Postcards From Malthusia DAY NINETY-FIVE: Kirsty A. Niven

Millais Malaise

I’m too tired to live,

can’t I just drift down

the river like Ophelia?

Palms empty and exposed,

floating on forever.

Petals turning to mulch

against my corpse skin,

amphibious and repulsive.

Leaves tangled up in

my sopping wet hair.

Let my eyes bug out,

my face turn a grisly grey.

Let my blubber peel away

and my bones sink to

the bottom of the river bed.

 

 

Kirsty A. Niven lives in Dundee, Scotland. Her writing has appeared in anthologies Strength, The Alien Buddha’s Feminist Agenda and Landfall. She has also been featured in several journals and magazines, including The Poet’s Republic, Cicada Magazine, Monstrous Regiment and Silk + Smoke.

Postcards From Malthusia DAY NINETY-FOUR: Mary Matusz

Keeping Safe

 

I’m thankful for the timely pheasant who called

today in this moment of slow time, a flash

of golden plumage behind the flowers,

 

an incessant blackbird returned,

a song thrush repeated its phrases

twice, often three times over

 

and the lesser celandine arrived after

coming through storms – seven godly

yellow petals, a child’s flower painting.

 

Yesterday tulips opened their faces;

I know I am not the only one

to chart the days of apple blossom.

 

We are not in ruins. I am not the only

person in the world. Soon the light

will signal the fronds of ferns to uncurl.

 

 

Mary Matusz lives in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. Her poems have been published in magazines and anthologies, including Hallelujah for 50ft Women (Raving Beauties, Bloodaxe), Diversifly (Fair Acre Press) and Pennine Platform, and are forthcoming in Poetry Salzburg and The North.

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 david-punter.org

Postcards From Malthusia DAY NINETY-TWO: Alison Grant

2 metres

 

the distance a spider strings his anchor strand

between elder and bramble, daisy and rose, sky and land

 

the shift the sea slips over sand the day we walk

apart, talking, taking in the air, the smell of sea rack

 

the span of white tailed eagle wings that circle mile on mile

the sprint the woodmouse darts to shelter in the log pile

 

the leap we take from rock to rock to cross the river

the length of a coffin, slowly lowered then gone forever

 

the depth of sinking, shedding soil and crumbled coastline;

it is the drop and height and width of running out of time

 

 

Alison Grant lives in Inverness, and works as a landscape architect and forester. She has had poems included in various anthologies, most recently in Waymaking, an anthology of women’s adventure writing published by Vertebrate Press.

Postcards From Malthusia DAY NINETY-ONE: Bogusia Wardein

Is Kindness Your Best Motivator?

 

Why are the dogs of Mumbai blue?

When was the last time you put yourself into

   somebody’s else’s suitcase?

Is this noose for you or for both of us?

Do you apologize to a chicken before eating it?

Except for compassion what else do we need?

How many handbags can you own?

Is there a cure for fear?

What are you grateful for now (name seven things)?

Why do only the dead fish swim with the current?

Shall we sing even if it is not allowed?

What are you going to do with thirty six eggs?

Do we spend our life how we spend our hours?

Is the human race the only species which fouls its own nest?

Whom are you hiding behind?

Would you like to die in a country where people

   are able to pronounce your name?

What happens when you invite your Bosnian neighbours

   of twenty years to tea, for the first time?

Will you help me to dress the wounds of the earth?

Do you know that nobody is coming? 

 

 

Bogusia Wardein is a Polish poet. Her first published poem was nominated for the Forward Prize in 2013. Since then her poems have appeared in various publications including The Rialto, Stand, Poetry Wales, The Irish Times, and the anthologies Hallelujah for 50ft Women (Bloodaxe, 2015), The Darg (The Poets’ Republic Press, 2019) and Writing Home (Dedalus Press, 2019). Visit her at
www.bogusiawardein.com

Postcards From Malthusia DAY NINETY: A C Clarke

Morning star

Swaggered out of the east he did

spiked bully-boy,

or dropped in from that planet

whose skies shed iron rain.

