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  • 14 September 2021
Selected poems



Not unlike a noirish film

or narrative by Kafka

the overcoats are at the door.

Urgers, thieves and murderers,

their only wish, to replicate.

They have no sexual desire 

and, to their hosts, seem innocent,

digestible almost,             

till suddenly they force the door —       

or wait a while to be ingested,

to have their overcoat removed,

showing off a splendid genome

shining underneath.

From here on in, it’s all submission,

the host and hostess smiling wanly

until the virions appear.

Equipped with brand-new gabardine

and just a single notion

they head off, knocking, down the street. 

Ah, Mr V, so nice to see you.

You’re looking good. Come in. Come in.

Do let me take your coat.


First the symptoms: fever, chill,

sore throat, headache, shortened breath,

a vanishing of taste and smell

and so the queueing for a test

A swab goes snaking up the nose;

perhaps another down the throat,

looking for the news.

Two days later, maybe three,

a phone call re-confirming

Name in Full and Date of Birth,

offering instructions with a

subtle hint of force.

You’re thinking of your demographic,

its sad percentages.

Two weeks at home alone with checks?

Or quick admission to the ward?

And thence to ICU?

Induced coma, intubation?

Will you join the half of those

who gratefully swim back sore-throated?

Or will it be this time for you

the Yes/No of eternity

long before you thought.

Soon, we’re told, there’ll be a million

dead around the world,

most of whom, we have to think,

failed to spot the aerosols

and droplets on the air.

And so, to some degree, we all

wear a worry in our pocket

waiting for the call.


Once again we’re forced to think

about the ones who’ve kept us going,

doctors, nurses, nurses’ aides,

swallowing their fear and knowing

masks, however good,

can never be sufficient, those

who check each other’s PPE,

all suited-up as if they planned

a landing on the moon.

We think about the first responders

who see on any passing day

more than anyone should have to

though not the aerosols or droplets

wafting in the air.

We see once more the pharmacists

surrounded by their spruced assistants

who know a well-coiffed matron or

a liner-up for methadone

may pose an equal risk.

We’re noticing the checkout clerks

defended by a home-sewn mask

or sometimes just a smile

and so are somehow seeing too

the semi-trailer pilots who

remain alert on cruise control

hauling through the highway nights,

still a little spooked

when stopping to re-fuel.

And somewhere there the teachers,

confronting yet again

waiting faces wanting more

and careless of their sneezes.

And now, without intent, we thank

the ministers and politicians

who, randomly across the aisle,

discover in themselves

depths we hadn’t guessed were there.

Do the workers deemed ‘essential’

think about the ‘inessential’ —

the ones who work (or used to) at

enhancing life and not so much

its simple prolongation?

Hardly anyone