golden light on your skin

the daisies, their petals – she loves me – plucked one by one

 

she loves me not – the puff of dandelion’s crown, its seeds

blowing over the world. No way out of this room?

Gabriel Griffin

Lockdown Time

 

Clock, that old tyrant, is now overthrown.

The measured beat of wheeled teeth

to which its minions marched is done,

shown for the fiction that it always was.

We now consult the sun, the moon, our needs,

our appetites, to portion out the days

and all is well.

 

Sandra Horn

     Appointment

 

We’ve stopped counting days, instead considering everything one – a beginning, an ending, a certainty without surprises, a single candle on a pink birthday cake. It’s the Queen’s Christmas message at the wrong time of year, but without the food, and with even more repeats on TV. The same sporting fixtures break up the repetitive news, and the weather forecast could be anything   since  nobody  goes  outside.    We’ve even stopped  naming  days,  an informal  today

acting as shorthand for occasional meals, an empty diary, a Zoom meeting with the signal breaking up,   the cat coming and going as if he owns the world  –  which he does since we gave

it up. Naturally, we’ve stopped living in days, focusing instead on our movement between rooms,   the  distinctions  between  contesting  apps,   irregular  monitoring  of  heart  rate   and

oxygen levels, the measureless sustain on my old electric guitar, the number of teabags in commemorative  tins,   and  the  comforting  silence of all the telephones  we have  ever  cradled

like injured birds.

 

Oz Hardwick (York)

Mambo’s Blues

Sad Spanish strains

Night street

 

All dissent quiet

Church mice sleeping

Humans creeping through

Petrified forests

 

Papers to walk outside

Papers to walk the dog

Police plundering city blocks

 

Wayward mask soaking  

Bug-eyed forsaken puddles

Gloves, skeleton mud runners

 

Kisses sitting like canned peaches on

Weathered shelves

Embraces holding some

Magic clock strike twelve

 

Poets creak, pastors preach

The abandoned plunging

hollow promise streams

 

 

With great introspection

Masses ponder the great dissection

 

Easter bunnies sleep in the tournesol sheds

The bum rap meds, no one dare touch his soiled hand

 

Lab rats grin as the mother of all vaccines warms the grand nipple

Resounding orchestral death march

 

We stay together

Keep our love

Hide in the never heard of

 

Knit our threads, bake our breads

Sing our songs, read Walt all night long

Nurses, doctor helping hands

Stave off the storm with clothespins

 

Nature heals, as the wheels roll off the highway

Rest like tires in wilted roadside sands

 

Michael D. Amitin

(Paris & Colorado)

Plague

 

The way we whisper the word; to say it aloud

confers a truth upon it, gives it a taste in our mouths,

 

a cross between sorrow and dread; we can work, play and strive,

navigate the storms that batter heart and mind,

 

but we can’t tolerate this breath of fear that cloaks

the strong, hard ground, like a never ending fall of leaves.

 

And the old, with their milky eyes, anxious for light,

are the first to be taken. They understand the order of it

 

but still, they can’t imagine their names carved into stone,

their dust dissolved in earth, their time of gone.

 

Then the weak, the young, occasionally a fine specimen.

Those who do, pray, secretly bargaining with their gods,

 

anxious not to vex the fickle, vengeful deities,

and those who don’t, wonder if it’s worth a shot

 

to hedge all bets, the just-in-case, panic loosened

like a startled horse. But still they celebrate,

 

sitting behind tight shut windows and doors,

how the dawn breaks and small birds sing their hearts out.

 

Lesley Quale

Tulip Bulbs

 

Three years, they haven't been planted. Hidden,

most days, by being on the shoe rack too long

to notice, they are more magnificent

 

each time a corm falls under my feet.

Eden, no problem. Like so: have

three packs of spring bulbs, tulips

 

lets say -- parrots, doubles, dwarves, up to you --

forget to put them anywhere near fine

soil and you won’t be disappointed.

 

No, you’ll be dazzled as an optimistic drunk

by their always-potential splendour: their blush-

green stalks and tapered goblets will be spring

 

wine any season. Oh, sup, sup, sup.

And extolling the potential bouquet,

hand apples to your love. Welcome to Paradise, darling.

