I keep saying I will put some of my poems in the blog, but never quite get round to it. I just found a few at the bottom of my email box. They were first published in Acumen in May 2021. One of them was on the page facing a poem from Roger McGough and I felt quite famous for a while. They are not particularly cheerful, for which I apologise, but writing something serious is an occupational hazard of being a poet.
When COVID struck in 2020 we just thought it was another flu. When the idea of a lockdown was first mentioned we were in the middle of Norfolk, heading for the Suffolk coast. The poem, The First Week is written about that time. The other one was a poem originally written after my mother died, but repurposed after my father died from COVID. When we stopped at the Garden centre on the way home (see the blog post) we had intended seeing him. By that time he was locked down and we never did see him again.
Here they are.
The First Week
We didn’t know what was to come that year, the lack of holiday,
freedom and fresh air. Walking on the shore, shingle ground underfoot.
Aldeburgh is not a restful beach. In the distance we saw a house in the clouds,
and the nuclear power station nestled on the edge.
We stopped at the stainless steel clamshells, changing shape as we
drew nearer – seabird, shell or boat. Slipping from one to the other,
clever design. Punched through with letters – I hear those voices
that will not be drowned.
Back in town, amongst the living, we passed the place where the pier
used to be, queued for fish and chips with people fleeing London to their
holiday homes. When we set off we had no idea that this would be
a week in history remembered for so many wrong reasons.
Eating in the car park at the end of town, we saw concrete cubes,
the left over tank traps from another war. Further along, a village the
waves washed away and the Martello Tower that protected the coast
from invasion, but could not stop the sea.
Is this how it ends? A shaded room, light filtering through curtains,
and an on-line fight for breath.
At home, surrounded by familiar things, I hear the magpies chatter,
as I watch my father fading in his final, silent scene. I feel I should be
there, and dwell on my regrets. The scent of brewing coffee fills the air.
Only one visitor allowed: I let my sister go to say goodbye. In my
imagination staff monitor and measure and make notes, passing through
my mind like helpful ghosts. Machines make noise. I’ve heard it all before and
can supply the sound effects the computer cannot play. Death at a
social distance. It is the modern way.
Later, at a distanced service, dismal poems will be read,
to say you are just waiting in another room and are not really dead.