By Alwyn Marriage
That’s fewer than yesterday
and the day before.
It sounds encouraging,
unless, of course, the 708th
was someone you loved.
My brother, for instance,
has for the last fortnight been
unconscious on a ventilator,
so in a way one might almost say
he died two weeks ago
except he didn’t. He was still there,
cared for by skilled medical staff,
and from day to day, hope rose
and fell in us like the oxygen
being pumped in and out of his lungs.
He had a name, a history, was unique,
has been part of my identity
since the day that I was born.
This makes it all the harder now to accept
his new status as a national statistic.
First published in Pendemic.
this darkest colour represents
those who have been extremely ill
and those who’ve died
another sober strand is full of fear,
either of catching the disease
or of too much loneliness to bear.
But then, weaving through those
sober shades, there’s a silver skein
of startling happiness
in people who are now enjoying
time to be at home, to be
who for the first time ever
can watch a bumble bee or listen
to a bird.
Maybe the rope of life has always
woven these threads in subtle harmony,
without our noticing.
First published in Poetry Space.
birdsong starting on C sharp
exploring all emotions
from warning, morning joy,
alarm and even melancholy
before ending in a trill
a snoozy buzz
a flower’s bell
leaving only a fuzzy
rear end visible
as swallows soar
high overhead, carving
a pattern of surprising
sound through blue sky
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?
First published in Poetry Wivenhoe.
Alwyn Marriage’s eleven books include poetry, fiction and non-fiction; and she is widely published in magazines, anthologies and on-line. Formerly a university philosophy lecturer and chief executive of two literacy and literature NGOs, she is currently managing editor of Oversteps Books and a research fellow at Surrey University. She gives regular poetry readings and workshops in Britain and abroad. Her latest poetry collection is In the image: portraits of mediaeval women and her latest novel, The Elder Race. www.marriages.me.uk/alwyn.
In early March I contracted covid while reading at the Words by the Water festival in the Lake District. A number of other speakers and organisers also fell victim to it, so the festival had to close a couple of days early, by which time I was flat out in bed. I was extremely ill for two or three weeks, and during that time my brother also contracted the virus and, despite the best efforts of his local hospital, died at the beginning of April. I recovered, but suffered from ‘longcovid’ for another four months before finally being cured a couple of weeks ago by swimming in the wonderful Devon seas. I’m pleased to report that I really am completely restored to health, a state that felt almost impossible even a fortnight ago.
For some reason, throughout all this, poetry poured out of me; and as the poems emerged, I sent them out into the aether. Somewhat to my surprise (and delight), they were all accepted immediately for magazines, anthologies or on-line. Consequently I now have about 30 published poems relating to the pandemic, the lock-down, my brother’s death and my hopes that the world might emerge from the pandemic in a different and better form (as a member of the Society of Authors Poetry and Spoken Word committee I was involved in the Twitter #BeginAfresh campaign, in which we wrote and filmed poems about our hopes for the future)