Novelist and emerging poet, Nick Browne

LOCKDOWN

I

The midges are out in force tonight, strangers to social isolation, 

keen to get into my clothes, my hair

I shrink from their touch  

the closest I’ve been to a crowd for weeks, 

close-pressed clouds of them, their buzzing in my ear is almost

conversation.

II

The streets are full of brigands, masked or scarfed

bottled sanitiser holstered in low slung handbags

itchy hands are trigger happy here in these clean streets

where tumbleweed should blow down Sheen Lane

every man’s a stranger in this wild, South West London town 

eye-ball the gap between us: who’s the fastest to withdraw?

III

I can’t recall where I slipped through or when,

portals to other worlds aren’t billed.

This one’s a close relation of my own, 

fewer cars, planes, vistas of trees unfold,

novel statues, soaring spires, but Austen’s

‘Reason and Rationality’s, unknown.

MIGRATION PERIOD

Across the whale-road on a broad, wave-rider,

packed together like boxed fish

with the water rearing higher than a wild horse.

Below, a mountain’s span of water, a monstrous well,

Swell of teeming waters storm this tide-wolf’s keel,

Cymen and Eawynn, Sweterun and Aesc

cowering in the cold bowels of a dead-tree hull.

At the ragged coast, rock-castled, masked by fog

they clambered knee-deep in silt and surf. 

The land is no more welcoming than the sea,

borrowed ground is brutally guarded

but the earth itself, deep as the ocean,

buries bones impartially. 

The sea is a multi-mouthed fiend, 

to fall is to be consumed

to be stripped of breath.

They are raked by the claws of the waves,

the crush of bold bodies crammed too close

squeezes out hope.

Aamena, Ahmad, Leila and Karim.

At the ragged coast, rock-castled, masked by fog

they clamber knee-deep in silt and surf.

The land is no more welcoming than the sea,

borrowed ground is bureaucratically guarded

but the earth itself, deep as the ocean,

buries bones impartially. 

EASTER 2020

I

Good Friday is our mourning day, we dwell on loss,

asphyxiated on a crucifix because

back then we shouted for Barabbas for the craic.

Now Raab and Boris, busy taking Britain back, 

allow our best to die without the means to fight:

we wash our hands for hours as if to put that right.

II

Herds of deer cwtch together in the dappled April light 

overshadowed by the sprawling pack of people

exercising their rights, on foot, bike or skateboard

distanced though present: the army of the absent, 

the not yet ghosts are grieving in shadowed isolation 

every death infecting a hidden throng with grief.

III

No church bells this morning only the exultant song of birds,

treble- voiced children hunting for eggs next door.

In the stove, lamb’s roasting only our festival table lacks

place for family shielded from us at home.

Too warm, too still for Spring only the budding copper-beech speaks,

on this strange Easter day, of Resurrection

THE BLACK PATH (BRIDGEND)

My grandfather walked the black, cinder path

between housing estates and farmland.

No countryman, as such, 

he knew coal, criminals then factory floor,

walking in his steady, easy way 

the usual walk with a stick to slice

the heads off nettles. 

He’d tilt his head and say a name: ‘skylark,’ ‘linnet’

‘chaffinch,’ ‘thrush.’ It was the kind of thing a 

grown man knew, like lines of Shakespeare

Keats and Shelley, where to go to miss the traffic

on the A48, and all the ‘B’ roads to the sea. 

I thought one day I’d know their songs as I walked

the usual walk. 

My father always keen to be outdoors

bought  books and leather-cased  binoculars

observed and noted with his draughtsman’s eye

the plumage, beak shape,  line of wing,

tilting his head to listen to the song 

he’d learned to know, walking on with 

slow attentiveness.

I had a ring tone once of some bird singing. 

I only guessed it was a nightingale. 

Tilting my head to answer it, I’d think again

of the black path, Dad and Bampa knowing things

about a world that isn’t here, the birds, their names,

and beauty, the way to the sea. All walked the usual walk.

All gone before me.

Poet and novelist, nick browne

Nick Browne is an established novelist and aspiring poet and poetry critic. She is the author of nine YA titles published by Bloomsbury and her poetry has appeared in Acumen and Ink, Sweat, and Tears.  Website http://nmbrowne.com/  Blog https://www.nmbrowne.com/blog

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