The Leopard lollops on

An alliterative welcome to the latest Leopard post. Welcome to the Stoke Stanza blog. As lockdown eases we continue to meet online. Everyone is welcome to join a Stanza Zoom.

Here are some poems from recent sessions.

Mary King has supplied several poems, the first an intriguing dramatic monologue.

Bull dozing

Small field by the holding pens,
I dream as I doze,
sharp sun on my hide.

Plenty of lush grass
at the fence edges
past beaten mud.

I’m at my full strength
and it’s San Isidoro’s day
at Las Lentas.

I hear those men speak a word
Cordoba was it? Well
we came through there in the truck.

Or did they say Coruña?
They kick the barge boards,
one flicks his whip.

The stands are empty, not a soul
by the gates; on the roads. Two eagles
find thermals across the blue.

I catch what they’re talking about now.
Corona.
Where is that?

Next up, a topical variation on a theme by William Blake.

Catchy, catchy verse
After William Blake

Little bug, who made you?
can I find what made you?
set you off so that you spread,
oblivious to so many dead?

A contact bomb, ingenious spike
infecting rich and poor alike.
All pleas to you must be in vain –
what could you know of human pain?

Yet little bug I ask you –
little creature task you –
to change like viruses of old –
come harmless as the common cold.

For down my microscope I see
Nature that made you, bug, made me.

The Leopard has loped for a while. Geoff Sutton takes this opportunity to revise a poem which appeared way back here in 2012.

From the Leopard archive, May 2012
THE BAY:BARE TO RED BANK

the tide goes out like a racehorse
the water is not very deep
there’s a bank of white cloud over Barrow
a spaniel chases the sheep
a man walks by on the sand below
the tattoo on his arm says Status Quo
over there a fisherman
digs bait with a spade
windscreens are glistening
on Morecambe promenade
the view across Coniston
is hazy and wide
and none of this is far
from where the Chinese cocklers died

Revised March 2021

Bare to Red Bank

the tide goes out like a racehorse
the water is not very deep

there’s a bank of white cloud over Barrow
a spaniel chases the sheep

a man walks by on the sand below
a tattoo on his arm says Status Quo

over here a fisher man digs bait with a spade
windscreens are flashing on Morecambe promenade

the view over Coniston is hazy and wide
none of this is very far from where the Chinese cocklers died

John Williams takes a useful item on a journey.

Emergency Blanket

They wait for us at the garage by the ATM
for the pileup coming off a motorway:
fire hose and blanket grabbed in a sec
near the petrol pumps. Spread to save,
they travel across the map, crash to crash
to cover, console, warm or shroud,
unroll as a birthing cloth, let’s say a wrap,
swaddle or sheet.
Across the way, car sales:
jute sacks blanket engines in the frost,
smell of bitumen and dabs of grease.
Nothing like a blanket fashioned for verandahs
beaten out of true and hung on the line.

In the shanties, those who sleep under tin,
or brought on the tide, a blanket grasped
for our lost brother who makes it to the shore.

Finally, congratulations to Phil Williams (no relation) and editor of this site who had three poems in Issue 73 Winter/Spring of Tears in the Fence, a respected international poetry journal.

Here is one of them.

OWL POEM

I startle an owl, silver in a street-lamp beam,
the night of the Christmas light switch-on.
A second’s scrutiny from that saucer-face,
then silent heft and lift. Its wing-wind strokes
my cheek. I think of another, untimely,
hunched on a stretch of telegraph wires
that winter’s afternoon as we watched
through the windscreen, pulled up in the lane
beneath. I asked you to marry me then,
more gardens, churchyards, other days to share.
In Liverpool once, an owl skeleton on show,
stranger than any fossil, alien: a basket-weave
of bones, an outsize broad and airy skull.

The day the ambulance came, winter, no owl
but the blackbird’s mournful, stricken screech
as a sparrowhawk scooped it from our fence.
The paramedics lift and bear you down the stairs,
to a trolley with wheels, reticulated tubes, lower
the tail-gate in the silent street. A neighbour
appears, stands speechless, no longer words,
the breeze still thrums for us, for birds.

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Spring has sprung

First the snow-drops, then crocuses and daffodils. Spring has sprung as the vaccinations roll out across the UK. Who knows? May the Stoke Stanza be able to meet face to face again soon?

Here are some more poems from The Potteries in anticipation of that day.

