New years eve we would weep as forests fell to bushfire
blood red skies caused by flames getting hotter and higher
animals lost we watched the earth come so close to the wire
Guilty hearts but still we planned all our new years desire
Booking holidays, resolutions we were hopeful as 2020 came
But overconsumption, corporate powers kept causing nature pain
Plastic pollution destroying seas yet it carried on the same
Global warming plenty warning we often felt somewhat ashamed
Euro exit some may say led by the idiot, pomp and vile
Americas own Trump himself paraded on impeachment trial
Still he fought with Iran so they then sent their deadly missile
Killing hundreds on a plane as we watched scared meanwhile
Out of nowhere lives were paused by a global virus catapault
Our lives altered and were changed coming to a grinding halt
Children's education placed on parents already feeling overwrought
Time to reflect as we ponder how much of this could be our own fault
Hope springs eternal and families bloom like budding flowers in a pot
Could it be that this breather would help to reduce the social rot
Online gatherings world love linking can this be the world we sought
Nature sad it took tragedy to make us humans pause for thought.
Written by Rhonda Walters (aka ronsrhymes), London, April 2020
Life is a fatal disease –we all die from it
Sooner or later
Some too soon – some too late
Some deaths are preventable – most are not
The ‘first world’ post WWII
Uniquely peaceful, stable and prosperous
Elsewhere – not so nice
War, poverty, greed and unfettered ambition
Many preventable and too early deaths – many violent
Such peace and prosperity is fragile
And seemingly makes for a fragile people
In need of a national nursemaid
With a shock of blond uncombed hair
Please Mr Johnson
‘Lock Me In!’ ‘Lock Me Down! ‘Keep Me Safe’
Our Finest Hour – timed out.
Written by Louise Perrotta, Brighton, UK, June 2020
The sign on the door:
“Masks are mandatory in this store.”
Lists of complaints ensue:
Masks fog my lenses
Masks hurt my ears
Masks cause my face to sweat
Masks make it hard to breathe
Masks make me smell what I exhale
For me, masks are less of a burden:
I can make myself flashy and fashionable,
or I can wear those that belong in the trash following a shift.
Masks mean that my smile does not matter
when people look my way.
Masks mean I owe no explanation
about the frown that lives on my face.
Masks mean my eyes are
seen past my purple rims.
Masks mean tone and vocabulary are finally
the valuable skills English teachers tried to instill.
Masks mean I don’t have to worry about lipstick
or a perfectly powdered chin
or the blemishes on my cheeks.
Masks mean my transparent expressions
are at last the secret I’ve always wished to keep.
What once was metaphorical
is now real -
no one can see how I feel
when only half of my face is revealed.
Masks mean that I can be more like me.
I can finally say I’m smiling underneath,
and no one knows the statement is untrue.
Written by Makaila Aarin, Mississippi, USA, July 2020
We stand alone, yet together
We clap and we cheer
Strength and humanity binds us,
yet there are oceans and bricks between us
That primal instinct to hug and smile and connect,
stolen in a heartbeat
Within our cages, we eat and breathe and count our blessings
Through Zoom we talk, its digital walls a barrier to touch
In our gardens and kitchens,
a nostalgic charm sets in
Long forgotten fingers in the soil
The smell of freshly baked bread
And time, so much time to reset
Yet there is a constant sickening
A tightening in my chest
As ambiguity and uncertainty fills my head
The path ahead filled with brambles and thorns
I try to see the light between
And forget about the silent screams
So I bring my thoughts back to today
And I know that I am lucky in a thousand ways.
Written by Celine Gucher, UK, May 2020
Small daily pilgrimages
to the outside world, to find space
outside of these walls.
One foot in front of the other
showered by the colours of nature blooming wild,
pastel sunrises and lamp-like leftover moons.
These days blessed with the presence of days-eyes
squinting up through uneven blades of grass
that somehow seems greener than it ever did before.
A clump of five dandelions, cheery faces
turned up to the sun, makes me think of us
and I'm choked by a sudden lump in my throat
with the thought that I won't be seeing you
anytime soon. Still. I surrender the thought, the loss.
Still. My heart aches. My feet move on.
Revelling in these daily journeys, this hour of freedom,
hearing the sea as it crashes, feeling the sting of the wind
across my face, the burst of sunlight on my skin
and I breathe in like I've never breathed before.
Written by Emma Cunliffe, UK, April 2020
The shallowest breath, the cessation of taste,
the utter exhaustion that sleep can’t fix
may be resolved symptoms but in their place
is restlessness rooted in politics.
(The war cry for justice is what it is.)
Outside on the streets crowds are assembling
for Black Lives Matter and for Defunding
Police to rout racism ‘round the globe.
COVID-19’s deaths are upward trending
but there are worse things than lethal microbes.
Written by Drew Pisarra, Brooklyn, USA, June 2020
In 2020 the world stood still
We held our breath and waited
We hoped it wouldn't be too long
Before the tragedy abated.
We followed #Stay-at-home
Got good at cakes and knitting
Growing veg sustainably
In our gardens, or just sitting.
Going out for daily walks
Or jumping with Joe Wicks
Home schooling took our days
Evenings we watched Netflix.
We didn’t forget our keyworkers
Friends and family to all.
We clapped on Thursday evenings
To keep their spirits from a fall.
As the days turned into weeks
And the weeks went on and on
We wondered if our previous life
Had simply vanished and gone.
If our old lifestyle was history
We finally asked, so what?
If some old habits were left behind
Would we really mind one jot?
If we swapped our cars for bicycles
And bought only what we need?
If we made and mended and thrifted
And let go of our plastic greed?
If we looked out for the lonely
And shared more with our neighbours?
The next time you need some help
Maybe they’ll return the favour!
