Postcards from Malthusia DAY FORTY-FIVE: Seth Crook

How Far Apart Should We Be?


And when it’s over, how close?

Close enough to smell the ten-day homeless

or hear the silence of the overworked

or feel the blankness of the always underpaid.

Close enough to join the backs of queues.

Close enough to see the ground-in grot.

Close enough to sit in the room of the wrong accents.

Close enough to the inexplicably-in-charge

to serve them an array of expensive beverages.

Close enough to the doors to hear, even days later.

Not far enough to pretend that everything is fine, again.




Seth Crook lives on Mull. His poems have appeared in such places as The Rialto, Magma, Envoi, Poetry Scotland, Firth, The Interpreter’s House. And in recent anthologies such as Port (Dunlin), Green Fields (Maytree), Declarations (Scotland Street). His concrete poems have recently appeared in Streetcake, The Projectionist’s Playground and a forthcoming anthology celebrating Edwin Morgan.


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

Postcards from Malthusia DAY FORTY-THREE: Matt Quinn

Plot summary


The government accidentally releases a new, despotic and self-appointed

triffid poison. The narrative begins with Masen in prison, bandaged,


constantly under threat. Smartphone alerts. Venomous, carnivorous

misinformation lined with public health scavengers. A strictly enforced


contact-tracing programme. With military personnel chained  to his eyes

he finds large numbers have tested positive. Disobeying quarantine,


the escaped triffids drive an armoured car and urge people to wash.

Assigned numbers, international visitors decide to form their own settlement


on the Isle of Wight. After discovering her hoarding medical supplies,

militaristic representatives establish a colony in a young sighted girl.


Anyone can be called by officials, who have harsh penalties

for triffid cultivation. Nearly everyone is ghostly.  Masen suspects


public transport, large with staff and patients, is a mask. Stations are hung

with those who break guidelines. After the unbandaging,


the triffids leave the streets. The novel ends in Sussex, with the blind

burying a boy around the fenced exterior. In chaos, triffids pour in.




Matt Quinn lives in Brighton, England. His poems can be found online at RattleThe Morning StarThe Deaf Poets SocietyNew Boots and PantisocraciesThe New Verse News and elsewhere.

Postcards from Malthusia DAY FORTY-TWO: Mandy Macdonald



In the larchwood bowl since Christmas

a tired apple, wrinkled

like an old man’s cheeks,

its paintbox acid green turned dull yellow.

It is the last apple

in the house I cannot leave.


Three plums are there, too,

glossily black, round and identical,

supermarket-perfect, tasteless, 

yet I must not waste them.  


Sugar, butter, oatflakes, cinnamon,

sweet dark wine to bathe the fruit.

Bottles, bowls, boxes, a miniature city

on the table; the garden beyond the window,

bright with spring blossom, its rural hinterland.


Beyond the garden I cannot go.

Inside the kitchen, though, I minuet,

my movements deliberate, formal,  

between table and hob, hob and oven.


I watch my hands 

chopping, rubbing, pouring. I could be

Vermeer’s milkmaid, with her earthenware jug,

under the sunny window.


Each homely gesture feels sacramental,

as though it were my last,

the world about to crumble

around me.




Australian writer and musician Mandy Macdonald lives in Aberdeen. Her poems appear in anthologies from Arachne Press, Grey Hen Press, Luath Press, and others,  and in many print and online journals such as Causeway/CabhsairCoast to Coast to Coast, and The Poets’ Republic. Her pamphlet The temperature of blue was published in February 2020 by Blue Salt Collective.

Postcards from Malthusia DAY FORTY-ONE: Tim Turnbull


A Child’s Drawing


He is a child’s drawing of authority,

with a wonky three-baubled crown clapped

on a U-shaped face, three floating streaks


of unconvincing hair scratched as an

afterthought over a savage grill mouth

and eyes ovals with black scribbled dots.


His body is a fly’s blue abdomen;

stick limbs terminate in grasping spider

hands and feet like malformed beetles.


The artist has added the cape of a court

fool, or a washed-up superhero, and piles

of jewels rendered as multicoloured daubs


and bullion and coin drawn in the same

yellow as crown and hair. His whole world

is encompassed on this sheet of sugar paper.


He is a true and certified copy of himself.

No photograph could do more justice to its

subject, no 3-D printout add more depth.



Tim Turnbull has been performing his poetry, at home and abroad, for over twenty five years. His first full collection, Stranded in Sub-Atomica, was published by Donut Press in 2005. His latest is Avanti! from Red Squirrel Press. He has created stage shows, toured with slam teams, published in numerous anthologies and magazines, written supernatural fiction, and also paints and draws.


Postcards from Malthusia DAY FORTY: Alison Brackenbury



I sensed how we were stricken through one image

that Thing, coronavirus. I could see

across its whirled blue globe, in glistened ruby

how many arms it needed. So did we.




Alison Brackenbury has won an Eric Gregory Award and a Cholmondeley Award, and has frequently been broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and 4. She has published ten collections of poetry. Her most recent, Skies, (Carcanet, 2016), was chosen as a Poetry Book of the Year by ‘The Observer’. Gallop, her Selected Poems, was published in 2019 by Carcanet. New poems can be read on her website: