By Christian Ward
The New Normal
Elbow-bump the ginger tom
pawing your duvet. Watch him
double up as the sun
on this dreary February day.
Keep a safe distance from your
shadow. Unsnag it from any supermarket
or car door if needed. It is essential
to wear gloves when doing so.
Quarantine your hobbies and vacuum
seal all essential friendships. Ignore
the post it notes migrating like butterflies
during bouts of loneliness.
Pretend to be someone else
during video calls. Ignore conversations
about things getting back to normal,
football matches, queuing in supermarkets
or how instant coffee transports
you back to Sheffield. Be paranoid
when the man from the jobcentre calls,
think of making boxer short flags
for semaphore messages. Never discuss
your plans on the phone while he asks
if you’re still on the line, has sworn
he’s seen you somewhere else before.
My Spanish grandmother
once told me people
turned into horses after
catching the Spanish flu.
“Turned? You mean were like“
“No, they were actually horses”
She remembered the men
from her local village in Granada
leaving the medical tents
under a knuckle of cloud,
avoiding the floodlight of moonlight
to try and head towards the coast,
slip away to North Africa.
And all the while, they heard
the sound of something rushing
through their heads while they
turned the colour of saffron.
She recalled a farmer’s daughter
screaming as she saw the men
stripping off, unable to contain
the noise pranging against
the walls of every room in their heads,
before turning into magnificent
obsidian coloured stallions.
I am not sure how true this story is,
but, when the pandemic hit, I swore
I heard neighing and the sound
of something thrashing in the periods
between silences and looking back
towards whatever I had lost.
Christian Ward is a UK based writer who is currently found in Culture Matters and Poetry and Places. He is currently working on a memoir of his school years.