Meeting Ground: Poems in the time of COVID-19
Below, poets from across the world share their pandemic experiences and observations. Edward Baugh’s poem is a gift and a wish for us all. – Ann-Margaret Lim
that first night thrushes woke & sang
old Tam left three eggs at the door
with these I kindled the yellow light in furze
on the second day oyster catchers piped
then flew to the roof of the abandoned school
the moon was not lit
on the third evening at eight o clock
people went to their windows
and applauded silence
when the fourth day arrived
we found the world had grown larger
hollow creel boats bobbed affirmation
after that was the next day
we told stories from beyond and behind
stories of yet to happen and end times
the sixth & Peg left a bottle of beer at the door
or maybe that was the seventh at dusk
and maybe she left a sea woman’s purse
the eighth day brought pennies to our eyelids
and seraphs who masquerade as wild geese
yes the eighth day still dawned still at dawn
the seventh day or perhaps the sixth
we all rose from where we had been
the youngest and then the oldest
Gerry Loose (Scotland)
My iPhone keeps me company.
Plays music for me, shows pictures
of friends, what they’re thinking.
Lights up the dark when I’m missing you,
brings other poets’ words with a touch.
iTouch, order groceries, watch
the latest updates, debate the far right
on Twitter: Should we go back out there?
Greet the second wave? Or stay safe
inside our phones, iPads, Netflix?
Zoom conference: The kids text me
from other rooms, stationary too long.
I listen to Dire Straits while writing this poem,
think of you, thirty miles away. Think:
The virus decided for us.
As doctors and old people die in waves,
our sons skateboard in empty parks at night.
Julie Mahfood (Jamaican in Canada)
M for mask
Masqueraders know the protective power of masks
assumed in Carnival each year to placate the spirit Death,
embody the supernatural.
Now, Death is here. Masks for everyone is street wear.
Except in this theatre: No wild carnivalesque disorder. No
summoning the supernatural. Here mask-wearers offer
silent intercessions in communal rooms, wrestle Death for
life in choreographed routines: calm, concentration, skill,
Only when the masks are off do they reveal the traces: the
daily struggle with Death imprinted on their faces.
Olive Senior (Jamaican in Canada)
I wish you a leaf falling
I wish you a leaf falling
from the tree of heaven
catching rare angles of light
as it twirls in its fall, ever
so slowly, such music, such
flute notes, such silence
as it brushes your lips
and the turning earth
pauses at their tremble.
You snatch at it
playfully it slips
your fingers and falls
at your feet and is still.
In the fall of a leaf
Edward Baugh (Jamaica)