The swing of his cold malice strikes to the heart,

leaves in the fevered mouth

a taste of wormwood.

He’s not particular.

Swipes at a prince.

Swipes at a pauper.

Loves them to cry capivi,

doesn’t fret when he misses his target:

now he’s here

he’s here.

*name given to a medieval spiked mace remarkable similar in appearance to the coronavirus

 

 

A C Clarke lives in Glasgow. Her fifth collection is A Troubling Woman. She was a winner in the Cinnamon 2017 pamphlet competition with War BabyDrochaid, with Maggie Rabatski and Sheila Templeton, was published by Tapsalteerie last year. She is working on poems about Gala Éluard/Dalí and her circle.

Postcards From Malthusia DAY EIGHTY-NINE: David Callin

On Douglas promenade, in a time of pestilence

 

“Where Cumbria looms a geographic ghost” …

one of my favourite lines from T. E. Brown,

and here’s the thing itself, the famous coast

where Lakeland sighs and lets its waters down.

 

The hills are quiet now. The glamorous stars

of one of Nature’s longest-running shows

must go without their chorus of hurrahs,

poetical effusions and bravos.

 

“There’s silence still on Carraghyn, thank God!”

More Brown. There’s silence now on all the hills,

both here and there, a silence that is odd

and deadly. Talk about an air that kills.

 

The sun lies on the listless promenade.

A few stray cars go by. The Gaiety

is closed. (Great metaphor.) The gadding crowd

has vanished, like sandcastles in the sea.

 

“A garden is a lovesome thing, God wot!”

Don’t laugh,but one of his most mocked-at lines

Is right. We labour in this little plot,

and dream of Carraghyn’s silence, and Helvellyn’s.

 

 

David Callin was born in and grew up in the Isle of Man. In his 20s he ran away to join the outside world, but was recaptured and brought back. He lives there still, with his wife and a gardening to-do list.

Postcards From Malthusia DAY EIGHTY-EIGHT: Cliff Yates

Dog

                                                                                                                                 

So many places shut: the off-licence, 

the butcher, the corner shop, even 

the telephone kiosk screwed shut.

Dog had come a long way, and now what?

 

But the cherry blossom, he noted,

looking up, for once, from the pavement, 

was particularly stunning this year;

maybe it was the same every year

 

but noticing it, his heart was lifted

and he decided not to be disappointed.

The journey had been arduous, the future 

was uncertain, but there is more to life, 

 

he reflected, cocking his leg against a letter box,

than a bowl of fruit on a table.

 

 

Cliff Yates has been publishing poetry since the 1980s. Collections include Henry’s Clock, winner of the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize and the Poetry Business Book & Pamphlet Competition, and, most recently, Jam (Smith|Doorstop, 2016).

Postcards From Malthusia DAY EIGHTY-SEVEN: Gillian Mellor

Abecedarian: Stay Alert

 

Alert! Stay alert for acellular breach. 

Breathe behind masks, always clean hands,

cultivate a metered distance between.

Do not touch your face.

Experts can dupe you into farming data

for foreigners. Copycat geometry

generates an irregular normality. 

#hijacked receptors choke icosahedrons:

imposter proteins you recognise as your own.

Jumped up fuckers. Stay alert –

Kidneys, Heart, Lungs and Brain!

Lymphocytes scramble your defence!

Membranes inflame against tinpot

Nanometer Generals with hypoxic priorities. 

Oxygen dwindles under their stranglehold.

Polysaccharide coats open for the big reveal:

quality genetic data in basic form – single strand 

RNA. It strings-along-a-ribosome for replication.

Storm Cytokine will mediate your fight back.

Transmission corrects statistics with red pen –

unchecked it creates logarithmic curves of infection.

Viral virgins remain vulnerable to untested

weapons: do not inject bleach, leave hydroxychloroquine alone.

Xenophobia isn’t always packaged in orange.

You must stay alert. Control the virus?

Zero the negatives.

 

 

Gillian Mellor lives next to the West Coast Mainline and helps to run The Moffat Bookshop, an ongoing re-homing books project. She wishes everyone well through these strange times.