INAUGURATION DAY

God pressed the reset button
— they called it then the Flood
and when the sun had sucked up
all the water and the mud
and the earth was drying
the birds and beasts were multiplying,
Noah looked about him
and he saw that it was good.
So we sheared the sheep, we milked the cow,
we smelted metal to shape a plough,
we planted pomegranates, sowed linen seeds,
we competed, yes, but in noble deeds
And all was going swimmingly—we had a view
of Paradise, albeit Paradise Mark 2—
until, well, you know the score:
something in our nature’s twisted,
some demon, imp won’t be resisted
that queers our pitch, our tragic flaw.
We knew what to do but just didn’t do it.
In short, we blew it.
Imagine Sisyphus released,
his sentence set aside. What next?
Softest of couches, cups of wine?
Not so. He’s looking far and wide
for boulders, for another steep incline.
On New Year’s Eve I make a vow, do you?
to kick a habit, to start anew.
Hope springs eternal in the human breast,
not just better next time but the best.

Oliver Leech

Tennyson tells us that spring is when, ‘a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.’

Bo Crowder’s turn to reminiscences of an old English teacher, remembered for all the wrong reasons.

ROMANTIC FICTION

My love interest is half dressed
and standing listening to the drone

of the refrigerator zone
with a melancholy flower ear,

I watch him buying vegetables.
My old English teacher, much older,

I remember an over-toned snob
who thought we were the pits

who wanted to save the children,
meanwhile he set us to reading the canon

not expecting us to fire back.
So one day he gave us our heads

anything you like as long as
it’s in English as he came, tutting

mostly, down the rows
with the odd commendation

look what Brooks is reading-
Paradise Lost…the twat,

twas more, more like it until
I Billy Buntered him.

In time I forgave him the sneers
and what bespectacled

over-lookers sometimes term
‘the put down’, letting it all trickle

like osmosis, his leavings,
as he left us, honestly

in my heart I wished him well
with the Africans, who we all admitted

had to be worse off than we were
until he got there.

Bo Crowder

Geoff Sutton imaginatively explores a North Welsh mock-castle built on the profits of the slave trade.

WALNUT TREE

a sugar rum castle built by african slaves
welsh carpenters and hewers of slate
forty thousand acres of farm and forest
one of the families who made britain great

the king of the castles daughter
falls in love with the gardeners son
they lie together under a walnut tree
their lives have hardly begun

her father sends the lad away
sacks the gardener and to make sure
shuts the girl in her room
the housekeeper locks the door

princess looks out of her window
at the waning of the moon
she fingers the walnut he gave her
i will plant it love very soon

the nut grows into a tree
his trunk is rugged and strong
princess says to the falling leaves
WHAT MY FATHER DID WAS WRONG

the tree bears not a single nut
the king loses his throne
strangers invade the castle
princess dies on her own

her father could never break
his daughters ferocious will
alone in the starry night
his tree is standing still

and the walnut human brain
the gardener yearned to grow
comes from a woman in africa
a million years ago

Geoff Sutton

John Williams kicks-off onto a sports pitch with mythic and geopolitical overtones.

REPLAY

The ref’s last blast starts the match I like best
as players trot off and the dead stand up,
territories fade and the pitch returns to fields.
The sin bin empties and the banished reappear
in fist bumps, back pats and slap routines
as the game finds a way play again
and peace breaks out for the photo shot.

In the shower room’s brimstone whiff of steam
they resurrect a hero, spit of the gods,
whose body blows bleed like haruspicy.
Fate makes the replay and settles the score
the luck, the fluke, the miracle that won.
Victor and vanished step out hand-in-hand
and Nike gets her sports kit and temple done.

John Williams

Whether on Zoom, on this site or, in time, face to face, why not get in touch? We’d love to hear from you and hopefully see you one day at a virtual or real-life Stanza session for more poems from The Potteries.

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Moorlands, Mulberries and much more besides

Welcome to the lockdown world of the Stoke Stanza for poems about moorlands, mulberry leaves and much more.

We continue to meet online as lockdown extends. You are very welcome to join us for more Poems from the Potteries (and round about). Here are a few of the poems shared at our session from January 2021.

First up, Mark Johnson from Leek.

MOOR SWIM

We swum up the slow hill
keen against the rip of the
moorland tide. To either side
the blanched mat grass crashed
like breakers on gritstone scars.

