Poems for a pandemic

Pauline Green, Convener of Play Reading Group 2 has “adapted” a number of well-known poems for the current situation. They are satiric.

Naming of Parts is a WW2 poem by Henry Reed in which the writer wryly addresses the situation where there is a shortage of essential equipment for the army …

Today we have naming of parts. Yesterday
We had daily cleaning. And tomorrow morning
We shall have what to do after incubating. But today,
We have naming of parts. Forsythia
Glistens like coral in all the neighbouring gardens
And today we have naming of parts.
This is the mechanical ventilator. And this
Is a face-mask ventilator, whose use you will see
When you are given your gloves. And this is a pandemic ventilator
Which in your case you have not got. The branches
Hold in the garden their silent, eloquent gestures
Which in our case we have not got.
And this is a virus test kit: it is perfectly easy
To put a swab in the back of the throat or the nose: and these
Are all the ingredients for the virus tests
Which in our case we have not got; and the pear blossom
Silent in all of the gardens and the bees going backwards and forwards
For today we have naming of parts.

Read the original poem

Your Attention Please is an anti-nuclear war poem by Peter Porter where the writer imagines the announcement if such a war were to break out …

A doctor from China has just warned that an
Virulent virus strike of
Potentially pandemic proportions
Has been launched by Mother Nature
Directly at all the countries of our world.
This announcement will take months to sink in,
You therefore have a matter of weeks
To comply with the advice of medics and
epidemiologists and the WHO and other
People who know about these things
To comply with Regulations – Sections
Medical devices; Medicines; and PPE.
A specially shortened
Message from your Head of State
Will be broadcast at the end
Of this announcement
Do not jog or take well-loved pets
In to the park – they will put you at risk.
Leave the old and officially vulnerable to
Self-isolate – you can’t do a lot for them.
Remember to wear your mask and gloves if
You must go out, even if you know you’re invincible.
Turn on and leave on your television to 107 now,
Turn on and leave on your radios in all rooms,
You cannot have too much news.
Join as many social media groups
As you can tolerate. Do exercising with
Zoom groups and, if you must work at home, video-conference.
Home-educate your children as far as you (and they) can bear it.
They will hear the word
In every political and media utterance and will
Need to learn to spell it.
If you are of that age, use the
Over70s Hour (at most, but not all
Reputable supermarkets) to avoid fights
Over toilets rolls. Newspaper is just as good.
(And if you have a bidet, share it with
Others less fortunate – 2m apart.)
Take all the pasta and wine you need, your
Need is greater than your neighbours. Probably.
Remember, national shortages of anything are
Not your Government’s fault. The
Need for medical equipment, ventilators,
Personal Protective Equipment, tests etc is
Earlier warnings about pandemics are none of your business.
The WHO (not the one with Roger Daltry and Pete Townsend)
Has already given orders for
Massive retaliation against our enemy Nature – it will be
Decisive. Some of us may die.
Remember, statistically
It is not likely to be you.
No flags are flying on Government buildings but the sun is shining.
Covid-19 is the least we have to fear.
We are all in the hands of the World Economy,
Whatever happens happens by its will.
Now stay safe quietly in your sitting rooms.
Read the original poem

Tonight at Noon is by Adrian Henri, the Liverpool poet, playfully imagining all sorts of things which will never happen …

Tonight at noon
The chancellor will send everyone £25,000
Tonight at noon
Rich people will volunteer, unmasked, at Nightingales
Airline owners will pay all their staff with their own money
Star footballers will decline their salaries
Pop stars will decline their royalties
The NHS will magic claps into cash
And children will build ventilators out of Meccano
Tonight at noon
Politicians on TV will try to look worried
Joggers will give way to dog walkers
Elephants will tell each other human jokes
Great tits will learn not to be so squeaky
Presidents will learn to be real
Test ingredients will drop to Earth in hot-air balloons
People in ICUs will breathe easily again
And pigs will fly in formation over Buckingham Palace
Tonight at noon

Read the original poem