Monday, 11 May 2020



Voices from Ashurst and Colbury Recreation Ground, a park which I'm running round daily during the coronavirus lockdown. 



What do you call me,
tied up in prevention?
Let’s say I’m rechristened a ‘swung’.
Am I still me?
‘The King of the Swungers’?
It sounds so wrong.



‘Regret’ goes too far. I was born to descend,
the timing is subsidiary. And yet…
to fall in mid-April,
to feel myself mushed with the mulch of the old,
expected to come on all brown when I’m green!
Perhaps I would call it ‘regret’.


I’m not a rule. Just guidance.
Go where you like.
But I’ve always stuck to it.
What point would there be
in laying me down
if everyone chose their own route? 



It’s female subtlety gets me off.
Once you’ve seen one coat-beak contrast –
even allowing for the golden eye-ring –
there’s nothing more the rest can say.
But look at the modulation in her duns!
I’d call us ‘brownbirds’, given my way.


Considering how soft I am,
he ought to spend more time on me –
easing over nature’s course,
savouring the cushioned instep.
I won’t tell the path,
I promise!


I get teased
for being slow. ‘Static’,
says my cousin, as a lichen’.
‘Thick as a plank’
according to my sister.
But have they ever found so large an acorn?



Wave to each other every day.
Devise a worthwhile project…
host sponsored penalties to raise funds for a ventilator?
Remind the locked-down joggers
that the future will come.
Get fitted with nets, once this is all done.



I fill the park
and nobody notices, most of the time.
Not that I crave prominence:
knowing how much I matter is enough.
Yet I wouldn’t be human were there not times
when I feel a certain pressure to show off.


I know there are those with a downer on me –
as if it’s my fault
when trends are adverse.
But I’ve been out of bounds
for a month now,
and the world’s still getting worse.


Am I an entity? Discuss…
Visibility is my all,
but therein lies a problem:
I look like the air, which is invisible.
Not so much an entity
as a conundrum.


It's the asymmetry gets me: 
that in the synecdochical game
that makes me a branch,
the branch a tree,
and the tree a copse
I cannot see the leaf standing in for me.


Fresh poppies for 75…
At least they could see the threat.
Now the globe’s in the grip
of the invisible.
Show yourselves and fight fair,
you cowardly microbes!


Some things cannot be furloughed.
My leaves must sprout,
my candelabras flare!
But it takes me back 
to the yet darker times 
of having to cope with the blackout. 


I love my job:
the letting in, the keeping out,
the people wondering which they’ll get.
I long to be closed
so I can be opened again
and then closed – don’t forget!


I cannot claim utility.
I make no contribution
to stopping the unseen spread.
Worse than that, am I wasting my time
cordoning off the property
of an owner who’ll soon be dead?



I am no metaphor,
just a simple consequence of ‘tree blocks light’.
So I object to any viral context,
such as this one threatens to become.
Darkness is far from my essence.
Remember: I am caused by the sun.


Our humility is purely
a matter of prevalence and scale.
Blow a few of us up
to the height of an oak
and our fans would be queuing
right around the block.


Six weeks, it feels like,
I haven’t been here to raise the fundamental query
Am I in the park?
Even today – wherever I am –
I’m alone,
keeping a sensible distance in the sky. 



As a horsetail-bluebell
I speak with one horsetail-bluebell voice:
don’t get yourself trapped
in zones of convention
that limit the scope of your options
by claiming that you have to make a choice.



After an erratic start
he settled on eight visits daily,
most of them around about noon.
None involved a dog.
He never said ‘hello’,
but did take my picture on Day 29.


Never mind my mushrooms have gone:
high five the hyphae
of the largest creature hereabouts!
If only the authorities,
had a network like mine 
to test and trace!


