Four Poems In These Viral Times


P A U L   S .   L .   B R O O K E S


You Meet

eternity in a shopping queue
if you don’t keep your distance.

Eternity in the hand,
or in the change in it.

Eternity in the unthinking
Person who brushes past

their eye on the goal
of a missed item.

Despite your precautions.
your gloves and mask

don’t steer your plane into clouds.
Many hide a mountainside.



Spring Cleansing


Much more than spring cleaning:
She has cleaned upstairs and downstairs
thoroughly for two days in a row.

All cupboards emptied and washed out.
Individual crockery and glass polished to a gleam.

She hunts down jobs.

In work I fill the absent spaces,
pasta social distances from sauces.
Wipe plastic baskets, fridges, tills.

The spring warmth and light
through the shop window
is as I saw them out of a hospital window
when a child, and know
I am not allowed outside,
unless absolutely necessary.

After my shift I walk home
through the spring gleaming graveyard
to a spotless home.


Social Distancing

At my till I politely ask customers in the queue
to move back when I estimate that there is less
than six feet five inches between them and their nearest.

Some nod and act on my request, others say  He’s my
Hubby, or “We live together, young man.”

A young woman refuses to distance herself:

I am a key worker. I look after other folk kids

And I politely tell her I am a key worker too,
And we still need the required gap.

The supermarket next door

sticks yellow and black striped cordoning tape
in a square shape to demarcate the gap

between till and customer.

Outside customers queue between the trees as they allow
only so many in at a time. The grocers has a blackboard sign
saying “Only 2 customers allowed in shop at a time.”



The Dictator


Our bouncer is a manager in the Post Office
installed within our shop. Used to paying bills,
advising how much post to pay on a letter,
or package, she sorts the queue with a smile.
I stand patiently in line as it is my day off.
Everyone is wary of everyone else
as a potential threat to them or their family.
The infection is a dictator, tells us how to act.
The waves are still rising.

She marshalls a queue of customers
who stand a social distance
apart outside like an active installation
of sculptural figures by Antony Gormley
that queue from a beach into the sea,
and act as breakers when the waves rise.

So many customers must leave our shop
before others are allowed in,
whilst at the supermarket next door
couples are separated, are now individuals.
Yellow and black demarcation tape
defines the distances in the store.
The tape must be obeyed like bathing rules.






Photo Credit: R.Sigel Frieze, Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

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