David Punter


Pandemic Ballad


We’re through with social contact,

     we’ve proved it doesn’t pay;

You’ll only get infected

     at work or else at play.


The high streets are deserted,

     everyone’s wearing masks;

the best are brightly coloured

     for the most menial of tasks.


The fruit and veg are dangerous,

     we’ll only touch them with a Pole

or else a Lithuanian -

     while the rest are on the dole.


Sad youths inside their bedrooms

     play computer games all night;

the vampires come out chuckling

     now that the time is right.


The care homes are less crowded

     for the old are mostly dead;

we cannot take communion,

     we dare not go to bed.


The hospitals appal us

     although we love their staff;

they’re crammed with roving microbes

     separating wheat from chaff.


I look out on my city

     where the chartered river flows

through contaminated tunnels,

     but no-one ever goes.


We hope that this will change soon

     but we cannot tell quite when;

today’s future present

     is tomorrow’s News at Ten.


The blame game keeps on churning,

     the vaccine’s ever far;

perhaps the darkened origin

     is on some far distant star.


Or maybe we shouldn’t have eaten

     the things that do us harm;

it doesn’t really matter:

     Keep alert. Stay calm.


Sometimes in the midst of catastrophe, it might be that we find ourselves using a jaunty tone to keep ourselves from full realisation; and maybe that is one way of keeping ourselves alive. In the seventh stanza, I seem to hear a faint echo of Blake's 'London', but remade for Bristol's hidden River Frome.

image cfr.org

Pandemic Ballad

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