GUEST POST // An Octogenarian’s Pandemic by Barrie Purnell

There’s been some sort of epidemic
So say all-knowing academics,
A kind of dread Chinese infection
Designed to avoid early detection,
Resulting in oxygen deprivation
For which there was no known protection.
The government and the NHS
Said, what to do we can only guess
But until we can make up our minds
You must avoid contact of any kind,
Wash your hands 10 times a day
Put your going out clothes away,
And for restrictions we’ll atone
By paying you to stay at home.
Said if lockdown we don’t apply
Half a million would surely die,
But something they didn’t say
Was all of us would have to pay,
All the costs of shutting down
To the tune of 300 billion pound.
I have to think they’ve lost their mind
Paying ½ billion to save a life like mine.

On the news the professor reported
We’d all go mad before it was sorted,
But when I had the time to reflect
Saw on me it would have little effect.
I was allowed to form a bubble
With neighbour who said, it was no trouble
To do a supermarket shop for me
Of fresh food, bread, milk and tea,
And I booked an on-line delivery
Which hitherto had been a mystery.
My hour long visits to numerous clinics
Were now phone calls over in minutes,
And no waiting in a doctors surgery
With ill people sitting next to me,
Covering me in their coughs and sneezes
Spreading their as yet unknown diseases,
And oh what joy when they disclosed
All the dentists would be closed.
No visits from that demanding relation
Requiring clean sheets on each occasion.
My expenditure had been decreased,
From hugging I had been released,
No longer was I considered rude
When I indulged my love of solitude.
I don’t spend weekends in hotels
Or holiday in the Seychelles,
I have nobody to look after
I have no fear of the hereafter.
I thought now I will have the time
To watch programmes on Amazon Prime,
Then there was Netflix and Catch-Up TV
Opportunities spread out endlessly.
The prospect of gardening reared its head
Or I could do DIY instead.
Then there were all those books to read
Which would increase my reading speed,
And when these became less exciting
I could always try to do some writing.

But as months ran into longer time
I missed the freedom once was mine,
I missed the human interaction
Leading to increasing dissatisfaction.
I wondered if this imposed ban
Affected this old solitary man,
Someone long past his prime
Already living on borrowed time,
How much harder would it have been
If I had been just seventeen?
And here I had to face the truth,
We chose to sacrifice our youth,
They lost out on jobs and education,
On teenage fun and socialization.
My few remaining years protected
By youth, who even if they were infected,
Would avoid serious complication
And wouldn’t require hospitalisation,
But who’d be paying back for many years
The billions spent to keep our conscience clear.
So we mortgaged millions of young lives
To try and help the old survive.
Was this right, we don’t know yet
Or something the country will regret?
Maybe result would have been the same
If they’d just locked up the old and lame,
And supplied any help they needed
Until search for vaccine had succeeded.
Having lived through rationing and the blitz.
The old could surely have survived this?

Each year 600000 deaths are seen
From causes other than COVID 19,
For every 1 that from COVID died
Cancer and heart disease killed 5.
Now on the news a man of 99
Is said to have died before his time!!
What’s new is that now each day,
Presented in graphical display,
Death is there for all of us to see
We’re confronted by our own mortality.
Everyday more of the same
Until we look for someone to blame
For the extra deaths of an aged few,
As if death was something new,
When we have been able to ignore
The millions who have died before.
Only when that eulogy is read
Over the special one we’ve loved who’s dead,
Do we realise death is always with us
Even if it’s something we don’t discuss.
As mortals why do we believe
From death we alone could be reprieved?
Heart attack, cancer or suicide,
Broken heart or homicide,
Immortality is our minds biggest lie
COVID ………just another way to die.