Ahead two grouse broke fast
then scooted dark as shags
across the tide. The trig point
flashed white; lazily I turned
from breaststroke
to slow back crawl.

John Mills has a powerful poem for us:

PEN

Lift and depress the lever of a fountain pen
three times and suction charges the reservoir.
Loading a cartridge does the same.

Now we have the ball point.
Clean, functional, soulless.
It sits comfortably in the hand
of poet, accountant, doctor.

It can pardon a villain
write a shopping list
seal a relationship
severe a relationship.

It is ubiquitous, anonymous,
used by teacher and pupil alike.
In the hands of an expert

it can lift a nail out of its bed,
gouge out an eye,
extract a confession,
sign a death sentence.

Malcolm McMinn is in cosmic territory:

STARDUST

A dying sun explodes; a supernova,
The power of which we can’t conceive,
Where elemental atoms are created,
Iron, carbon, and all the others.
Vast clouds of dust drift in galactic space
But then succumb to gravity.
Gravity, Nature’s universal engine;
All matter bows to gravity.
These clouds then coalesced and planets formed
And in due course we too appeared.
Stardust. We and all else are made of stardust,
The progeny of stellar death,
Stardust created in the fiery furnace,
The dust to which all life returns.
One day, long after man has disappeared,
Our sun will be convulsed in death.
Then once again stardust will be created
And life itself might be reborn.

On a lighter note, Phil Williams has a dialect poem, written phonetically in the ‘Wenglish’ of his native South Wales.

WOR DID EWE ‘AVE NICE FOR ‘EWER DINNER?


Wuzzere a nice cuppa tea, lossov nice lush gravee,
Or wuz i’all ych like paint thinner?
Wuzzere lovely Clarks’s Pies, chips, Mushy Peas,
Whazzewer Faggots’n’Peas a ronc winner?
Did ewe ‘ave i’ all hot, complain if i’ woarn’t,
Wuzzah cook tidy smart, dead loss or beginner?
Did ewe start with a stomper, dwt, medium or bompa?
Or ‘martoes and lettiss – no’ cookt dinner?
Iff ‘spital food is so baad, and ewe’re ‘avvin’ it hard,
I’ll bring ewe a Bracchi’s right in hyere,
Lottsov toarst an’ a bun, now there’s tidy mun,
I’ll make damn shoo-er ewe’ll ‘ave nice for ewer dinner.

lush – a term of approval, originally from Barry but it’s spread thanks to Gavin & Stacey.

ych – a variant of the Welsh ‘ach’ or ‘achy’ – an expression of distaste. The ‘y’ has a ‘u’ or ‘uh’ sound.

Clark’s Pies – the Cardiff equivalent of Wright’s Pies.

ronc – Rhondda Valley dialect term meaning strong or committed – ‘a ronc Labour man.’

dwt – small

Bompa – big, hearty.

dwt, medium and bompa are the sizes available for a ‘cookt breakfust’ in a Valleys’ ‘greasy spoon.’

Tidy – properly – as in ‘talk tidy’. Tidy smart – spot-on.

mun – can mean ‘man’ or ‘mate’ but is also a non-gender specific term of address. Generally used for emphasis – ‘I’m tellin’ ewe, mun.’ ‘Come off it, mun’, ‘Well aye, mun.’ You can use ‘mun’ when addressing your wife, girlfriend or children as well as a bwti or mate.

Bracchi’s – South Wales Valleys name for any Italian café, irrespective of the surname of the proprietors. These were established by the sons of Italian miners who’d migrated to the South Wales coalfield. They drank cappuccino in Sirhowy long before it caught on in Soho.

There are some Welsh echoes too in Geoff Sutton’s account of a chance archaeological find during a harvest near Bath in 1948:

BEAUTY OF BATH

same field
so it is

the ricks wore bonnets of reeds
pegged down by willow wands
supple weapons they were

the last sheaves pitchforked
onto the thresher
nests laid bare

when the killing began
you could hear the row on Kelston Tump
all the boys all the dogs

blood flowed some of it mine
I caught a mouse by the tail
it swung itself up and bit my finger

now it is summer
Rhys is small and dark
from across the Severn

he puts his pick through the cracked slab
he was only a kid like me
Rhys says he was a he

Micky found a coin
then we knew when he was
by the emperor

Rhys is swinked
lies in the shade
under the elm

unwraps bara and caws
HERE IVE GOT TWO
throws me one

I have to rub the bloom
off the red and green peel
two bites and its gone

waxy sucky sweet
I have to lick my fingers
DIOLCH RHYS

I keep his toe bone
in a white envelope
and a nail from his sandal

the coffin went to be a trough
at Wick House Farm
liquid for thirsty cows
not waters of the sun

Waters of the sun – Aquae Sulis – the Roman name for Bath.

bara and caws – Welsh for bread and cheese.

