Monday 15 March 2021

Dismal Reflections – and a Poem

 This time last year there were long queues outside every supermarket, and inside hordes of people – none wearing masks – fighting for the last toilet roll/ packet of pasta/rice/ bag of flour.  To see those scenes now would be a shock, not least because we've become so inured to mask-wearing that even the mask-sceptics among us would find it odd. (Of course, back then the appalling WHO was advising strongly against face-coverings, and indeed any checks on incomers at airports.) After all these months, we are taking for granted a state of affairs that we could never even have contemplated before 2020 – a wholesale confiscation of basic liberties and rights, and the suspension of most of what makes life liveable and worth living, all in the name of Public Safety (shades of the revolutionaryTerror) and all on the basis of 'science' that was far from rock-solid. And now it seems normal. What has become of us? Even I am feeling my spirits sinking these days, as this drags on and on.
  What is also striking about that peep into the past is how brief that period of consumer chaos was. Within a very short time, the supermarkets regained control, re-established supply lines and restored order. Their workers, along with the bin men, postal workers, delivery drivers, transport workers, small shopkeepers, cab drivers and all those doing the real and necessary work carried on without missing a beat – and with precious little thanks for their efforts. As someone has said, the Covid response proved to be a great opportunity for the managerial class to make their work-life balance more agreeable, while the 'little people' carried on toiling away, servicing their needs. And it's those 'little people' who will be paying the price for all this, overwhelmingly. 

  But enough of that. Here's a poem – we all need poems – by Donald Justice, which seems somehow relevant, and is anyway beautiful:

Bus Stop

Lights are burning 
In quiet rooms 
Where lives go on 
Resembling ours. 

The quiet lives 
That follow us— 
These lives we lead 
But do not own— 

Stand in the rain 
So quietly 
When we are gone, 
So quietly . . . 
And the last bus 
Comes letting dark 
Umbrellas out— 
Black flowers, black flowers. 

And lives go on. 
And lives go on 
Like sudden lights 
At street corners 

Or like the lights 
In quiet rooms 
Left on for hours, 
Burning, burning.


  1. Thank you for introducing me to a wonderful poet I would never heard of without your blog.