By Marie Papier
Coronavirus, March 2020 and the Book of Exodus, chaps. 8,9,10
I remember the chirping song
of grasshoppers in wild-flowered fields
through high summer,
the croaking of frogs in the reeds,
clouds of gnats floating in mid-air,
hailstones rapping on our windows.
I remember how flies shared our picnics;
the bluebottle Francis Jammes celebrated in his poem
Prière pour aller au Paradis avec les Anes
I recited in front of my professors
when leaving college and received
the prize for diction. But I do not remember
frogs in our bedrooms and palaces
nor locusts devouring my grand-father’s crops,
nor swarms of flies invading our houses.
But I remember the one Musca Domestica
which chose our kitchen to hibernate,
my mother called Constanza.
Is this evil scourging the world
male or female?
wonders the French Academy who,
thinking Coronavirus is as much an enemy
to the nation as Anglicism or other pests, opted –
in spite of the name ending in a consonant –
for the feminine.
The world’s ears pricked up:
How can anyone deliberate on
the gender of a monster when life or
death are at stake?
The French do, calling covid, ‘la’.
The Establishment prevailed, Covid
would be feminine. Another slap
to the French Feminists whose
choleric temper wouldn’t hesitate to
blow up the Institution.
Thank God the English don’t bother
about the sex of …
I am a French poet-novelist who’s been living in UK for most of my life, now settled in Bristol where I regularly attend Bristol Stanza. I have attended and still do, London Poetry school, seminars, master classes. Some of my poems have been published by Daily Telegraph/Arvon, The North, Agenda, Stand; in anthologies; I have read in Bristol and London poetry café.