Diolch – Welsh for ‘thanks’.

John Williams has an intriguingly narcotic poem:

WHITE MULBERRY

In case we overdose and nearly die
we need to grow some on our bit of porch,
a couple of pots or in a flower-box.
It’s the antidote to poison, to bad blood,
the White Mulberry and glamorous catapult
releasing pollen at half the speed of sound,
nothing faster in the living world.
Physics can name the force inside the catkin,
hemmed in, the jostle of captivity.
If Hades had a website, we’d see it there,
the berry, the white leaves and the addicts
with their fire alarms, arson skies,
stolen motorbikes and earthquakes.

All our featured pieces are by fellas this month, but we do have female contributors and we hope to hear more from them next time. We hope you will join us.

Meanwhile, on a topical note, Bo Crowder brings us some ‘down home’ reflections with echoes of Huckleberry Finn. Let the reader understand.

COME AGAIN?

You don’t know me without a body has read the papers lately, or caught the low down on the radio or TV or maybe you’re so-phisticated that you’re plugged into a News Feed. But that ain’t no matter ‘cos I bin around all the same and available to folks with an open mind or closed eyes in equal measure, and I keep my ears close to the tracks listenin’ for sign.


For instance, I heard they stopped kids crawlin’ up chimneys in the 19 th century, talkin’ ‘bout childhood and innocence and such. Seems like exploitation ain’t the exclusive province of the minority after all but then who am I to blow against the wind?


And then everyone says ‘here come that damn Virus,’ givin’ it the old capital Vee, as if that makes any difference, not that King Death has been gone as long as all that but folks they kinda forget, ya know?


Heard there’s another bubble but it ain’t in the South Pacific this time, could be bricks an mortar again or some two-bit miner coinin’ it, but who can tell till either it bursts or some clever Joe comes along to lance the darn thing like a boil.


Then there’s talk of regeneration or inclusivity and some speachifiers even say ‘ you gotta double down to level up!’ whatever that means. Talk’s cheap is what I say but then when you’ve been around as long as I have you heard it all in one form or another and anyways listenin’ don’t cost nothin.


Change is what they desire and yet change is what they fear the most, that’s something I learned. But then they don’t come to expect it and when it happens they’re surprised that it makes a difference, which it don’t to most of ‘em, cos they just go on about their business, if they’re lucky enough to have any.


For Example, they took that same kid which was scrapin’ the chimneys back in 1800 and stuck him in a place called Rwanda in 1994 and then they gave him a gun and said ‘carry on with your cleaning son,’ which he did.


I guess we could learn something from it all, although exactly what that can be I ain’t sure, but if there is a God Almighty looking down on this foolish world, and I sure hope She ain’t just lookin’ but fixin to do something about it; well, it’s one hell of a mess is all.
Now I gotta get back to my business so if you’ll excuse me I’ll just aerosol my way outta here.

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Happy New Year from Stoke Stanza

As we enter the pandemic’s second spring we applaud the NHS and all who work so hard to keep us safe. The lockdown continues but the stalwart poets of the Stoke Stanza continue to meet online. You can contact us through this site if you would like details of our Zoom meetings or contact John Williams on johnwilliamstanza@icloud.com.

It’s been a busy time for many of us but poetry continues. Phil Williams, who edits these pages, had a poem in the Winter 2020 edition of Poetry Wales and has three lined up for the February 2021 edition of Tears in the Fence.

Bert Flitcroft, a good friend of The Leopard based in South Staffordshire has a new collection out – Just Asking. Well worth a read.

Gill McAvoy, formerly of Chester and now in Devon also has a new collection out this month, Are You Listening?

We wish both of them continuing success both in their writing and their advocacy for poetry – and wildlife too in Gill’s case.

Here are some recent poems from The Potteries.

