Postcards from Malthusia DAY FORTY-FOUR: Ruth Aylett

The Children of Coronavirus


Pharoah, take these keys

none of us are to leave

while the plague passes over.


Pharoah, we all shrugged

at the plastic–infested seas

and the algae blooms on ponds.


While insects vanished and

species went extinct,

we ate what was left.


Pharoah, take these keys.

No swarm of locusts, these

are microscopic, unseen


infecting religious assemblies

family gatherings, friendly

conversations, hugs.


None of us are to leave

while this plague takes the last-born.

Here, Pharaoh, our sanitised keys.



Ruth Aylett teaches and researches computing in Edinburgh. She has published widely in magazines – including The North, Prole, Interpreter’s House, Agenda, Envoi, Southbank Poetry – and in a large number of anthologies, including Scotia Extremis and Umbrellas of Edinburgh. She jointly authored the 2016 pamphlet Handfast (Mother’s Milk) and her first single-author pamphlet, Pretty in Pink (4Word), is due out in 2021. For more see


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