By Audrey Ardern-Jones
It’s the noise of the men digging and shouting
I miss – the sight of yellow jackets and red hats;
they’d been drumming the ground for weeks,
shaping the new walkway in our town centre –
now we’re cordoned off, kept out, like ropes
surrounding the playground in the park – silence
holds flimsy fences up, stills closed shops. I’m
on my allowed out daily walk – I pass Dave’s
sweetshop – old cards fill the window – rooms
for rent, babysitters urgently needed; there’s a hush
in the empty garden of The Cricketers; Maggie’s
laundrette is shut – the Curry House offers home
deliveries after 7pm – as I work my way home
I think about my childhood in the fifties in Africa;
the deadly diseases, no vaccinations, the time
I caught malaria – a child of six; how my parents
never seemed to worry, never seemed to be afraid.
I call you my girls
the three of you sit on my bedroom window sill
above a yellow washbasin – you lean in my direction
I speak to you most mornings: fanfares of white-pink
alongside a mass of deep magenta petals sprawling
over white flusters threaded with yellow-gold veins;
stalks entwined in stalks, buds tucked under buds.
I chat to you about my Covid sagas, the unresponsive
internet, the broken washing machine, my lost filling.
My granddaughter says I’m going barmy, assures me
orchids have no ears, no ways of knowing my voice.
I’m arguing my case: I’ve read scientists are proving
plants do listen: minute air bubbles fizzing, bursting.
Over 70 in Lockdown
They tell me I’m too old to help, to roll up
my sleeves and go out there to care:
I’ve had the virus, I’ve been tested, I’ve antibodies;
offered my services to the NHS – I’d like
to sit with the dying, the lonely, those with
no-one to share their last hours – I’m qualified,
a nurse, with years of experience, still registered.
But no-body wants me as I’m over 70 – yet
the Pope is over eighty, the president of the USA
is over seventy and his opponent is over 70.
They’re allowed out – they say I’m vulnerable.
September’s Photography Competition
Audrey Arden-Jones has also written three haikus in response to June Torrance’s photo of a locked-down central London, September’s photography competition winner.
Three Haikus on St Paul’s in Lockdown
steps and steps and steps
the silence is astounding
the air hardly moves
trees reach out in green
the city streets talk to themselves
birds have left this place
office blocks are closed
only the clouds are moving
this emptiness hurts
Audrey Ardern-Jones has been commended or a prize winner in various competitions. She is published in several anthologies and journals. She is the founder member of The Poetry & Music Ensemble. Her debut collection ‘Doing the Rounds’ was published by Indigo Dreams in 2019.
I wrote ‘I call you my girls’ in April in Lockdown thinking of how lonely some people were feeling. How plants like pets can provide great comfort – though some might think we’re mad.
Over 70 in Lockdown – reflects my frustration at being banned from helping out.
Counting Steps – was written on one of my walks round the neighbourhood – and thinking back to my childhood in Africa where we were up against lots of deadly bugs.