Postcards From Malthusia DAY EIGHTY-SIX: Robert Sheppard

Milton! thou shouldst be living at this hour

 

Cummings, Britain hath no need of thee! You’ve

found your swamp to drain. Religiomaniacs,

fruit salad generals, poets laureate (no friends,

but I defend, like Milton), even your puppet’s

National Thrust, where, naked under heavens,

majestic sticks, in Lethean flood, stick – all are forfeit

to your ‘scientific’ elite: ‘complex contagions in a

thermoacoustic system’ reapplied as insecurity

from starter home to care home, neatly monetized.

The intelligent rich (a moron’s oxymoron) claim

only selfish men may raise us up, return to power. Free

Dom, self-isolation is your viral wet dream, of use,

your voice white noise in a Seeing Room’s drone.

Bo’s cheerful hand rests on your thoroughbred’s thigh.

 

 

 

Robert Sheppard‘s new book is Charms and Glitter (with photographer Trev Eales) from Knives Forks and Spoons. The first part of his transpositions of traditional sonnets, The English Strain, will be published by Shearsman. The third book is called British Standards, from which his versions of Wordsworth come. He blogs about the project as it goes at www.robertsheppard.blogspot.com.

Postcards From Malthusia DAY EIGHTY-FIVE: Alex Josephy

A Zoo, Reversed

 

The park is locked, so we patrol

its wonky rhomboid perimeter,

scan grassy distances

with envious eyes.

 

Inside the fence, frogspawn

is bubbling, coot feathers fluffing.

Rhizomes, April-ready, poke up

slender green periscopes

 

to look beyond the wire;

it’s us who are the captives,

hungry for each chirp that floats

in our direction, every wayward leaf.

 

 

Alex Josephy lives in London and Italy. Her collection, Naked Since Faversham, was published by Pindrop Press in 2020.  Other work includes Other Blackbirds, Cinnamon Press, 2016, and White Roads, poems set in Italy, Paekakariki Press, 2018. Her poems have won the McLellan and Battered Moons prizes, and have appeared in magazines and anthologies in the UK and Italy. Find out more on her website: http://www.alexjosephy.eu

Postcards From Malthusia DAY EIGHTY-FOUR: Charles Lauder Jr.

Galveston, Texas, September 1900

 

no radar   no text alert   no shouting down the mouthpiece

the leaden gray clouds foaming on the horizon   grown fat and delirious

on Cuba    are about to swallow us

no CNN camera on the corner of Broadway records the parade 

of six-foot waves   mules and cart swimming past the Grande Hotel

the freight train overhead tearing up roofs beneath its heels

no Android to video Father and his Negro handyman throw a mattress

against the door   put their weight behind it   muffle the bangs

           of a horde of bill collectors

thousands of little devils whistle past carrying Miss Wilson’s piano

Mother hatchets holes in the floor to stop the waters

           lifting away the house

if we could we’d message our cousins   facetime the nuns in the orphanage

in another round of ‘Queen of the Waves’   the children tied to them

           with clothesline singing till the dorms collapse

 

* * *

 

no selfie of Uncle Jerry outside our house wrapped in curtains

asking for clothes   no GPS to tell us in this town of splinters

which damn street we’re on

no sonar to reveal who lies beneath the rubble   neighbors dangling

from branches like mistletoe   like shredded ribbon

           are easier to spy

Father is fed on goblets of whisky to sift the wreckage

his handyman to load the bodies onto barges

           for burial at sea

the tide washes them back on shore   no pics posted

of the giant bonfire built on the beach   no emojis

for the smell

 

 

Charles G Lauder, Jr, was born and raised in Texas and has lived in the UK since 2000. His poems have appeared internationally and his debut collection, The Aesthetics of Breath, was published in 2019 by V.Press.

Postcards From Malthusia DAY EIGHTY-THREE: Fiona Larkin

Waking to the News

  

There is a kind of pain called exquisite,

a kind of curiosity called morbid.

 

To touch the wound is to probe

the border between sense and damage,

to test whether blunting is felt.

 

There is a kind of waking,

when the head’s night-long weight

has pressed ear to sheet

 

and each amplifying curve

expands into bruise.

 

 

Fiona Larkin’s debut pamphlet, A Dovetail of Breath, was published by Rack Press in 2020. Her poem ‘Rope of Sand’ was highly commended in the Forward Prizes 2019. She organises innovative poetry events with Corrupted Poetry. www.fionalarkinpoetry.wordpress.com.

Postcards From Malthusia DAY EIGHTY-TWO: Steve Perfect

Empty Carpark, Dusk

In half-light, what we take to be the outline
of an exit could be the elongated shape
of anything forgotten; or anything
that lingers in the cool reserves
where hopes are put away.
Easing through tulips, that flare
where they were planted in another time,
shadow spreads across the tarmac,
shrouds the gathering of dust,
and captures vacant spaces one by one.
We walk in search of truths or half-truths
clustered in the moments that expand
to fill the evening before darkness is complete.

The elongated shape is just a matter
of perspective: when we turn it disappears.
Signs look exactly as they did before,
but what they say has changed.
We pass by open windows spilling voices
on the air, the sound of crisis talks,
for all we know, held beneath the breath
of interested parties, shedding spores
whose progeny, as yet unknown,
will lodge in all our lives. Hand in hand,
we walk as street lights flicker
their infatuating code across the blossom
of a cherry. Nightfall creeps along the edge.

 

 

Steve Perfect is a writer and artist living and working in south London. He has a particular interest in peripheral landscape. His artist’s books are in the collections of Tate, the V+A and the National Poetry Library.

