Aotearoa New Zealand, July 2021
Bring order from disaster with wheelie bin,
lift the lid open to pour out all within.
Locked in a pandemic, spun to a boil,
centrifuge of Wuhan noodles in chilli oil.
Taste bonfires and wildfires, inhale smoke,
hunker down on Zoom, try to look woke.
Lamps under scarves. Crystals hung in a mobile
go round in a breeze from the open window.
No-one’s going anywhere, except here,
in this vortex, so remain sheltered in place,
though scourged, plagued, the mask hot as
someone else’s breath on every face.
Hands put together, namaste, pushed apart
and the Vulcan greeting given from afar,
to those behind chain-link in quarantine,
dug into themselves, furiously vaping.
Umbilical connection to the iPhone,
stuck navel-gazing in the selfie zone.
Isolated islands in the Gulf stand still,
like container ships under the grill.
Masks and respirators and disposable
gloves, hospitals’ perspex face-shields:
those mounting fears not to be in ICU.
We praise Doctor B. and pass the ammo.
Overseas, there’s still rebellion, revolution.
Some have— against bullets made of rubber —
pebbles, shanghais, and wear masks to fool A.I.
The world pre-Covid, though, is all but over.
Now the cafés are closed, art galleries too,
all the bars and even the flower shops.
There are few buses and fewer cars;
the scent of hand sanitiser hangs in the air.
The nīkau palm stretches to the sunset
curious and lonely fronds at the beach.
From this distance, distance is out of reach.
Infection travels by chauffered limousine.
We step out of the way of those who too
step out of the way in the Age of the Novacene,
because we suspect lurking fever hides
from border detection at MIQ.
The umbilicus has wizened to a knot
of connection that joins each to each
from the beginnings of herd immunity.
A doleful bell tolls to tell us stories
of time that must have a stop:
those who sicken or die, want get well soon,
those stricken in intensive care’s grasp.
Here our looking glass is the moon.
Bolsonaro’s barbarians beat their chests,
and jungles, stalked, tremble and flinch.
The Amazon is mysterious with butterflies
and untold insects to stave off end-times.
Divinity works at the weave to divine
purpose in the chaotic welter of human
derring-do and enterprise. Each month
advances by the slimmest of margins.
Mortality rides a winged gas-guzzler,
over the perimeter, over the border.
Like mannequins frozen, we’re stunned
by the coronavirus scattershot gun.
Brandish the brand. Your bright sword
throws its lance of light to unite us in
a séance for all our futures, held by leaders
who only mouth what their fathers mouthed.
Someone’s playing roulette with craft store jam
and a French baguette, gone on Instagram;
Cries from burning ghats blame raj billionaires,
but it’s everywhere, killer of the year,
and even of the decade, while Netflix
cannot chill, so bring out the muffin mix.
There’s a full moon tonight, it’s a blood moon,
and then it’s a supermoon, full of blood.
Like a terracotta army transported, we gaze up.
In the night sky, beyond the telescope,
the stars are going thermonuclear,
smashing to smithereens what was once clear,
all we believed in, about this blue globe,
this green cabbage, this solid earth that holds
us up while we grope for a sense of gravity,
alert to each shadow that looms, each vibe,
as the unseen virus translates from sign
to sign, and all the strands weave to combine
into one grand unified field, one embrace,
ponderous, grave, with the noise of shovels.
Not for gardens does the soil turn over:
lament each life lost, numbers mummified
by headlines, one mighty sarcophagus.
Anguish might crack and fry each screen.
Riders storm the night, apocalyptic in dream:
thunderous hooves ride cooling fans of servers.
Out there, covid-nineteen, with grim pomp
and ceremony, follows its destiny.
We stay home, we stay quiet in the static,
we lie doggo in our caves of knowing,
lit by the reflections of far-off flames
seen through smartphone glass darkly.
Though clouds of uncertainty flocculate,
we know that a needle can inoculate.
David Eggleton is a poet and writer and critic based in Ōtepoti/Dunedin. He has published a number of poetry collections and chapbooks, and has also released a number of recordings with his poetry set to music by a variety of musicians and composers. His most recent poetry collection is The Wilder Years: Selected Poems, published by Otago University Press in May 2021. He is the Aotearoa New Zealand Poet Laureate for 2019 – 2022.