Poetry ~ Bob Beagrie
And For The Time Being
Until some other arrangement is made the old Gods of the boondocks shamble around the centre of our towns and cities having crawled out of the ditches and the drains, slithered from the Edgelands far off the beaten tracks, from the suppressed chambers of our cavernous hearts, to occupy our boulevards and avenues, loiter on the public benches, in the parks behind locked gates, where we are no longer welcome.
In the meantime the Community Wardens and patrolling Police can’t see these eldritch beings, their eyes are tuned to those they suspect of flouting the rules of The Lockdown, fleshy miscreants who put us all at risk, who dismiss the motto ‘We’re all in this together’ as something only our glorious leaders spout to carpet over the fact we’re not. The Community Wardens are zealous in their sweep and scour of the streets for anything non-indispensable while the old Gods run amok around them, cutting us down to size.
And for the time being the doors to the places of worship are bolted, home to stained glass pools and dust motes and yet the cemeteries remain open, so we may commune with the dead, stroll between the interred bones, picture our own names on their stones, catch a glimpse of Grimnir dangling from an ash tree, Cernunnos lurking in holly thickets, Bridhid’s bright hair in the flame trees, Hel in the pungency of freshly dug soil.
And for now, all the faceless mannequins in all the empty shop windows are the only ones who have watched their return. But I’m sure I’m not alone, among the living, in perceiving them during our restricted excursions, between broadcasts of Loose Woman, the One Show and the next awkward Ministerial Update.
The safety zone contains five straggly weeds
Seven cigarette butts in a drift of dandelion fluff
Your squat fidgeting shadow on its phone
The lilt of speech in a language I've never learned
A pale splodge of dried chewing gum
Pulsating unease and a polite smile returned
Nostalgia for the way we used to live, not so long ago
Air that's noticeably cleaner to breathe
The chirp, tweet and whistle of small concealed birds
Suspect droplets of moisture, musings on the weather
A passing police officer’s measuring stare
Suspicions of flouting the rules of the lock-down
Worries around loved ones and the lack of an income
Possibilities for a different kind of future
One month in and there’s a slow normalisation to the ghost lives we lead, to the sudden drops into unexpected pockets of nothingness while Spring unfolds and spreads her arms wide scattering new colours all over the place. It’s like we are living behind a veil, the world in its full complexity is there but we can’t connect to it, like we’ve been emptied out and our pasts are just tall tales we liked to weave into patterns to impress or beguile, but now we’re lacking an audience. Future tense phrases of: I’m going to…, shall we make a plan… and why don’t we… drift like pink blossom across thinned out pavements, and the present is a precarious ice bridge over a crevasse.
I wake surprised to find you still here after troubled dreams of wandering the beaches of Más a Tierra and hiding away from undead pirates, but like Crusoe it’s necessary to chart the territories of our new lives, establish routines and look for footprints in the sand. There is a calmness to be found in letting some things float away on the tide. The passage of weeks is marked by the ritual of communal clapping. Yet there are moments when you’re sleeping through recovery when I think I’m only imagining you’ve come back, and my sense of reality has melted like candle wax.
All the while we try to sieve out the lies and deflections, wade through the deceptive stream of war metaphors, weigh-up whatever morsels of truth we can find and lay them out on the rocks to dry, to sustain us until the worst is over. Some say that this isn’t the time for questions, yet the number of fatalities rise and vulnerable heroes move among us, a skeleton crew on our beautiful shipwreck. The horizon line remains flat and featureless, and when a ship does eventually appear there’s a nagging suspicion it could be a Man-O-War or a Slaver.
Bob Beagrie has published numerous collections of poetry and several pamphlets, most recently And Then We Saw The daughter of the Minotaur (The Black Light Engine Press 2020), Civil Insolencies (Smokestack 2019), Remnants written with Jane Burn (Knives, Forks & Spoons Press (2019), This Game of Strangers – written with Jane Burn (Wyrd Harvest Press 2017), Leasungspell (Smokestack 2016). His work has appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines and has been translated into Finnish, Urdu, Swedish, Dutch, Spanish, Estonian and Karelian. He lives in Middlesbrough and is a senior lecturer in creative writing at Teesside University.
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