POWER LINES | John Williams

They fly above to avoid our deaths,
swerve and sail, string out, stretch down
pylon to pillar, field and flood.
They long to be seen, come close and touch,
speak in circuits where the biosphere glows
and head away to work and war,
to ignite neon and fake the dawn.
In rain they glint like snapped-off sunshine,
strike a hiss in the lost sound of steam.
In spring they forgive our air and ash,
dive underground to make a city bloom
and enter rooms though plasterboard and brick,
loved and feared with phones and fire alarms
that disarm the flame of angels with a fuse.

BEFORE AND AFTER | John Williams

The smart things lazy people do in adverts:
Lose weight fast. Comb out grey. Stand erect
with six-pack abs. Tear off the shrink wrap.
They love the questions: Tired of  jams?
Embarrassed byy our nails?
Does fear hold out a flag in every hand?
And three-word diktats: Get rich quick.
Drop those bags. Pay by click.
Endorsed by testimonials, the fitness page:
Wise guys jog, punch and trim.
Fulfilment apps help memory loss, unlock the mind
and carry on where Einstein stopped.
Remember every card played in the pack.
Transform your life in the hook-up site,
the lonely hearts and love advice.
DownloadSappho’s blogsite on your browser bar,
hotthewayyoulikeit.Click for Therapy.
Blindness can be lasered from the eye.

Some poems from Geoff Sutton.

moon lends landing light
to returning travellers
touch down now switch off

june is sun     no need
to leave a landing light on
in family homes

wanted on the flight
light weight suit luggage    good night
soft landing darling

consider woodlouse
the fairy armadillo
rustic crustacean

hog louse   chiggy pig
small gramersow    doodlebug
granny grey menace

a crawley baker
carpenter or monkey pea
roll up bug  cheese log

(with thanks to Wiki)

ramsons rampaging
under bramleys laburnum
flowering currant beech

an indicator
of ancient deciduous
woodland      so thats what
our garden was once
buckrams bears garlic bear leek
loved by wild boar

no bear no boar here
just acidic moist moraine
left by the glacier

virtual ganymede
you have a drink on me    john
english short     greek long
seven syllables
epi oin  och   eu   oi
i might pour out wine
its the optative
lets uncork a bottle now
heres your beaker
cheers

Finally, Malcolm McMinn invites us to share some BLUE SKY BLUES

Will there be something new to do today?
_ Three on the four, eight on the nine—
So tedious, these pathetic games we play.
__ Five on the six! Now this game’s going fine,
And that, I think, is “up”. One more game won,
But patience is boring, pardon the pun.
I’ve washed and waxed the car and mown the lawn,
Ah, there’s another corner piece
Papered the lounge which I started at dawn,
But from ennui there’s no release
And it’s so easy, sitting and stagnating.
Do something constructive and creative!
Perhaps I’ll try my hand at writing verse,
But inspiration’s hard to find
And writer’s block is such a cruel curse;
I’ve tried before, I call to mind.
So once again I’ll try to sort this sky,
A vast expanse of empty blue. I sigh.

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Lope through lock-down with The Leopard

Stay safe everyone, during these troubled times. The Stoke Stanza has continued to meet online through lock-down. It’s not the same as in the upper room at The Leopard in Burslem but still with the opportunity to share and discuss poems.

Here are a few recent poems to lift the mood through lock-down.

PANDAEMONIC by Paul Freeman

Out in the oldest costume
Darkest feathered sweep,
Treading on cracks, the fissures
Past the fishers, the tankers, the reek
Of sweatshops, workshops
Chainstores, chainsaws
Rainforests laughing with fire,
Past the cages, the markets
Plantations, plantations
Cataracts and hurricanoes.

Who is applauding
This barefoot performance
Of chaos?

Who indeed? Let’s hear some applause for the next two poems by Geoff Sutton.

HI LILI HI LO

deer forest in may
the hills are reeking of death
rock litters the pass
fertile hinds give birth
over and over

when you summit out
then you have to go back down
surf the shifting scree

unstoppable force

the eat well
feed off poison
superbugs we say
and at chernobyl
fungi feed off radiation
fatal to mortals

we have it coming
a test for the weakest point

so better shape up


virtual ganymede
you have a drink on me john
english short greek long
seven syllables
epi oin och eu oi
i might pour out wine
its the optative
lets uncork a bottle now
heres your beaker
cheers


On a similarly Grecian theme, via his local dump, Mark Johnson brings us

ACHILLES AT THE TIP

The lance arced through a sky
bright with spring sun glanced
off its surface as it swung a
parabola round and down
and into the catafalque
of vanquished gear; here,
at Leek’s municipal tip,
there is a private second Troy,
as a boy in the shape of
a man hurls kitchen
spars and dreams
that Gun Hill rising behind
the piled wreckage blazes
with a fierce Anatolian light.