 

Rebecca Bilkau (Germany)

from instructions for a quiet life , Oversteps 2018

Linnets

 

It catches us unaware:

the broken sky blown blue,

the last of the contrails, the last

of our days.

                We watch the light

spilling down cracks in the long hill,

cracks in the long hours.

 

Dragged from the kindness of sleep,

radio news drowning the strange silence,

we mourn our secret landscapes,

the people we felt we knew

                but will never meet again:

our ghost worlds

and the ghost spring sliding away,

stealing with it our lives.

Each day, we walk the old paths,

try to find our way back.

The elder's in leaf, blackthorn starry

with blossom.

No one speaks but

                there is still song.

Finch and thrush and wren

                                              

                and flurries of linnets

                               sweeping the sky

untying the breeze with their calls,

questioning the tilt of the earth

                               and the shifting hill,

its trees and paths shuddering

with light.

 

Jane Lovell

In Lockdown

 

Such joyful racket

from everyday birds a-chitter.

Alive and free

they’re speed-dating like

there was no tomorrow.

 

And see these leaves that push

baby fists through railings?

In a day or two

they’ll spread their fingers, nature

getting on with her business.

 

Two ducks tag each other

over the rooftops

as if they had escaped a parlour wall

leaving their mate still fixed

above the gasfire.

 

A jackdaw pokes discarded packaging.

Cars doze in parking bays

like horses put out to grass.

And down the emptied roads, a bus

cruises slow as a ghost ship.

 

A C Clarke

(Scotland)

A Breath of Beauty          

 

A flirtation of clouds collide,

releasing a silent collusion

of vapour seeping into lungs

and we fear we may drown.

 

Lockdown brings meditation,

limbs splayed in hazy warmth

soft-lined as feline fur

absorbing Dawn’s early gift.

 

Slowly, I unwrap it

sliding Sellotape from eyes

to unfold a new world.

It drops in my lap like a gem.

 

I roll facets between fingers,

catch the nuance of light,

the way sunrise unrolls its smile.

How did I miss first blush of day?

 

I was never a moment-seeker,

thoughts stumbling ahead of feet,

a shadow-tracker counting steps

but today I lift, Time stalled.

 

I catch the shift of bud to bloom,

the way creamy clusters

of bawling fists unfurl,

and I open myself to receive:

 

a syncopation of birdsong

strung across the sky,

 

a tickle of childish laughter

slipping under fences,

 

a rustle of bugs in roots

hedged in thistle and stump,

 

a sweep of bruised aubretia

spreading over walls,

 

a steal of magpies in copper crown

lording over its bounty.

 

My lungs expand, drink in

a breath of beauty, exhale.

 

                     Kate Young

10 aprile 2020

 

Mi sono fermato appena prima della linea di ferro, un tiro di sasso da casa

e dalla grazia. Oltre, non andare. Il merlo si sta preparando, veliero, sopra

 

un ciliegio appena distante: attende cose sconosciute, ben note a coloro

che tra noi furono prima, quando dentro la fumata bianca camminavamo.

 

Appena prima, mi sono fermato. Siamo noi, ora, a recedere dal tempo e i

nostri passi (edera e tarassaco) disfano, l’abito della sposa scivola nel cielo.

Lorenzo Gelmini (Novara)

Decree From Afar

 

It was the noise, the bustle and stink

of a wet market in Wuhan

that indirectly decreed

that the landlord of The Bull in Linton

should, after pulling the last pint of Thatcher's Gold,

shut his doors for an unknown length of time,

leaving the bar and restaurant,

so used to the clinking of glass,

laughter and babble of background chat,

to yawning emptiness.

 

His Labrador, lying before the open log fire,

stares with blissful, unknowing content into the flames

while its master, worrying about everything

in the ear-splitting silence,

seeks solace from a double shot of Famous Grouse.

 

Well, who else is going to drink it now?

 

Stephen Poole (Kent)

Remember These

 

Learn to know this broken, cracked old world anew.

 

Think of walking city walls in dancing shoes

as dawn turned night all inside out.

Listen now to bells across the treeless town

from All Saints’ tower, and bells on shoes

along the high street on a silver day with staves

and swirling skirts and handkerchiefs,

with Jim on squeezebox, Paddy on the violin.

