By Susan M Evans
Attention must be paid on the early morning walk:
to the steady eye of the rising sun,
red, bloated, emerging from the sea.
To the pale green ghost of the super moon,
in perfect opposition; taking reluctant leave.
To the dreaming dog-walkers, kicking shingle,
to the panting runners – potential assassins,
who choke on salt breeze, clock miles to health.
To the space between myself and others;
in front, behind, too fast, now dawdling.
To the one who makes the sudden turn –
who once was only a harmless ditherer.
But nothing now goes unremarked.
Much attention is now paid.
Board games chalked on paving stones –
my move, yours, right, left, stop and stay.
A long way round those rainbow marks,
before we reach the final number.
That pale mouse in the sky-blue anorak;
is she the veritable Angel of Death?
The one who could have been your mother,
is now become the Plague Fairy? Watch,
as she emerges from the corner shop
beady-eyed, sniffling and shuffling bags
clutching the last of the free range eggs.
Is that how it is met? On a bright Tuesday,
With its scarfed face, its neat ankle boots?
Is that the way it comes? The wrong air
from the wrong mouth to the wrong nose?
From any mouth to any nose?
Even the nose of the insignificant?
Even the nose of the despised?
The pug nose that is barely there?
The long nose with a drip on it?
The bulbous nose that always protrudes
over the top of the grubby mask?
The nose with which you would never agree?
Every passer-by is judged a leper.
No idle speculation serves us now.
Neighbours’ garden voices prompt us to
listen for the tell-tale wheeze and cough.
That sneeze, how far, to whom, it travels
over Leylandii or supermarket aisles?
Only the ancient walk unarmed,
un-gloved, unmasked, to the corner shop,
or shuffling behind the Co-op trolley,
recalling the exigencies of war;
as those who invoke them tirelessly,
I trained and worked as an actor, have written for theatre and more recently, started to write poetry. I have had short stories shortlisted for the Asham Prize and the Mslexia Prize, have taught for the Open University and others, and, most recently, tutored young people taking the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art performance exams.
I live in Southsea, in Portsmouth, Hampshire – a short walk from the seafront, which, along with my garden, has kept me sane (or almost) since March 2020. The poem I am submitting – ‘April 2020’ reflects thoughts generated by my very early morning beach walks in that period of perfect weather, when everything felt peaceful, but also strange.
I like sitting in my shed, reading. I find poetry the best way to encapsulate a moment, thought or feeling. I keep journals, including a garden one, and find that I have been reading mostly non-fiction, memoirs, books about nature, and about Shakespeare – all of which is very soothing!