Postcards from Malthusia DAY FIFTY: Peter McCarey

Social Distancing


Bone runnels, grips and kirns,

Curls of butter, curds and honey, crumbs

On the breadboard. Milky tea.

All those hills to climb!

The asymptotic curves to flatten!

Culls are a drag: the cringing curs,

Seal pups and bloody clubs,

When just a slice of lemon curbs the scurvy.

Cousin, there comes a time

‘Faut bien mourir de quelque chose’

(We have to die of something). But

Let’s not all rush at once.



The voice I pump like porter

In the vaults of Friday night

Rarely vaunts but quietly

Conveys its viral load.




Dumb mineral, whispered green, voiced

Hunters and their prey, even the scrimshawed

Viruses that vault the barriers –

All of them vaunt creation. All of them sing.




Peter McCarey‘s recent published work includes Collected Contraptions (Carcanet, 2012) and Find an Angel and Pick a Fight (Molecular Press 2013). He ran the language service of the World Health Organization for 15 years then left to invent the perfect pandemic, which featured in Petrushka (Molecular Press 2017). He is a founding member of Poésies en Mouvement, panjandrum of Molecular Press and inventor of a pedal-powered confessional; his collective exhibition on transitional toys opened in Glasgow in 2019 and will run in Geneva and Milan, pandemic permitting. His latest book is De l’oubli (Lausanne, L’ours blanc, 2019).



Postcards from Malthusia DAY FORTY-NINE: Cara L McKee

Afternoon Light


The sun laughing like

Tories outside a 

Sure Start Centre, like

something is winning

in all this, like

it’s my time to shine.


The garden growing like

fuck me it’s Spring, like

taking over the world, like

this’ll keep your busy, like

everything is happy 

without us.



Cara L McKee lives in Largs on the West Coast of Scotland and works in her local library (currently a community hub for addressing the coronavirus situation). Her poetry has been published in places including Gutter Magazine, Dodging the Rain, Severine Magazine, and Lucent Dreaming. Her first pamphlet came out on May 22nd 2020 with Maytree Press.  Find out more here:

Postcards from Malthusia DAY FORTY-EIGHT: John Quinn

Infodemic Blues


I step into Stepford

on the blue mourning walk

for a real gone life.


A masked man at the bank

disdains an old smoker

at a cigarette’s end.


Three cyclists glance left right

beyond the Highway Code

in some secular sin.


A child surveys in

Orwellian fashion.

I step on the hushed road.


People talk in twos of

vacant situations

and sneeze in the sleeve notes.


I slalom my way through

contactless contact and

cue the hue of a queue.


There’s immediacy

and covidiocy

in this infodemic.


Thinking on Pilate’s hands

and gulls gone fishing,

I walk on through the sun.



John Quinn is an ex-teacher writer and performer from Dundee. His poetry in Scots and English has appeared in publications such as Northwords Now, Southlight, Poetry Scotland and Scotia Extremis. He is the author of a modern historical novel ‘he Eyes of Grace O’Malley (Black Wolf Books) and a play O Halflins an Hecklers an Weavers an Weemin about the City of Dundee and the jute industry.

Postcards from Malthusia DAY FORTY-SEVEN: Bernadette McAloon

Lenten Litany


A chorus of possible Covid symptoms

A relentless gull mocking in the distance

The monotony of suburban rooftop views

The comfort of The Shipping News

Each BBC bulletin, every politician’s head

A decades-old memory of smoking in bed

Marlboro plumes through a golden boy’s hair

Hope Mirrlees balanced on the bedside chair

A hatbox of medicines, a floating nightdress

Six fretless guitars in a century’s detritus

An army of sanitizers at the kitchen sink

The tyranny of the next kombucha drink

Three surgical gloves on a wooden floor

Ivy threatening to suffocate the French door

The relief of the garden, innocence of grass

A resonance of Easter Sunday Mass

No waving of palms, no Communion wine

No parish pilgrimage, no unlikely shrines

Police helicopters circling wayside scenes

The Grim Reaper on amphetamines

A drift of Lenten Lilies, a Gethsemane howl

Strains of Bob Dylan’s Murder Most Foul

A click of rosary beads through pregnant pauses

The Patron Saint of Hopeless Causes

Saint Jude, Saint Drogo, Saint James the Less

Our Lady of Zoom, Saint Bernadette

Saint Polycarp of Smyrna, Saint Martin De Porres

Our Lady of Gaga, pray for us



Bernadette McAloon lives in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and works as an arts and mental health
practitioner in social care contexts. Her poems have appeared in various publications
including Butcher’s Dog, Mslexia, The Rialto, and Land of Three Rivers Bloodaxe anthology.
She is a recipient of a Basil Bunting Award and the Flambard Poetry Prize.

Postcards from Malthusia DAY FORTY-SIX: John Challis

The rich alone are capable 


Using trap doors and tunnels, back doors

and green dust to pull their disappearing acts,

before the bombs, before the red paint 

on the doors, the lamb’s blood, the bricks;


clutching their passports behind turnpikes 

and roadblocks, waving their bills 

of health, looking through the riot shields

forcing force in on itself, grinding disquiet 


behind the gates, behind the walls, back 

into the pest house, and weighing down 

its pockets for pits sunk at Knightsbridge; 


getting out before the lime, before 

the spade, before the cart, before the bell, 

before the rumour and the fever starts. 



John Challis is the author of a pamphlet, The Black Cab (Poetry Salzburg, 2017), a 2019 New Writing North Read Regional title. He’s the recipient of a Pushcart Prize and a Northern Writers’ Award, and his poems have appeared on BBC Radio 4, and in Magma, The North, Poetry London, The Rialto, Stand, Under the Radar, and elsewhere.