Postcards From Malthusia DAY NINETY-THREE: David Punter

The Ghosts of Lockdown


Ghosts come in the night and deal with my household rubbish;

another set of ghosts, by day, handles my garden refuse.

Others again spirit away my recyclables; today they dropped

a tin can which slid across the street with a sound

like rolling thunder in the all-enveloping stillness.


Down in the village in the local pharmacy

a ghost keeps paracetamol under the counter

and averts the gaze beneath her mask

from the lame and the halt distancing themselves

from each other, and from her.


Out at sea there are rocking boats full to the gunwales

with ghosts of a different extraction, fearful ghosts,

terrified ghosts who have no idea of what they might find

if they ever make landfall; but what, really, are their chances

in the mist, with blue men climbing over the rotting sides?


I imagine crowds of ghosts. They’re on the tenth floor

of high-rise city blocks, angry ghosts, frustrated ghosts,

hungry ghosts with wailing children and no access to the parks,

to the air and sky which surround them but bring no help,

only a reminder of what has been lost.


Each night on TV I see ghosts floating through

the ICUs gently tending other ghosts, some of whom

may never come back to life; there is an intense lack of sound

from machines which should have been bleeping

but have now gone long beyond that.


We are left to reckon with their stillness,

registers of another death, another ghosting as families

still wait, with hope and without hope,

as the toll climbs, as the long-expected equipment

again (and with a new litany of excuses) fails to arrive.


And there are warehouses full of ghosts, endlessly

picking, sorting, responding to our outrageous orders –

for books, videos, printer cartridges, whatever goods

we might deem essential, but are not on the government list

that dictates what is corporeal, what is ghostly.


Where will all these ghosts go after lockdown? Will they have

their own care homes, where they will be allowed to rest in peace?

Or will they continue to haunt us once life is restored to

what passes for normalcy, reminders as the deaths climb

of all that we don’t know and about which we have not cared?



David Punter has published seven small collections of poetry; his most recent is Those Other Fields, Palewell Press, 2020, and Stranger will be published by Cinnamon Press later this year. He has a website at


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