By Hannah Stone
Item: BM Islamic Room. Amulet for a bellweather sheep. Turkey, 1950s-60s.
What a thing of beauty,
this tasselled necklace,
strung with bell to chime
in the ears of the flock;
the ovine version of a lanyard,
marking the role of leader.
We might welcome a shepherd
to herd us into the fold of ‘new normal,’
not the rosy-cheeked codger in smock and gaiters,
who is moonlighting from a Hardy novel
to prod some snowy lambs
onto the glittering ground of a Christmas card,
but the sweaty reality,
torn jacket flapping, thighs
lamped tight on his quad-bike,
one hand fondling the ears
of his panting collie.
And from the pasture of populism,
these bellweathers have emerged:
a world leader who bleats in tweets,
a cronie in a beanie boasting all the skill
of Gabriel Oak’s doomed puppy,
shot for guiding the flock off the cliff face.
For nations populating a dystopian thriller
your fictions will not pass muster;
mutton dressed as lamb,
slippery statistics masquerading as truth.
There’s a wolf sniffing at the door,
and the stone wall leans precariously.
Photo credit. Mags Ramsey, Wed 8 April 2015, Sketching Amulets at BM (magsramsey.blogspot.com)
Vows for the Covid Generation
To begin with, I was frantic; lacked direction. The more the jesses of physical statis tightened, the more my mind tugged and surged. After ten days, anxieties and thoughts were fluttering like trapped birds. I walked in zigazags, following desire paths parallel to well-trodden routes. Complaints were posted on a community website about people getting too close to each other on the bridal path. This felicitous homophone prompted a reflection on what poverty, chastity and obedience might mean under social distancing; were all three obligatory, to stay within the fold? Men with knotted foreheads and tight ties promulgated a new triumvirate of mandates for the Covid Generation we soon realised were merely for postulants; Stay Home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives. Later, to enter the novitiate we vowed to Stay alert, Control the virus, Save lives. I took the habit, switched off my phone and words came home to roost.
Locked within ourselves, we become
touch-junkies, bartering compliance
for moments when skin is kissed
by wind or sun.
Ancestry websites crashed
as we knitted the threads
of six degrees of separation
into squares for comfort blankets.
In this anthropause peacocks parade in Dubai;
ducks waddle across chic Parisian boulevards;
Llandudnos’ goats make us laugh, bunnies hopping
through streets on the South Island raise a smile.
Our feral yearnings sublimate themselves
in pumas prowling through Santiago,
jackals given the freedom of the city of Tel Aviv,
streamed straight onto our perch on the sofa.
Our infant mouths mewled
for the nipple of oblivion
and empties crashed into splinters beside
overflowing bottle banks.
When we find the keys we flinch
like pit-ponies released into daylight,
stumble over hurdles
we used to nagivate with eyes shut.
Hannah Stone curates literary events and collaborates with other poets, composers and artists in Leeds, and is variously published, including by Stairwell, Indigo Dreams and Maytree Press.