Postcards From Malthusia DAY EIGHTY-ONE: Finola Scott

let’s hear it for the crumpled

 

oft-discarded

the not-good-enough  that lanquish

like lazy cats in cupboards  licking

soft fur into satin evening dresses  

go back go back

there is no judgement   too fat  too lazy

in these that soft drape frames   that meld

with skin   become second

the sweet sweat smell of home   of yourself

so familiar   reassuring when all is flux

we know their provenance   we see their wool

gently grazed by kamikaze  moths

no non-unionised factory sweated

with these   no saried child laboured to craft

up-to-the-minute this season’s must-haves

krill can swim in seas micro plastic-free

when this gansey is oft washed tales cast on

lived   held in its stitches  lullaby-whispered

these garments are our polar stars  

our wanderers’ eyes seek

the alpha and omega of belonging

in the right place

the only place   now   always

 

 

 

Finola Scott‘s poems are on posters, tapestries and postcards, and she is the Makar to the Federation of Writers Scotland. Her work has been published and anthologised widely, including in New Writing Scotland, The Fenland Reed, PB, Orbis and Lighthouse. Red Squirrel Press publish her pamphlet Much left Unsaid. 

Postcards From Malthusia DAY EIGHTY: Harry Smart

Metaphor in Lockdown

 

If the metaphors are no in the natural words thersens

then a’ll no give them time the day or energy.

A’ll no like the world to ony thing, not the covid,

nor the sleekit vacillations o politicians,

bought administrators, purchased journalists.

 

I’ll listen out for leid and Lied, aye, but I won’t reach

for compassion that I can’t in truth sustain

nor hide the anger at seeing black men choked

or folk abandoned to the food bank. The nicht

a’ll put ma hauns thegither for the NHS, the Trussel Trust,

wave at ‘neighbours because I fail to see how my not clapping

would be ony different fae the non-applause of those

that simply couldnae give nor sharn nor shite. Sither,

 

a’m agait, a dinna fit. Can nobbut spayk for missen.

A cannae bring missen to pray thegither wi ma kirk

family: sadly cannae join the a-nicht vigil I used keep

nor bide the invocation of 2 Chronicles 7

that calls for prayer in time of plague but

elides the call to metanoia or tschuvah and has exactly nowt

to say about precision ordnance dropped on hospitals in Syria

or Yemen. For tonight, I reserve the right to rage on Twitter;

The big man kens how lang a can dae that. I ask him every day

about rage and aa things else, he gives different answers,

aiblins, to me and to my co-religionists. No language fits.

 

Fae the winnach I see geans, no blossom now,

a hybrid rowan wi russet flowerheads not quite open,

a tall birch and a willow. Flooers and forest. I hear birdsong;

if I’m lucky appen a’ll see a wren, a blackbird, gowdfinches.

My wife has brought messages from town: only one of us

can go out at one time. She’s brought fresh bread and

my medication; I’m officially depressed

beyond tablets, gone beyond pills into the bleak

lyric of plain things, anger at the emptiness of claims.

 

I’m one of the lucky ones. And all that luck is built

on kindness and on bain. I’m one of the saints, I believe

in glory, see that new licht in men and women giving

o thersens at a level I can’t meet.

I cannot count myself the beautiful unbroken ony mair.

I cannot, in pandemic days, forget the war of capital

against periphery, agin the world, of white man contra black.

There’ll be no new normal. There’ll be the old normal

with more boots and better guns, as soldiers have in every age

worn boots and weapons aye improved.

 

Who needs metaphor when we have our grand high-heidyins.

Who needs metaphor when there’s knees on necks,

tear gas, camps for IDPs, whistleblowers

exiled to the US prison complex: why

metaphor when there’s been no metamorphosis.

 

Trees have blossomed, have come into full leaf,

in time they’ll bear their fruit; the seasons come and go,

the global death tolls rise, we prepare for a second peak

in the graph like trawlermen prepare for the next big wall

of water; the boat drops into the trough, the wave strikes,

and that is metaphor enough.

 

 

Harry Smart lives in Montrose. Originally from Yorkshire, he has lived in Scotland for over 40 years. He has published poetry (with Faber), fiction (with Dedalus) and social theory (with Routledge). His poems have appeared in a wide range of magazines and online projects. His current project is The Boy and the Knife, a theology of violence for unbelievers.

Postcards From Malthusia DAY SEVENTY-NINE: Fiona Moore

On COVID Street 

Boris Johnson is reported to have used the phrase “move on” 5 times in 20 minutes in his appearance before the House of Commons Liaison Committee on 27 May 

 

It’s getting late on COVID Street 
don’t linger, move on.
This isn’t a dream.
Pass your own shock by
on the other side
and move on.
Two terraces stretch in parallel rows
on COVID Street
here children live in a house of blows
with nowhere to hide
and there an old man who’s on his own 
no light in the window
nobody knows
walk past, move on.

Here’s a grid of faces, black, white and brown
some in nurses’ uniform 
hopscotch through them heel & toe
smudge the chalk
and walk on.
Turn your head away from the death of surprise
the death of rage, of disbelief 
those huddled heaps
just leave them behind
on COVID Street.
Be a good citizen 
move on.

Move on when you pass yourself alone
in the cemetery on COVID Street 
leave your sorrow weeping down a stone.
Move on 
walk fast when wind in the branches sighs
like your mother’s voice on a failing phone  
no PPE in her care home
her last time. 
Move on.
Just accept your grief’s
in the past now, it’s been four weeks
and move on.

It’s darkening now in the gaslight zone  
on COVID Street    
adjust your vision 
get on with it
move on
around the bend
into the street of the rest of your life.
Twilight comes before a new dawn.
Leave it all behind  
and move on.

Fiona Moore‘s first collection The Distal Point (HappenStance) was shortlisted for the 2019 TS Eliot and Seamus Heaney prizes.  She is on Magma‘s editorial board.  She has been living in the Western Isles since last autumn.