Writing in the Pandemic

Some people decided, at the onset of Covid-19, that they would read Daniel Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year and Albert Camus’ La Peste. I did the opposite. I retreated into the gentle world of Alexander McCall Smith’s Scotland Street and Isabel Dalhousie novels. I read not much else, poetry or prose, and I wrote next to nothing. However, eventually one poem emerged. Because I love watching online of videos of cute animals, I noticed all the stories about animal behaviour in lockdown. The poem I wrote about that became the title track of a little booklet mostly about animals, for a series of hand-made publications by Kazvina (Karen Little) in aid of the Broken Biscuits animal charity. Karen produced booklets for eight poets and I was very proud to be included. The other poems in The Animals in Lockdown include newts, nuthatches, yellowhammers, cats, and dragonflies.

Here’s the title poem.

The Animals in Lockdown

The mountain goats have noticed something’s wrong.
Their anxious hooves trot into town
tap-tapping on our tarmac. They’ve come to browse
verges and hedges, keeping down

the wildness, which they know distresses us.
In clearwater harbours, dolphins nose
the prows of empty boats drifting at anchor.
Songbirds note the silence in the air.

A fox sniffs for contagion, scenting only spring,
he knows we’ve gone to earth. He has
mixed feelings about this. The dogs
who shepherd us on our permitted walks

leave smell-messages for each other, asking
‘Lads, what’s going on?’ And here at home,
my cat tucks me into bed each night, checking that I’m safe.
All through the night, she listens for my breathing.

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