Little weaver bird…get weaving. I love this.
This is the third of my pandemic poetry trilogy (others are here and here) – so you can all breathe a sigh of relief. It is the last one! It is ripped off of a far better poem by John Betjeman, and there is a tribute herein to the wonderful Roz Chast. The reference to “Ol’ Mr. Corona” is something I stole from this cartoon – priceless!
In our Toronto Home: Poem for a Pandemic
Let me throw this disposable mask out
As my paranoia oozes.
Did I get too close to that guy in Loblaws?
Should I decontaminate my shoeses?
As I douse my hands in soap,
Listen to this lady’s hope.
Gracious God, please stop the virus
SARS-CoV-2, or Covid-19,
For whatever you might call it,
It is remarkably quite mean.
But dear God, whatever path you take,
Spare me from Ol’ Mr. Corona’s wake.
Keep my body hale and hardy,
Do your best with my heart and soul.
Oh, and also save my sweetheart
And the other folks I hold.
And, as we chat, sweet Jesus,
Save me and mine from all diseases.
Think of what dear Canada stands for:
Holding Americans in contempt;
Peacekeeping; multicult; and healthcare
Do make we Canucks verklempt.
But Lord, remember with all the muscle you flex
Protect this pair in the Annex.
I worship now on YouTube, Zoom, all that slew,
As no more than one shall gather in a pew.
So God, know my faith has not ceased,
Though I do not at all miss sharing the peace:
Handshakes, awkward smiles – delivered with no flair!
Things that make an introvert’s nightmare.
I miss the singing and King James –
For his version is the best.
None of that “Good News” heresy
Could ever offer me much rest.
I miss stained glass and Healey Willan’s organ,
And Johann Sebastian’s music – ach, JSB, guten morgen!
Now my worries are unburdened,
What a joy to talk with you.
Though these days seem filled with trials,
I know you will see me through.
And while, dear Lord, you do bewitch
I need to binge some more Netflix.
With apologies to William Carlos Williams.
This is Just to Say
I have eaten
the unsalted Saltines
that were in the
and the salted pistachios
and the President’s Choice oatmeal cookies
even though it is Lent
and I vowed no sweets
and the rest of the Kosher Dills
that were in the
along with a chunk of that pricey Parmigiano-Reggiano
you told me was
only for pasta
and a swig of the
Hennessy (right from the bottle)
though you said we
shouldn’t squander it
also I took one
of your Ambien last night
I know you had probably
hoped would last us all
I was stressed
and it made me
makes us stay inside and watch
reruns of Mad Men.
Covid 19 is,
I think, payback for human
abuse of critters.
So, while you watch Mad
Men or Bewitched, enjoy a
vegan snack or drink.
(If you choose Bewitched,
try not to channel Mrs.
Kravitz while shut in.)
And when we are free
again, don’t revert to the
eating of carcass.
For St. Patrick’s Day, these words from poet, priest and philosopher John O’Donohue on aloneness and loneliness, isolation and longing. Fitting topics for this time of pandemic (and actually, for whatever time).
We live in a world that responds to our longing; it is a place where the echoes always return, even if sometimes slowly… The hunger to belong is at the heart of our nature. Cut off from others, we atrophy and turn in on ourselves. The sense of belonging is the natural balance of our lives… There is some innocent childlike side to the human heart that is always deeply hurt when we are excluded… When we become isolated, we are prone to being damaged; our minds lose their flexibility and natural kindness; we become vulnerable to fear and negativity.
I’m on time for Burns Day – not a week late as I was for Milne (see post below). Check out what I wrote two years ago, which in turn links to a previous Burns-related item.
Apparently, it was Winnie-the-Pooh day last Saturday. I missed it, but I wanted to link to this piece about A.A. Milne, nonetheless. I was and am a Pooh fan, but I think I love Milne’s books of poetry for children more. They were a big part of my childhood – my mother would recite “Rice Pudding” to us if we complained about our meals – and they are so clever it would be a mistake to think they can only be enjoyed by children. “Disobedience” is, in my view, an absolute gem. I offer it, forthwith:
Weatherby George Dupree
Care of his Mother,
Though he was only three.
