I have been in the hands of nurses –
lost my dignity – had it handed back
like a box of tissues. I have felt
the warmth that glows through
the plastic gloves, I know their kindness –

and yet, in pain and fear,
our mammal selves seek skin –
hold my hand tightly –
we’re all that new-born baby
seeking comfort
on our mother’s belly.

I haven’t hugged my husband
in six weeks, she told me.
That’s how we show our love now,
at a time when hugging’s
what we crave. I’m lonely.

Dying, we deserve that press of skin,
that last handhold, before
the loneliness. And we deserve
to take that comfort from the dying.

We forgot that we were animals,
that we built tribes, herds, flocks.
We didn’t realise how much
we needed all those other senses,
living through our eyes,
typing our words, connecting
through our screens. I miss
your arms around me, and
the scent of you, and your
cracked laughter. Most of all,
your touch.

This is for Bjorn at dVerse– a poem written in time of plague. I’m not sure I’ve quite hit the brief. I’d like to think we’ll all be changed, that we’ll realise the value of the underpaid, under-appreciated keyworkers who keep the world running; that we’ll remember the multi-millionaires who dumped their workers in the shit; that we’ll recall which politicians acted in the interests of their country, and which ones acting in the interests of a small elite. I’m not sure that we will. I hope so.


See, we’re the virus. We’re the plague rats scuttling
from place to place, consuming and consuming –
it’s our hungriness, our greed, our endless need
to have and have and have, it’s our stampede
from store to store. Just click to buy. We click
and click and click, and make the whole world sick.
We look for comfort. We bite, we scratch, we swallow –
we eat it all, but still feel like we’re hollow.
We are the plague. We’re killing everything –
burning the grasslands, suffocating
the great wide ocean. We’re the rats
that scurry everywhere, spreading a plague that’s
almost untreatable. We should quarantine
ourselves. Self-isolate. Stop reading magazines
that tell us that we need to self-improve,
buy more, just treat ourselves, equate self-love
with brand new lipstick, one more pair of shoes.
Update your living room! Be a consumer, choose
this, choose that, choose everything. Don’t be satisfied
with what you have. Come on. Just buy.
Buy more. Devour it. Come on, now, you rats,
stay on that wheel. Run fast. Keep running fast.

This week’s Earthweal challenge is to write a pandemic poem. I don’t normally rhyme much, but I wanted to do something pounding, and the rhyming kind of fitted.