Corona Diaries IV – 28, 29 March


They tell me it’s the weekend.

My mum does more gardening – weeding today. The one teasel she let grow last year has resulted in baby teasels all over the garden, between the paving stones, in plant pots, on the roof. Well, not on the roof, but I wouldn’t be surprised. She talks about how well adapted they are. The juveniles have wide leaves which cling to the ground in a large area around their roots, smothering everything, but thankfully their roots don’t go too deep, so they’re easy to remove. I imagine a situation where planetary gardeners have a similar reaction to humans. “Oh god, look at the humans. They’re absolutely everywhere.

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Corona Diaries III – 26, 27 March


Already not sure what day it is. At Tesco’s I see them getting ready to implement queue restrictions and limits to how many people can be in the store at any one time.

I see a video of Chinese doctors addressing a press conference in Italy. Their message is – I don’t know what you think this is but it’s definitely not a lockdown, you need to do more. And Italy is already doing a lot more than us. I fully expect to see the army marching around Leeds by the end of this. No sign of them so far. Went to the park to walk with a friend. We walk opposite sides of the path, which is 4 metres wide, but still strictly against the guidelines which will soon become law. I try and convince her to walk around the park in opposite directions, greeting each other with secret messages, like it was a police state.

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Corona Diaries II – 24, 25 March


Didn’t watch the news today, lived in a bubble. First day of three week lockdown.

Today I reach for the jam and pick up a tub of vitamins. They’ve been on the breakfast table in the morning for about a week now.

Looking out the window, I see the Mediterranean in the air and the sun of the morning, but then, it might be that being cooped up with my family makes it feel eerily like a holiday. I say this to my dad and sister, and they say ‘what, like the mediterranean in winter, in the middle of the night?’. I’m so lucky to have travelled in Europe. If I thought England was the whole world, I would have lost my mind a long time ago. Or become some kind of pygmy version of myself.

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Corona Diary I – 22, 23 March


Mother’s Day. Restaurants, Cafés and Bars advised to close.

We went to visit grandma today as a family. The current advice is that it’s too risky for anyone over the age of seventy to come into contact with someone potentially carrying the virus. So we stood outside the window, and passed her presents through, my sister occasionally shouting – wash your hands! She seemed in good spirits, happy with her DVDs. One of them was Roman Holiday, starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory peck. She told us how, in the film, there is a stream of water that (legend has it) will make your hands fall off if you submerge them in it. Gregory Peck sticks his hand in and pulls his sleeve up to make Audrey Hepburn scream. We also got her some rose scented soap. She said her hands are already dry. I said I’d bring a copy of Rebecca for her to read, and some hand cream. I’ve never really needed hand cream before now, and that’s probably because, as I now know, I wasn’t really washing my hands properly. I’m surprised they didn’t fall off.

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Two Poems

A Visit to Sylvia Plath’s Grave

Seeds of grass, pods of a clock
rock in the wind which picks up
and the dog barks once – we climbed
up green cobblestone steep street
and playground to Heptonstall
saw the abandoned ship drift
along a gravestone sea-path

and bump against the present.
It talked, the wind, it said words
from a wind tongue, softly, out
of itself in hidden verses.
A button is enough, placed
In her dirt. Sigh with the breeze,
over the empty space

The Ouse

The river never rests – pushed
by its own waters, it runs
pulled forward with earth-mass speed
round the bend in the land depth,
and at every moment, rain
sinks from the hills around – ends
with a collapse, its own path.

It is so fast and soundless
this – small orgasm of force
trillionfold, rumble drowned.
So perfectly the river
is loved by the rainfall – I
would have such friends

Return of the Red Kite

Carefully she offers control to the currents
As her eye glides up over furrows
Never overcorrecting, she appears
When she means to, clears the barren treetops
And fastens some fur between her beak and the ground.

Her predator’s presence in the city shows
She retains the perfection of the ages,
And rats, nested in stubborn woodland patches
Sing of her soundings to their children, of days
Of sudden pain when scraps and salvage end.

I was deprived of her, by haste.
Eggs, whose skin could crackle like woodfire
Instead sank in to themselves, and shrank
Til embryo sap stained the tree-forks.
Her keening night-cry declared the time.

And silence slowly took the skies while I was born
As the hill-wind might forget a part of itself.
No longer the slip and slither of air around wing
Only the crows desperate gasping and magpie chitter
I did not know that anything was missing.

Then, one day as we walked amongst the drizzle
Along a long drystone wall, I followed a hand
Which gestured up. How can it be,
That a few dark specks and their swoopings, complete the sky?
I felt this, and mum smiled to see me smile.

[The red kite is a bird of prey which was almost wiped out by the use of the pesticide DDT, and saved by some thoughtful people. Now it can be seen all over West Yorkshire again]

Whitby Church Hymn

Those limestone souls, a crowd surge to the gates
where wooden beams nourishing wyrm, deny
a crossing of the red river – useless names,
given fresh to the mason-master puppeteer.

Sitting squat, one arm outstretched, and sly
squinting for the sea-spray, grim eyes dripping
complacent – playing with a certain joy, and lit
as the moon brings him a cawing custom of hope.

But chaos, in its own self certitude
sways slowly forth in undulations of infinite patience
caressing those lucky ones inside

Where more are lost, soft names dissolving
As the waiting hollows reveal their shapes, and the less
In turn await their pockmarking.