Poems to share

For Love of Things Invisible

I

Now We Are Things Invisible

The inessential park is closed.
Its benches clean of homeless
bodies hurting less in sleep.
Cigs, wasteful pansies, gratuitous
marigolds, dogs running like flames
and vaguely sinister statues
are out, like fountains in drought.
The wrong romances will not fall
among its turning leaves. Who’d make
a fearful call, craving escape
from beatings, can’t expect to coast
on help from public services.
The sky is roof only to birds
and drones, no place to lose the words
of crazymakers. You can grow
your inward silence indoors now
the inessential park is closed.
Memory restyles it like a scroll,
adding some willows, and a bridge
to which you run, to catch a wish.
The visible, unusable
park; its blue imagined bridge.
For love of things invisible.

II

Plague Fidelity

You may kiss me as much as you
like. I wish you would. I always
wish you would. I wish you always
would. You’re the only one allowed
to kiss me. The science is, lack
of touch can make you ill, even
physically. Sometimes when you
breathe, I start breathing just like you.
Do you remember grandmothers,
poems about grandmothers? You
said life’s not like that. Could be.
Remember asking, laughing, why
I write – used to – about the sea?
Kiss me. Tell me where you are.

III

Coronavirus Swing

What’s different? Why is it different?
Why must we be, when we are not?
I’m beside myself. I’m with you.
For social dancing, read
social distancing. You alone do
I adore. For catastrophe
read charity. For adventure
read attentiveness. Oh baby,
I mean it.
For mask, read ring.

IV

Flowers for the House

There’s a tiny lilac flower
with no name I ever could find,
in Trinidad. You’d notice it
at grass level, when you’re a child.
If there are pandemic babies –
not like jail babies; they won’t spring –
like workhouse babies – lives confined
after pregnancy’s confinement –
what are the fairytales we need?
And how to explain about
going Outside? An enlarged heart
in a rocking chair dreams of games
it used to hide from, all the time
all the time also in the world.

V

Ecopoetic Pandemic Logic

What’s different? Why is it different?
Why must we be, when we are not?
People push for clear-cut heroes
and heroes’ mirrors, enemies.
Who hears an alienating song
in an alienated land?
“We did not kill by bullets
as much as by chemicals
pouring softly into streams
far from cotton T-shirt malls.”
That won’t work. Try this:
First they came
for the transport. Then they came for
the libraries, the hospitals,
the shelters, the helplines;
they came for your education.
Now they’ve come for our own good.
Do you agree? For our own good?

© Vahni Capildeo, 2020

With kind permission of the author

Vahni Capildeo

Vahni Capildeo is a Trinidadian Scottish writer, whose poetry (seven books and four pamphlets) includes Measures of Expatriation, awarded the 2016 Forward Prize for Best Collection. For Love of Things Invisible was written over the weekend of March 14/15, 2020 for use by the Forward Arts Foundation as part of its #NationalPoetryService. Vahni is Writer in Residence at the University of York.