James James Said to his Mother,
“Mother,” he said, said he;
“You must never go down
to the end of the town,
if you don’t go down with me.”
Put on a golden gown.
James James Morrison’s Mother
Drove to the end of the town.
James James Morrison’s Mother
Said to herself, said she:
“I can get right down
to the end of the town
and be back in time for tea.”
Put up a notice,
“LOST or STOLEN or STRAYED!
JAMES JAMES MORRISON’S MOTHER
SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN MISLAID.
QUITE OF HER OWN ACCORD,
SHE TRIED TO GET DOWN
TO THE END OF THE TOWN –
FORTY SHILLINGS REWARD!”
(Commonly known as Jim)
Not to go blaming him.
Said to his Mother,
“Mother,” he said, said he:
“You must never go down to the end of the town
without consulting me.”
Hasn’t been heard of since.
King John said he was sorry,
So did the Queen and Prince.
(Somebody told me)
Said to a man he knew:
If people go down to the end of the town, well,
what can anyone do?”
(Now then, very softly)
C/O his M*****
Though he was only 3.
J.J. said to his M*****
“M*****,” he said, said he:
Yes, it was yesterday. I missed it. Well, I didn’t miss it. I was here – I just forgot to post. I wanted to post something because I love the story of the Epiphany, and also, it was my late brother’s birthday – he would have been 71. So in tribute to Alan and to the day, a recording of Alec Guinness reading Eliot’s “Journey of the Magi.” There does indeed exist a clip of Eliot reading it, but he doesn’t read it as well as Guinness. One can be a brilliant writer, I guess, but lack theatrical flair or the gift of phrasing. Guinness has both.
When the white stars talk together like sisters
And when the winter hills
Raise their grand semblance in the freezing night,
Somewhere one window
Bleeds like the brown eye of an open force.
White stars that stand above the eastern stable.
Look down and offer Him
The dim adoring light of your belief
Whose small Heart bleeds with infinite fire.
Shall not this Child
(When we shall hear the bells of His amazing voice)
Conquer the winter of our hateful century?
And when His Lady Mother leans upon the crib,
Lo, with what rapiers
Those two loves fence and flame their brilliancy!
Here in this straw lie planned the fires
That will melt all our sufferings:
He is our Lamb, our holocaust!
And one by one the shepherds, with their snowy feet,
Stamp and shake out their hats upon the stable dirt,
And one by one kneel down to look upon their Life.
A powerful poem, written in 1939, about the plight of European Jews.
Say this city has ten million souls,
Some are living in mansions, some are living in holes:
Yet there’s no place for us, my dear, yet there’s no place for us.
Once we had a country and we thought it fair,
Look in the atlas and you’ll find it there:
We cannot go there now, my dear, we cannot go there now.
In the village churchyard there grows an old yew,
Every spring it blossoms anew:
Old passports can’t do that, my dear, old passports can’t do that.
The consul banged the table and said,
“If you’ve got no passport you’re officially dead”:
But we are still alive, my dear, but we are still alive.
Went to a committee; they offered me a chair;
Asked me politely to return next year:
But where shall we go to-day, my dear, but where shall we go to-day?
Came to a public meeting; the speaker got up and said;
“If we let them in, they will steal our daily bread”:
He was talking of you and me, my dear, he was talking of you and me.
Thought I heard the thunder rumbling in the sky;
It was Hitler over Europe, saying, “They must die”:
O we were in his mind, my dear, O we were in his mind.
Saw a poodle in a jacket fastened with a pin,
Saw a door opened and a cat let in:
But they weren’t German Jews, my dear, but they weren’t German Jews.
Went down the harbour and stood upon the quay,
Saw the fish swimming as if they were free:
Only ten feet away, my dear, only ten feet away.
Walked through a wood, saw the birds in the trees;
They had no politicians and sang at their ease:
They weren’t the human race, my dear, they weren’t the human race.
Dreamed I saw a building with a thousand floors,
A thousand windows and a thousand doors:
Not one of them was ours, my dear, not one of them was ours.
Stood on a great plain in the falling snow;
Ten thousand soldiers marched to and fro:
Looking for you and me, my dear, looking for you and me.