Hard to read the news or watch TV or listen to the radio these days without being inundated by items about COVID-19, non of it too good except for the examples of heroism given by health workers treating the sick in spite of the dangers to their own well-being. Interesting too that for the first time ancillary staff such as cleaners, porters and hospital office staff are being recognised for the essential part they play in keeping our hospitals open for business. Maybe one of the good things that will come out of all this is that in future we might get our priorities right as to which members of the workforce are the more important for keeping us alive and that when they look for pay-rises we will take them more seriously. However, I am not too hopeful about that. I am quite sure that the astronomical salaries paid to talk-show hosts will continue. Tells us something about ourselves.
Yes, the web and social media are full of contributions on the subject of the dreaded virus and I have to say I find some of them a bit dreary and seemingly written for the sake of writing something. I hope my own contribution ‘April, London’ doesn’t fall into the same category and that it offers a ray of hope. I will leave the reader to judge.
April, London In Mile End Park the daffodils explode again and he's beside me telling hothey’re good as any fringed the edge of Ullswater. He talks about the beautiful, the way it is inseparable from the brutal. Think, he says, the ghostly language of the earth: its cresting waves: such majesty – and threat. Its mountain peaks – reminders of our frailty. And yet – this splendid, fluttering host! I think the splendid, serried ranks that roared at Nuremberg and prophesied the bones and blitzmuck of this bombsite underneath our feet. But yes, they’re beautiful and good as any trimmed the banks of Windermere that spring that year. Or any year, whatever bad our futures bring.
The other speaker in the poem is of course William Wordsworth, author of a much more famous (and much more accomplished) daffodil poem which he wrote with the help of his sister Dorothy. He is a poet never far from the insides of my writing life.
You can also find a video of my poem in Italian on the Italian Cultural Institute website www.iicdublino.esteri.it where it appears as part of the #WeAreWithItaly campaign organised in support of the Italian people who suffered so much in this unprecedented time of difficulty. The translation was greatly assisted by the Italian poet Anna Maria Robustelli, and I offer it below. And if it is at all possible you haven’t ever read William’s poem (for shame!) please dig out your anthologies and do so immediately!
Aprile, Londra A Mile End Park i narcisi esplodono di nuovo e lui è accanto a me a raccontare che sono bravi come quelli che sfrangiavano le sponde di Ullswater. Parla del bello, come sia inseparabile dal brutale. Immagina, dice, il linguaggio spettrale della terra: la cresta delle sue onde: maestosità – e minaccia. Le sue vette – promemoria della nostra fragilità. E ancora – questa splendida schiera svolazzante! Io penso agli splendidi ranghi serrati a Norimberga che profetizzarono le ossa e il fango del blitz proprio sotto i nostri piedi. Ma, sì, sono belli e buoni come quelli che decoravano le rive del Windermere quella primavera quell’anno. O ogni anno, qualunque male il nostro futuri porti.