Canary in the Mine
Wash your hands, sinner!
Father time, his hourglass, his Davy lamp
Sees the canary caged in the mine
Black gold treacle smears my hands
Props collapse, choking dust, pain in every breath
Reach out, this is redemption, you’ve won the lottery
This is our word, our deeds, our stage
We are the champions; slaughter all the rest
The Joker laughs; we the pin-ups of madness
I walk alone, see no-one; then a masked highwayman
Black cloak, peppered white forehead
Sunken rheumy eyes
His spindly arm reaches out
I start, turn for help
Nobody is there. I turn back; he’s gone.
I cannot move, stop breathing for a moment
Close my eyes, head bowed, slumping to my knees
Eternity, night and day, slips by.
I am asleep.
I am awake.
Little Rag Doll
She was striding towards me
Headphones on, ferociously gabbing
Her white Yorkshire terrier racing past her
He slides to a halt beside me in a spray of fine dust
Euphoric, acid, epileptic, electric,
Holding the ragged doll in his jaws
Pleading brown eyes, let’s play! Let’s play! Let’s play!
She stops her barking conversation with her unseen friend
And, catching my eye with an indeterminate smile
Swerves around me in a wide circle on the dusty path
His large melancholy eyes meet mine, imploring, pleading
Then turns to see his mistress panting up the steep path
He drops the rag doll at my feet, &, in a blur of fur, joins her
Two creatures silhouetted in the little wood on the hill
I pick up the little rag doll, my new companion
Ten thousand died this week*, said the undertaker
It’s an epidemic, Stay Home, the government curse
Be my friend, give me scrubs, apron, gloves, a visor
Doctors and nurses recite this new chapter and verse
So many waiting for tests, all in isolation, none the wiser
This curious new normal, everyone a grim reaper
Every door, button, plastic surface, screen, box, metal
One touch, talk close, the last word, your face stranger
Gambling on the new day; I’ll be OK, still in fine fettle
Locked away, safe, image on a screen; there’s no danger
*Usually a little over 500,000 of our 65 million UK population