By Sven Kretzschmar
May you Live to see
cotton-texture country fields
and open-throated birdsong against corona-ted
silence of a downtown main street.
Spring is unfurling slowly, urgent bees
hum through flowerbeds and thyme bush blossoms –
something to cherish in difficult times.
Pseudo-socialising people cover their intentions
with textile fabrics leaving only eyes
for those crossing their paths on supermarket tiles
to guess will they go left or right, disappear
in the hard liquor aisle
soothed beneath the writer’s loving hand.
Let the cautious wear new masks, underneath
I wear faces of my own, same old as ever,
whether fields or markets and whatever the weather
in Chinatown, where traders greet those they despise
saying: “May you live to see interesting times.”,
and I hope for them to be not too interesting –
I’d rather avoid that in my lifetime. Still
the lockdown land is beautiful without its people.
Airy Stocktaking Collage, an Everyman’s Life
Are these dreamtime weeks for hypochondriacs? The wearing of masks
and gloves, the keeping of distance. And backaches from bending low
carrying home disinfectant, heaps of tissues and toilet paper when
downtown wind cuts sharper in the face without fellow creatures
peopling the promenades. Only clusters of spittle sprinklets hang in the air,
invisible, under bus stop canopies, over marketplaces, shop entrances,
dissolving, after a moment, into aerosols as they part ways,
heading for new hosts and untouched throats.
Meanwhile: Blooming gorse in the countryside, air filled with bees
and birdsong. And nobody there to witness it. ‘Alone’, they say, comes
from ‘all one’, but will we all come out of this together?
How many skeletons will there be, hidden behind
closed front doors and hessian curtains? Or hospital partitions –
in intensive care we cannot touch the ones we care for intensely.
Rest cruelly assured some won’t make it
out. Those will rest forever. May the earth rest lightly on them.
One day you will step out nonetheless and take a deep breath
of air of which you do not know: Is it virulent still? Is it really worth it?
What comes out of the mouth
is a voice from the cave:
you’d rather endure
these odd times indoors –
no people, flowers or sunshine;
phony prettiness of hideouts.
What I see
hiding outside: face masks foster
beauty in fellow humans.
Sven Kretzschmar hails from Germany. His work has been published internationally, e.g., in Writing Home. The ‘New Irish’ Poets (Dedalus Press, 2019) and Hold Open the Door (UCD Press, 2020).
‘May you live to see’ was written around the end of the first lockdown inGermany, when everyone wanted to go back to normal; I tried to describe what things were like then for many people.
‘Airy stocktaking collage’ considers the matter of aerosols spreading and the emptiness/non-existence of public life and what might be going on behind closed doors.
‘Perceptual dichotomy’ is a very short experiment about people’s different takes on masks.