By Marka Rifat
Dürer und die Seuche
How did Dürer evade the plague as he explored
what would one day be Europe?
Did siblings, parents and new wife wave a cheery
wiedersehen at his fleeing back as die Seuche
raised a pustulant fist to
hammer Nurembergers’ doors?
The master chronicler never said.
He was busy heading
to the very home of quarantine,
fine art and hub of nations
in the midst of war and then
returned enlightened and unscathed.
On his second venture, the worst he feared
was poison from envious Venetians.
And once again, he kept his health to
cover many countries in his quest for
gold, renown and novelties, assured that
God’s hand directed his unrelenting course
as wisely as his own created light and shade to amaze
beyond his century.
He marvelled at a lump of turf, a roller wing,
a hare, and delineated all with utmost care, yet not one
depiction of seizures and seeping sores, which swept his city
so many times. He would only show
the beast who brings the Plague:
the Conqueror, thinly smiling on his pale horse,
leading three fellow riders and levelling a steady aim.
Box set bliss
I go to Manhattan, Old-fashioned in hand, to hang out
with Don and Megan, Roger and Joanie, Betty and Peggy and Pete,
where smoke gets in your eyes and everywhere else,
where women are Virginia Slim or Firestone pneumatic,
where you lounge at leisure in exquisite apartments,
where every deal is a devious deal, sealed with a scotch.
Soaking in the murky morals, the streamlined goods,
the gaudy throws and tank-sized typewriters,
Brylcreemed locks, lacquered chignons, manly chest hair,
silk ties and pennants, ink pens and crimson talons.
Diving into the warm pool of casual misanthropy,
where the right three words are the Lucky Strike of dollars and power,
where a fall from grace may be a good move,
propelling so many beguiling plotlines.
Beyond my window,
the world is grey,
so I’ll stay here,
with these mad men and fabulous women. I may never come out.
When I was a child, I played as a child,
with my little friends and toys. Imagination made
a bed an ocean, a cardboard box a palace.
Now I am a mother, I play “wash hands”, with my child,
And the “stay indoors”, “don’t touch” and “isolation” games.
We innovate and wait in our three-room world.
Cardboard, after one day’s exile, becomes alive again –
our motorboat, fast car, airplane, escape pod.
If we play well, we will never lie on Gomez
ABC Displays’ thin bed, or see it fold, 1-2-3, into our bier.
I hold our lives too dear for the cheapest casket.
Marka Rifat writes poems, stories and plays. Commended in the Toulmin Prize 2020, her work appears in more than 20 UK, US and Australian anthologies.
Durer und die Seuche, inspired by artist Albrecht Durer (1471-1528)
Box set bliss, prompted by the binge-watching escapism of last year
Death/bed, prompted by a news article about the manufacturer of cardboard displays trying to help struggling health services in Ecuador by devising a dual purpose container: hospital bed and coffin.
I live in the north east of Scotland and have found creative writing and reading new work during the pandemic has been a great support.