By Jill Munro
On visiting the imaginary Supermarket in my living room
I wait patiently in the doorway incanting The Shopper’s Prayer – Our Waitrose, which art in Uckfield, hallowed be thy name …The fruit and veg aisle is a little sparse – a bright blue bowl holds two easy-peelers, a nana, three plums and seventeen seedless black grapes. The bakery consists of defrosting Mother’s Pride. Brushing through the cleaning aisle – a lone anti-bac spray, one microfibre cloth and the toilet roll section is, of course, empty – its meagre contents spread to further corners of this house. My glinting patio window echoes the fresh, glass-eyed stares of smiling salmon and the deep blue-red of butcher’s cuts lined up on their slabs. I cling to my mother’s fifty-year-old wicker basket she carried on walks to the corner shop and I once stuffed with mini-cereal packs, circling the carpet until the coffee table corner leg stabs, awakens me to recall the aromas of café cappucino, of fresh pressed news. I sink into a too-soft sofa and think of Roxy’s smile counter-beaming like caffeine to lift me with a cheery What can I get for you today? I long for the hardness of plastic orange chairs, for scribbling in notebooks rested on formica tops. I yearn for all that went before and will never, ever, again be named a bloody chore.
The heavy silver cool of the top hat
rests in my sweating palm
in the pre-game tingle
before houses and hotels are bought,
streets lusted after, the jealousy
of deep-dark blue when all that’s held
is brown. There’s a yearning for the bustle
of Trafalgar Square, the leafy streets
of Mayfair, for a peopled Piccadilly, a need
to Pass Go, pass anywhere, to collect
from the ruthless banker, ignore
the ignoramuses of Whitehall.
And what is a Community Chest −
is it a wooden treasure trove
where we house all our neighbourliness?
I need to beware the owner of utilities ─
or be gobbled up like water, gas and air.
I travel to train stations at my peril,
sans facemask. But there’s hope, one last
roll of the dice, a card that can save me −
the ironic Beauty Contest 2nd prize
when my isolation hair is peppered silver
at the roots, my fringe too long
and the red of too many Quarantinis
is blistering my cheeks.
This small win lets me feel again,
not be contactless,
the familiar crinkle of a soft blue-sky
ten-pound note, of proper cash,
pressed into my clammy,
A Pantoum for the Great Pandemic
Peering around pillars in a mask –
it’s the new normal when we shop.
Is this a fresh form of politeness you may ask,
check the coast is clear, then out you pop?
It’s the new normal when we shop –
this once mundane and easy task –
check the coast is clear then out you pop,
now I’ll take so long I need a flask.
This once mundane and easy task;
new skills are required, the ability to hop.
Now I’ll take so long I need a flask
on what’s become an expedition – to buy a mop!
New skills are required, the ability to hop
from leg to leg, or take a chance – walk freely, bask.
On what’s become an expedition to buy a mop,
I’m anxious this outing will lead me to a cask.
We street-dance to avoid others, light-footedly bop –
is this a fresh form of politeness you may ask?
Do I really need this fuss just to go and buy a mop,
peering around pillars in a mask?
Jill Munro has been published in major poetry magazines including The Frogmore Press, Popshot Quarterly and The Rialto and was awarded a Hawthornden Fellowship. She lives and writes in East Sussex.