Diary of the Plague Year: Day 72 26 May 2020: Quotidian Poetry: Sean O’Brien (1952 – )

This poem seems particularly pertinent today. Brilliant and I love the rhyme structure.

Those living and those yet to be
Are all her immortality:
The subjects of the world she made
Still speak her language, still afraid
          To change it.
She saw her people as they were:
Don’t-Cares who can’t be made to care:
These sentimental hypocrites
Let her, their true-blue Clausewitz
          Arrange it.
Let poverty without parole
Replace the right to draw the dole.
Let coppers pulling triple time
Turn opposition into crime
          At Orgreave.
Let the General Belgrano,
Sunk to save our sheep, our guano,
Mark the freezing south Atlantic
As the empire’s last romantic
           War grave.
Let children learn no history
These days, but only how to be
As economically astute
As all the dealers snorting toot
           For dinner,
Desperate to anticipate
Like destiny the nation state’s
Ineluctable decline
To client status: I me mine,
           The winner.
Branch libraries and playing fields
Deliver rather slower yields
Than asset-stripping mountebanks
Can rake in flogging dope and tanks;
           Great Britain!
Strange: no one nowadays admits
To voting in the gang of shits
Who staffed her army of the night:
Our history, it seems, is quite
When it comes to telling lies
The change is hard to recognize.
What can’t be hidden can be burned.
She must be gratified: we’ve learned
            Her lesson.
Now when some sanctimonious ape
Says, No, there never was a tape,
A bribe, a private meeting with
Et cetera, where are you, Smith
             And Wesson?

Sean O'Brien

Picador Classic

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 64 18 May 2020: Quotidian Poetry: Alice Oswald (1966 – )

An extract from DART
There the musky fishy genital smell
of things not yet actual: shivering impulses, shadows,
little amorous movements, quicksilver strainings and   
each winter they gather here,
twenty seals in this room behind the sea, all swaddled
and tucked in fat, like the soul in its cylinder of flesh.
With their grandmother mouths, with their dog-soft
    eyes, asking
who’s this moving in the dark? Me.
This is me, anonymous, water’s soliloquy,
all names, all voices, Slip-Shape, this is Proteus,
whoever that is, the shepherd of the seals,
driving my many selves from cave to cave …


Alice Oswald

Faber and Faber

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 60 14 May 2020: Quotidian Poetry: George Szirtes (1948 -)

As one comes in another goes out. As one
shakes out a tablecloth another is eating
a hearty meal. As one sits down alone
another listens to his lover’s heart beating.
As one prays for deliverance, another
delivers a letter or an explosive device.
As one gathers the harvest, his brother
lies in the doorway. As one finds a nice
coincidence between numbers, his neighbour
sees his coins disappear down the waiting slot.
As one man examines the fruit of his labour
his shadow tells beads, counts peas into the pot
or stars in the sky and feels the night wind blowing
on his face with all this coming and going.
As one goes out, the other comes in. It is light
in the window where the angel bends
over the stove giving the virgin a fright.
It is bright at the top of the house where the road ends.
There’s a distinct touch of gold in the gutter
running with beer. There is translucence
in the chipped saucer with its rim of used butter.
There’s a glow on TV. There’s a faint sense
of the luminous numinous in the alarm clock
set for six in the morning and a kind of shine
in the mirror the angels have learned to unlock
and enter suddenly and an even harder to define
radiance in the skin, in the shock of dawn
with sheet turned down and bedroom curtains drawn.



Diary of the Plague Year: Day 54 8 May 2020: Quotidian Poetry: Elizabeth Jennings (1926-2001)

Rest, heavy head, on the wood
        Of the good, old desk-stand.
Dreams must be understood
        And the right hand
Feels for purchase upon
        A fine, old, open page
Of writing lit by the moon
       And its light rage.


Timely Issues


Diary of the Plague Year: Day 39 23 April 2020: Quotidian Poetry David Morley (1964 -)




PawPaw and Paprika, two great bears of the Egyptians
of Lancashire, the Witches’ County, Chohawniskey Tem

who, when our camp plucked its tents and pulled out its maps,
walked steadily with the wagons, ambling, always ambling,

all across the open pages of wet England, footing
as far as Pappin-eskey Tem, the flat Duck County,

crossing to Curo-mengreskey Gav, the Boxers’ Town;
padded on to Paub-pawnugo Tem, Apple-Water County

as good for bears as for their Gypsy masters, although
who is master is moot after much apple-water;

then to bide by Bokra-mengreskey Tem, Shepherds’ County,
for their collies are trained not to bark at bears, but slyly, gently,
slink big-eyed as children behind their shepherd’s greeting.


