This article is taken from Stand 231, 19(3) September - November 2021.

Stan Smith Covid Chronicles

The first word in your head when you wake up.
The murmured rumour as you slip to sleep.
When you get up to pee at four o’clock
Its sullen stare invests the bathroom mirror.
Where are the catchy plagues of yesteryear,
As – ‘bovine spongiform encephalopathy’,
A comic mantra tripping off the tongue:
‘I would rather be called “cardio-sclerotic”
Than Lord of Lower Egypt’, Bill Yeats said.

Pol Pot of epidemics, my familiar,
Surveying your hill of skulls, you’ll walk beside us
Forever now, correcting our bedside manners,
Touting for trade in comradeship’s wet markets,
Sly shy assassin of the tender touch.

Desire in the Age of Covid

The world is full of touchable surfaces,
Our bodies cauldrons of unholy lusts.
What shall we do to be saved? Nada. Niente.
The universe has never cared for us,
Upstarts grown fat on amour propre;
Nor have we cared for it, dead matter
For hands to mould to what shape we desire.
I wash my hands of it, an ageing Pilate.

The bees go on about their shameless business
Among indifferent hollyhock and sage,
Blackbirds shriek outrage at marauding magpies,
Treasuring blue eggs as they have always done.
I move. I am moved. Eppur si muove. Basta.
I touch your shoulder and you turn and smile.

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