‘Death Map. Interactive coronavirus map lets you
find out number of deaths in your postcode.’ The Sun
And suddenly it’s fear. He wakes me up
at odd hours, pulls me out of bed,
he works by stealth, he spikes my morning cup
with dark. I drink him like a drug, I dread
his silences. Fear speaks in chokes. He knows
no tongue. He knows no end. Today I caught
his ratchet scratch inside my head. Hello
dear Fear, I said. What news? Fear took out
his flashcards, shuffled them. PLAGUE said one.
STARVATION said the next. LIFE JACKETS. LOCUSTS.
BROKEN HOSPITALS. TYRANTS. GUNS.
Stop! I cried. Fear’s eyes rolled in their sockets.
He raised another card. YOUR CHILDREN. Oh shit,
I said. Fear took a little bow and on he went.
‘The singer of ‘We’ll Meet Again’, who entertained troops in World War Two, has died’ BBC News
The anthropologists will have their day,
history will come for us. We don’t know what
we’re living through, we see only how high
the walls, how fake the news, how deep the rut.
We dizzy in our twisting narratives,
we try to find the light, our working heads
knock out a plot, we track and trace, our gifs
are all we’ve got and Vera Lynn is dead;
end of an era, myth of a common cause
and what’s the bloody point of art? Oh please!
Who else will tell the whip and wheeze? Our loss
must not be of imagination; the libraries
of the mind are open, the alchemy is strong,
the dark dream howls and shows its teeth. Bring it on.
Jacqueline Saphra‘s second collection, All My Mad Mothers (Nine Arches Press) was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize. Her next book, One Hundred Lockdown Sonnets from which these poems are drawn, will be out from Nine Arches Press in January 2021. Twitter @jsaphra