by BARRIE PURNELL
© All rights reserved 2021

aeaea (the prodigal childer)

to reveal the door long fraught for
is to reason why fate has led us here
by hand of you who’d known us once
our mother of mercy

o mother circe
who’d embosomed us through the blackest days
when omega dipped red our wings like bread
in canticles of twitting sorrow

in remembrance of you, we close our eyes
watery slides on blue tarpaulin
badminton upon zest green lawns
barefoot padding under orange skies

to reveal the escape long fraught for
is to reason why fate has chanced us here
by hand of you who’d known us once
our mother of mercy

o mother circe
neutral is the colour of our mutual extinction
all consciousness othering into decline
the collapsing of minds in a cage on fire

in remembrance of you, we close our eyes
your embosoming through our blackest days
past colours all fixed to forever rainbows
where we’d tabled our youth and sailed away

by TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2021

saoirse

at the beginning of time there was a girl
in a melamine bowl
she had no family, no friends
and was on the dole
she was sat there in a corn flake swirl
a milky, sugared doll
her belongings were mere odds and ends
oh, what a poor little soul!

her name was saoirse
though people hardly remembered
yearning between dearth and plenty
buried under stone in the garden of rasure

at noonday’s predoom was a woman cold
in a gumball machine
for the merriment of boozers
in a stinky shebeen
she would shiver nude and candy bold
a pert and tart cuisine
a laughing stock even for losers
oh, buy her a tall glass of poteen!

her name was saoirse
though people hardly remembered
yearning between dearth and plenty
buried under stone in the garden of rasure

at the end of all things there was a crone
in a bottle discarded
fighting her battles all over again
in weakness, unguarded
she inhaled a black wind through her bones
and all she’d once regarded
her last sigh was for the land of cockaigne
where life is ample tabled and lardered

her name was saoirse
though people hardly remembered
yearning between dearth and plenty
buried under stone in the garden of rasure

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2020

TATI’s & TONY’s DEAD POET TOUR // The Cat Metamorphosed Into A Woman. by Jean de La Fontaine

A bachelor caress’d his cat,
A darling, fair, and delicate;
So deep in love, he thought her mew
The sweetest voice he ever knew.
By prayers, and tears, and magic art,
The man got Fate to take his part;
And, lo! one morning at his side
His cat, transform’d, became his bride.
In wedded state our man was seen
The fool in courtship he had been.
No lover e’er was so bewitch’d
By any maiden’s charms
As was this husband, so enrich’d
By hers within his arms.
He praised her beauties, this and that,
And saw there nothing of the cat.
In short, by passion’s aid, he
Thought her a perfect lady.

‘Twas night: some carpet-gnawing mice
Disturb’d the nuptial joys.
Excited by the noise,
The bride sprang at them in a trice;
The mice were scared and fled.
The bride, scarce in her bed,
The gnawing heard, and sprang again, –
And this time not in vain,
For, in this novel form array’d,
Of her the mice were less afraid.
Through life she loved this mousing course,
So great is stubborn nature’s force.

In mockery of change, the old
Will keep their youthful bent.
When once the cloth has got its fold,
The smelling-pot its scent,
In vain your efforts and your care
To make them other than they are.
To work reform, do what you will,
Old habit will be habit still.
Nor fork nor strap can mend its manners,
Nor cudgel-blows beat down its banners.
Secure the doors against the renter,
And through the windows it will enter.

by JEAN DE LA FONTAINE (1621-1695)
Public Domain Poetry

night shift charley (an old watchman’s shrift)

why’d i make him climb all that way
up fifty-five flights of goddam stairs
i didn’t need to break my only neck
in pursuit of prey in the month of may

why’d i make him muck in dung and clay
down sixty-six steps of slippy trails
i didn’t have to snap my only coccyx
in pursuit of prey in trial bay

why’d i make him jump into the fray
against seventy-seven blood streaked fists
i didn’t like to choke on my only teeth
in pursuit of prey when he fell that day

just who was that bolter anyway
what had he done that demanded death
i have soiled my only soul
in pursuit of prey i didn’t want for prey

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2020