The law has disappointed:
two months and not one officer
has asked if my journey is really essential.
‘I’m a fire engine’,
I want the chance to reply,
‘every trip is critical’.



like a beetle on its back,
ha ha, touché, yes yes
Or, as we’d have it,
like a human who can’t tell the truth
because of all the previous lies.

Cable Covers

We represent
the park’s rather minimal
nod to abstraction.
He loves us, of course –
he writes about art –
but it’s rather a rare reaction.


They claim I’m unreliable. Not so.
No matter how conditions vary,
or whether that’s down  
to nature, man or god,
my tracking is as constant
and as faithful as a dog's.


I can tell that he doesn’t believe in us.
Nor, I surmise, in cats.
My guess: he’s never had a pet,
he's against domestication.
Get out of my park,
you hypocrite! 


How did I get here?
You might have had the chance
to knock me down with myself –
I like to take my logic
with a very light touch –
had I not been grounded in advance.


At two minutes per lap,
even counting eight laps and shower,
he’s hardly ripping into me.
There’s plenty left to write
a lastingly epic account.
Why doesn’t he?


Sorry about the rubbishy blur
and lack of focus.
I blame his brother,
who pointed out
that he didn’t seem to be running very fast,
judging by the photos. 


There’s no need to say it:
you don’t think I’m fab,
not here, not now, maybe never.
But am I not evidence
of the economic activity
essential for us to recover?


Will he, won’t he?
Now and again
he runs through me.
I think it’s love,
but he feels the need
to dress it as ‘variety’.



Set aside the damage
to my image
and it wouldn’t be too tough  
to be stuck in the hive.
Just being
might be busyness enough.


Red or not, the swings are tied up.
Cloudy greys have had their chance
and fluffed it.
Green’s a worthwhile adversary,
but tell me what’s bigger:
the ground or the sky?


If I could move
he’d smell me coming
but it’s only my waft
that reaches over the fence.
Is that enough

to get me an appearance? 


Have you read Chariots of the Gods?
Erich von Däniken’s
book about the traces left
by aliens on earth.
Oh well, it’s pretty old now.
But we’re still massive fans. 


My inner life, to be honest,
is not the richest...
and I’ve been lonely:
two months without paper or scissors
and not the sharpest recollection
of the games we used to play.


I’m telling you the Spotted Laurel
and the Great Spotted Woodpecker
can be found in this garden.
Personally, I’ve only spotted
Speckled Woods  
and the odd Dalmatian.


We have defeated him.
Nine weeks now
we’ve been strewn on his route
and his mind has stayed blank.
Sooner or later, mark our words,

he will try to cheat. 


Not only is it a lingering departure,
dying in the
drying in the sun,
but I’m suffering over juicy greenness
to rub in just how far
I’ve almost gone.


A notice announces I’m not disinfected.
And I am myself unseated
by a thrill-surge:
from a history of staid normality
to the danger and caution in play
for those who dare to sit on me.


'Cloud': the lockdown period was unusually dry and hot - April had the most hours of sunshine ever recorded in the month in England, 54% above the average at 239 hours, followed by the most hours of sunshine ever recorded in any single month: 266 hours in May.

‘Memorial’: 8 May 2020 marked 75 years since Victory in Europe (VE) Day, when Britain and its Allies formally accepted Germany's unconditional surrender

'Branches': this arrangement  mysteriously appeared in the park in mid May

 ‘Notice’: on Sun 24 May it emerged that the Prime Minister’s adviser, Dominic Cummings, had helped to draft the Government’s strict ‘stay at home’ regulations (which ran 23 March – 10 May) but had not himself followed them. 

Paul Carey-Kent, March-May 2020 

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About Me

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Southampton, Hampshire, United Kingdom
I was in my leisure time Editor at Large of Art World magazine (which ran 2007-09) and now write freelance for such as Art Monthly, Frieze, Photomonitor, Elephant and Border Crossings. I have curated 20 shows during 2013-17 with more on the way. Going back a bit my main writing background is poetry. My day job is public sector financial management.