 

Hear wrens crack through an eggshell sky

as you stare up at mayflower sprays—petals

changing vicious hawthorn to a bridal wreath.

Recollect hot days of stepping barefoot

onto sand under scimitars of seagulls.

Tread salt-flat undulations left by tides:

the crush and crunch of small whorled shells.

.

Learn to listen to this broken world anew.

 

Clasp the soft skin of your newborn

on your breast—savour that sweetness.

Look up! Gaze as chestnut chandeliers

light blazing wicks when leaves uncurl.

Once more, pitch hay, those slippery stalks

of gold, the rhythm of the turn and toss,

the scent of summer haloing your hair.

 

Watch bluetits build, knowing nests

will not outlast long rains, yet they in hope

will line a dusty gutter with bright moss.

Then praise, praise the peacock butterfly

that spreads its wings on the roof

of the hearse awaiting its load

in shadow, by the church’s door.

 

Learn to love this broken, cracked old world anew.

 

Breathe out to see the mist of frost,

and then inhale it all again before

your lungs have turned to lakes,

before the steady throb of your own heart

has pumped its last: has ticked the final beat

of time and left you to eternity.

Remember these.

 

© Lizzie Ballagher

A Crack In Credibility

Caught sight of a covid cemetery

through a crack in bureaucracy

 

spied sealed wooden crates lined up

like export containers at the docks

 

for them not Europe nor Asia but

the higher destination of Valhalla

 

all tarpaulined by dark soil at

the expense of human sweat

 

of gladiators in masks and gowns

glad to be working at a job

delighted to be alive when

their infirm parents have gone

 

to become covid statistics of

those infected now the dead

 

compiled by a plethora of clerks

far behind smart computers

 

analysing then projecting

plus or minus standard deviations

 

as fodder for inept politicians

incapable of decision making

Alun Robert

 

while avoiding focused questions

but proffering lame excuses

 

yet receiving their full pay for

no furlough in their flawed sight

 

but soon it will be all over

when the blame games begin

 

finger pointing and spitting

returned to the back benches

 

in sight of a covid cemetery

through a crack in credibility.

Tell me why they’re so big, the spans of rainbows,

Shimmery and glowing refractorily,

Thin enough to break like the rubber band you stretch too tightly between your fingers to test fate though hoping it doesn’t snap,

But somehow staying up there so high and not toppling,

With all the resilience of light.

 

We are all Noahs these days.

Adrift in ships of homes, some sturdy, others improvised,

The earth has quaked beneath us, contagion shimmers unseen in air, floods of anxiety vie with tides of peacefulness.

We are wondering when we‘ll come ashore and what the world will look like when we do.

 

And again, that impossible rainbow.

Girthing the globe,

Promising the planet is still round and our eyes have retinas reflecting and droplets will function as prisms.

Can it promise us anything more, in its wildly impossible architecture,

Gleaming with more force and more hued happiness than anything else, even sun herself, after that hail pummels.

And then gone again, even as you and I look.

Meditations wander, rest, fade, emerge.

Light is a wave and a particle.

 

Angelica Zeller-Michaelson

The Book of Covid

 

Nation shall turn against nation for the last macchiato 
and people will slaughter each other with a handshake.
Neighbour will smite neighbour for a dog biscuit
and children will shun playmates over a bar of Snickers.
Yea it shall be so unto the final can of beans
which will cost more than a house
and the rich will skulk in bunkers with bodyguards

who know which side their bread is buttered.

 

Then neighbour shall turn to neighbour for solace
and townsfolk shall swap coats with each other
and we shall shop and cook for one another.

On Wednesdays and alternate weekends

we shall plant seeds together in cities
knowing that we prepare a bed fit to lie in
and we shall rest in it alongside each other
and survive another season that is no longer recognisable

and it shall be known by another name.

 

Rachael Clyne

Empty Street

  • inspired by a photo taken by Amina Ayal

during lockdown 2020

 

Shop-window dummies,

wearing their best behind glass,

as trapped as we are.

 

Nobody to sell to,

no fashion to keep up with,

price tickets fading.

 

Beautiful blank eyes

look out from a museum

of how we were, once.

 

Derek Sellen

(Canterbury)