Ambling, bears, always ambling … mooching to Mi-develeskey Tem,
My God’s Town, the God for all bears too,

God of pays and padding, of Polar, Kodiak and Koala;
Sniffing superiorly through Dinelo Tem, the Fools’ County;

circling with our circus to Shammin-engreskey Gav, Chairmakers’ Town,
nosing north through Lil-engreskey Gav, a Town Made of Readers,

then paws over eyes for Kaulo Gav, The Black Town;
joy at Jinney-mengreskey Gav, the Sharpers’ Town;

to Lancashire as it was then, wider country of white witches,
to the clean camps, to the great brown bears of the Egyptians.

To PawPaw and Paprika, backwards in time they go, pad pad. Goodbye.


The bears’ route: Lancashire to Lincolnshire to Nottingham to Herefordshire to Susses to Canterbury through Suffolk to Windsor through Oxford to Birmingham to Manchester and Lancashire.

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 30 14 April 2020: Quotidian Poetry Christopher Logue (1926-2011)




Starred sky. Calm sky.
Only the water’s luminosity
Marks the land’s end.

A light is moving down the beach.
It wavers. Comes towards the Fleet.
The hulls like upturned glasses made of jet.

Is it a God?
No details.


Now we can hear a drum.

And now we see it:
Six warriors with flaming wands,
Eight veteran bearers, and one Prince,
Patroclus, dead, crossed axes on his chest.
Upon a bier.

Gold on the wrists that bear the Prince aloft.
Tears on the cheeks of those who lead with wands.
Multiple injuries adorn the corpse.
And we, the Army, genuflect in line.


  Five years ago Achilles robbed a Phrygian citadel
And kept the temple cauldron for himself.
The poet who accompanied him to Troy
Deciphered the inscriptions on its waist.
One said:
The other:

And when from zigzagged ewers his female slaves
Had filled and built a fire beneath its knees,
Achilles laved the flesh and pinned the wounds
And dressed the yellow hair and spread
Ointments from Thetis’ cave on every mark
Of what Patroclus was, and kissed its mouth,
And wet its face with tears, and kissed and kissed again,
And said: “My love, I swear you will not burn
Till Hector’s severed head is in my lap.”



War Music
An Account of Books 16 to 19
of Homer’s Illiad

Jonathan Cape
Thirty Bedford Square London

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 24 8 April 2020: Quotidian Poetry Ryszard Krynicki (1943 – )


Ryszard Krynicki


Wastepaper, Trash, Scrap Iron

Atlantologists of the future,

our small victories and great defeats,
our small truths and great lies,
our paper cities,
our incurable diseases,
our fickle hearts,
our anesthetized minds,
our little hopes and big delusions

really existed.

These layers of limestone
are our bones.

These imperishable plastic objects
weren’t our talismans, we had them
in daily use.

These glass-screened boxes
were not our gods, although often
they were used as a means
to subjugate our will
and break our spirit.

It was not unheard of
for even our thoughts to be listened in on.

The truth is also
that we multiplied like beasts
and fed on our brothers: animals and plants
having no other way to perpetuate
our own kind.

We should not have murdered each other
in the name of the inhuman Chimera
a better future.

Atlantologists of the future time,
wastepaper, trash, scrap iron
if they endure
may not be the best testimony to us
but we existed all right

and we were conscious of our existence.



Our Life Grows
Ryszard Krynicki

Translated by Alissa Valles
Afterword by Adam Michnik


Diary of the Plague Year: Day 18 2 April 2020: Quotidian Poetry Michael Longley

Michael Longley

Telling Yellow
after Winifred Nicholson: a found poem

Yesterday I set out
To pick a yellow bunch
To place as a lamp
On my table in dull,
Rainy weather. I picked
Iceland poppies, marigolds,
Yellow iris; my bunch
Did not tell yellow. I
Added sunflowers, canary
Pansies, buttercups,
Dandelions; no yellower.
I added to my butter-
Like mass, two everlasting
Peas, magenta pink,
And all my yellows broke
Into luminosity.
Orange and gold
And primrose each
Singing its note.


Angel Hill
Cape Poetry

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 16 31 March 2020: Quotidian Poetry Jo Shapcott

Jo Shapcott Of Mutability

Of Mutability

Too many of the best cells in my body
are itching, feeling jagged, turning raw
in this spring chill. It’s two thousand and four
and I don’t know a soul who doesn’t feel small
among the numbers. Razor small.
Look down these days to see your fee
mistrust the pavement and your blood tests
turn the doctor’s expression grave.

Look up to catch eclipses, gold leaf, comets,
angels, chandeliers, out of the corner of your eye,
join them if you like, learn astrophysics, or
learn folksong, human sacrifice, mortality,
flying, fishing, sex without touching much.
Don’t trouble, though, to head anywhere but the sky.

Jo Shapcott

Of Mutability
Faber and Faber