If we put those window rainbows
Into practice every day?
Then maybe from this time on,
To our children's children we could say:
“Yes, child, I lived through Covid times,
Suffered loss, experienced grief.
But coming out of all of that
We turned over a better leaf.”
Written by Lucy Heuschen, Germany, May 2020
Adrift in zero gravity
I wander, mesmerised
throttled by a web
of perpetual, bellowing dreams
The supreme light nascent within me
cored out and spaced
into a starless void
where the Destroyer looms.
Written by Philippa Drake, Eastbourne, UK, March 2020
I live in contemporary dread,
A commonly held acceptance of doom
Dampening the last vestiges of light
In my mind’s already dimly lit rooms.
Floor space for foot stamping.
Head space for temple tapping.
These walls, one moment closing in
The next out of my reach,
The heightened shrill of scratchy din
To silent vibrations of dying screech
And echoes fading into those walls
To rest in nooks and empty hollows,
Shadows slip through cracks in floors
To places where I long to follow.
Loneliness is a state of mind,
What state it's in is undefined.
I live squarely in the new world,
A hand dealt by nature, steered by science,
A grave new world where narcissists
Are rewarded for incompetence,
And still the death toll rises daily;
A backdrop to disinformation
And hidden governmental failings
Designed to placate a nation.
As we look to the left, and we look to the right,
And we try to look forward we are tethered from behind.
Somewhere else the fires rage
Over devaluation of human life,
And anger soars in battle roars
Which is met with vitriolic spite
As the fire-armed, long-arm of the law
Cuts swathe’s across the smouldering land,
Some bend to place a knee on the ground
Some bend to wash their bloody hands.
Guilt that manifests through hate.
A flame that spreads at a viral rate.
A petulant enfant terrible,
Gargling convenient biblical psalms:
Claims he’s the messiah of free world
Whilst rattling the chains between his palms
And dissecting the honour of woman and man,
Rewriting the order of basic rights,
Threats to control subordination
With rubber bullets and canon strikes.
In cold, near dark compartments within my head
I live in perpetual, contemporary dread.
Written by Marc Hawkins, June 2020, Cornwall, UK.
I'm sitting in my garden, staring back
At my lockdown home where I've paced and sat
Thinking about life before this big stink:
Hectic and busy - too scheduled to think?
Towards a window, my restless eyes glance
At my daughter's rainbow, which once did dance
With vibrant colours that have since grown faint
Under a sun that's bleached the premixed paint.
"Why has it faded?" towards her, I ask
And sensing this is a home learning task
My daughter's eyes roll, "Yes, Mum, I know why -
The colours have slipped; slipped into the sky."
So Esme's creation now signifies
A turning point: I see with refreshed eyes
Our colours may slip, during times we feel jaded,
But rainbows bring hope - even once they have faded.
Written by Zoe Willows, May 2020, Surrey, UK.
Dystopian days and inebriate nights
A pause in plausible thought
And fixation secured on essentiality
Education becomes academic
Are red peppers better than green?
Written by Diny van-Kleeff, Hellingly, UK, April 2020
It may be over
You may think just another topic in history;
But I remember so much more, how our lives changed, a lesson I hope you will come to see,
Your teacher told us to stay home;
But that was okay, as we managed to still see friends on social media, over the phone,
Visiting dad stopped,
The government told everyone not to visit family;
But that was okay, as we planned video calls to stay in contact, you see,
Supermarkets taped up the floor
I could not take you to do our grocery shopping anymore
But that was okay, as Grandpa got us a slot, Asda came to our door,
Strangers wore masks
We could not get within two metres of anyone outside our flat
But that was okay, as Granny made you a little mask, just the right fit to go with your sun hat,
No more Butlins, planes disappeared in the sky
But that was okay, as we saw that the earth healed the more that time went by,
Soft plays and parks closed
To pass the time staying at home, we drew around our hands and coloured in a rainbow
But that was okay, as we could show our respect for the key workers, our heroes and the N H S,
My message to you, learn well and try hard
Never take for granted what you have today,
For you never know what we can foresee, and there may not be another day.
Written by Fiona Hawker , Surrey, UK, June 2020
Eyes wide in disbelief,
I just can't believe that you just can't see,
My fair people's friend has become a thief.
I'm asked to ask please see your heart,
You know your heart.
Truly you know the effect of your choices,
Even with a thousand instincts drowning it out,
You do know what's beyond all those voices.
Or let your eyes tell mine,
You truly don't.
Truly I am maddened to fight for the day,
But that only seems to hasten the ruin,
You're way ahead of me on that anyway.
High on top of money,
Controlling the bottom line of guns.
Eyes wide in disbelief,
A one hundred year old ocean traveller chokes on a coffee pod,
A three year old war orphan chokes on grief.
Angry enough to contrive that,
You really are, I see that.
Truly, from exposure, you guard your insecurities
At the expense of everything, for no pain would be worse,
So it's safer to keep people on their knees.
But I'm told that you know,
You know something's not quite right with that.
Truly I enjoy the reverie,
Of your painful comeuppance and deserved suffering,
But of course in reality it would hurt to see,
Underneath it all,
The wounded child.
Eyes wide in disbelief,
As a light caught my mind's eye by surprise,
I open and turn towards a great sense of peace.
I wish you could see it.
Truly you choose not to see what you really are,
To remain unaware of what you're truly a part of,
It's even been proven you're made from a star.
In light of that,
Do your choices still sit well in you?
Truly we are all connected,
I'm asked to ask you please see your heart,
There you know how everything's caused and affected.
I wish you could know this beauty,
That would cause you to better effect.
I wish I could see it better myself.
Written by Chad Roberts, Seaford, UK, April 2020