Three Poems

By Stephen Claughton

The Poetry Library

Now the library’s shut,
an email comes every month
to tell me my books are renewed.

An algorithm’s keeping
our loans on life support,
so none of them expires.

These would already be back,
if I hadn’t gone down with a bug
the day before they were due.

By the time I got better,
the country itself had gone sick,
suffering total lockdown.

Shelved along with my plans,
these wartime evacuees
are billeted for the duration.

I miss the ‘cool of books’
—no more idle browsing,
or hunting down hot tips.

I’m nostalgic even for mishaps:
stuck once in the moveable stacks
like being trapped in a book,

or struck by a crank-handle
swinging a windmill punch,
after I’d bent to unlock it.

Poetry isn’t for wimps,
whatever people say,
but it hasn’t put me off.

Imagine the shock when I heard
—among all the other bad news—
that the library was under threat.

Would I ever return the books?
Would we ourselves ever return
to being in circulation?

Petrol Station

Filling my car up with petrol,
knowing I’ve nowhere to go,
seems like an act of faith.

I use the gloves they provide,
the ones like plastic bags
that someone’s drawn a hand round.

With Covid, you need to be careful,
so I check there’s no one around,
before I go in to pay.

They let you shop for essentials
and I pick up a few things we need,
having missed our delivery slot.

The cashier behind the screen,
aiming his bar-code reader,
rings up the bill remotely.

I pay with a contactless card,
so no money changes hands
except in a figurative sense.

Even so, he’s quick on the draw
with the disinfectant gun
he uses to spritz his gloves.

In reply, I squeeze out a slug
from the bottle of alcohol gel
I arm myself with these days.

I don’t like feeling dirty,
or having to be on guard,
wary, streetwise always, unable to relax.

High noon and everywhere’s silent,
the town so utterly strange
I might have journeyed here.

The Gap

We’ve brought some things
for our daughter.
Leaving them on her step,

we knock and stand well back,
letting open up between us
the imaginary abyss that separates us now.

When our grandson rushes out,
he nearly topples in,
grabbed only just in time.

Too young to understand,
he’s small enough to accept
we’ve no hugs to give him now.

He stands and grins instead,
as we parley across the divide,
until he starts to get bored

and dismisses us with a wave.
It’s nothing new to him
—life’s full of things he can’t do

that are banned for his own good.
It’s we, the ones in charge,
who struggle to adjust.

“Stephen Claughton has published two pamphlets, The War with Hannibal (Poetry Salzburg, 2019) and The 3-D Clock (Dempsey & Windle, 2020). He reviews regularly for London Grip. Website:”

The Covid-19 pandemic is a major event that has had devastating effects, some of which will be with us for a while. In writing about it close up, however, I have concentrated on the detailed impact it has been having on our everyday lives.

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Sharron Green
1 year ago

Thanks I enjoyed these – imaginative and perceptive. I especially liked the library books as ‘wartime evacuees’ and the sanitiser gel as a slug analogies.

Stephen Claughton
1 year ago
Reply to  Sharron Green

Thank you, Sharron. I’m glad you liked the poems. It’s been good to have your feedback.

Cheryl Mann
Cheryl Mann
1 year ago

Love the library analogy – looking forward to being back in circulation!

Stephen Claughton
1 year ago
Reply to  Cheryl Mann

Thank you, Cheryl. So am I. My trips to London are one of the things I miss most.

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