As another lockdown begins in England, we look back at a poetry project our co-editor and one writer contributed to for a fellow writer and friend on her teacher project. We reimagined old poems from some of the greats to turn them into a lockdown focus to reflect the present day.
She walks in duty
She walks in duty, no more
Cloudless climes or starry skies
All that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her memories and her tearful eyes.
Thus hardened to that deathly plight
Of seeing loved ones is denied.
One day the more, one meal the less,
Half impaired the shameless disgraces
who take all the food and cause distress.
Softly lightens her face
where thoughts of freedom sweet express.
How horrific, how isolated this dwelling place.
And on that cheek, and over her brow,
So sick, so lonely, yet composed,
The patience that wins, the determination
That grows tell of old days
Before lockdown spent.
A mind at worry with all below
A heart whose hope relents.
I wandered through each desolate street,
Where the lake meets the running track,
A mask on every face I see,
Masks of pearl blue, masks of black.
In every cough of every man,
In every recoil of fear,
In every speech, in every plan,
The government tries to adhere:
How the local shop owners cry,
Every parent and student protests,
And the hapless nurses sigh
Runs unseen as we progress.
But most, through curfew’d streets I hear
How the mad clapping of hands,
Blasts the recoil of fear,
And lights with praise the medic’s wands.
There are just not enough
is the problem.
Nothing is sweet
or savoury. Dreams
balance crookedly on supports
thrust off the shortening.
Fats clutch at open seams.
The whole structure leans
towards the miraculous.
Into this rough frame,
someone has squeezed
a happy space
and even dared to place
these eggs in a floury basket,
fragile curves of kasha
hung out over the natural edge
of a pleated universe,
folding the light
as if they were
the bright, thin walls of faith.