We can always rely on John Williams for Delphic oracles and Mount Olympus (as well as Mount Parnassus). Here are two of John’s recent poems.

VENDING MACHINES

Now Mars Bars, Starbursts and Galaxies
are junk food, the gods must have made them
easy to buy and lethal to consume
like their other gifts, weapons and prophecy.
No-one complains when beer cans
let us talk to the greats or become a legend,
or to turn back time for a Marathon bar
we slide a coin in a slot machine.
The gods riveted ATMs to the wall
against ramraiders equipped with jemmies
and bestowed the touch-screen to make us urgent:
the burning want, sign of the divine
since the gods love us, give us speech,
phobias and the burger bar. They’re kind this way
as the coil rotates like the Wheel of Fortune
and drops a future in the vending tray.

FIREWEED

In preparation, over 600 secret bunkers
were set up in the countryside

Struck from the map, the secret patch
gives up a Pepsi can and rusty nails,
coins of old dead kings and bottle caps.
My uncle scans the fireweed like frying on a flame
and listens to the sizzle in his headset
sweeping his detector over the field.
Buoyed up by a permit and free to dig
he sells the scrap as salvage for the cash.
He searches for the Doomsday Room
made of lead to stand the blast.
The sun ignites the metal in his mind
as he crumbles soil to nothing in his hands.
Unhindered by the burn of nettle rash
he powers up again for the deep hot spots
too frail for fingers or his steel-toed boots
and sets to work with his precision gear,
scalpels, tweezers, toothbrush and probe
to find the flare where the world would burn.

Finally, Phil Williams in elegaic mood:

PERENNIALS

Wind tugs frayed twine across each raised bed,
the broken stems of this year’s seedlings,
those wigwam ties the coal-tits tore and pecked
to line their nests.

It hits them raw, the two men on the roof
opposite, scooping pitch between the tiles,
all boots and shorts and builders’ bums.
The copper beech tree nods and heaves.

I will wild this garden, blur the verges but retain
your borders, those deft perennials you planted,
foxglove, iris, clematis, forget-me-nots –
and through all your cream varieties of rose,
the one you ordered for its name, The Poet’s Wife.

The next Stoke Stanza Zoom sessions are on Tuesday 25th August and Monday 7th September at 7pm. To find out more contact John Williams on johnwilliamsstanza@btinternet.com

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The Leopard in Lock-down

We hope you and yours stay safe during the pandemic. Like all other arts and community groups we hope to reconvene as soon as it is safe to do so, and send our love and support to all those on the front line of the current crisis.

John Williams, the ‘Stanza Rep’ for The Poetry Society’s Stoke Stanza, has penned a piece especially for these difficult times.

MARCH EQUINOX

I write as Spring moves on and March locks down,
but in two minds as light defeats the dark
now daylight seems prohibited in town
and cameras watch the foodbank and the park.
I write because surveillance and some minds
conspire to leave an empty world behind.

I write for those confined and in dismay
who breathe through tubes, from local handyman
to advertising chief and those all day
linked to machines since early Spring began
and must survive this multitasking age
by circuitry on a blood pressure gauge.

I write for the desperate who phone help lines,
and for Adele who sends the ambulance
and techie-team that test the coughs and sighs.
She asks the crews in lockdown-speech what chance
of beds in maxed-out wards, what oxygen
since masks and meds are running out again?

Behind the screen lies Sue who thought ahead,
deft fixer from big data, sharp and bright,
kept Evian and a mobile by her bed
for when she made the corporate calls at night,
but took a turn for worse then couldn’t speak,
who power-napped, but now she sleeps all week.

I write for the delirious, the swimming champ
the nurse propped up for sleep when sickness spread.
He thinks he caught it from a training camp
he stresses, so the mouthpiece kinks, in bed
hallucinates and switches on the light
and feels besieged by terrors in the night.

I write for all the ring-tones that begin
a message saying help is on its way,
for those who can’t escape but must stay in
-for ever- , those who never get away.
I write for March, this equinox in verse
in hope, as darkness falls, the last come first.


Stay safe. Support the NHS. Save lives. See you soon.

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