To The Virus We Are Landscape,
C. J. Thorpe-Tracey
Border Crossing Press, 2020 £8.00
A moment in time
This is very much a pamphlet of and for the moment, responding to the pandemic. The title sums up our predicament: ‘To the virus, we are landscape’. The virus is not sentient, does not sympathise with our lot, just continues to ravage the lives of people it comes across.
The first poem ‘No pharmaceuticals’ could be set in any town or country, describing someone on their sick bed:
I kicked away the duvet
In the ‘First six weeks of lockdown’, the poet considers the wisdom of which side of the bed to sleep on, with the acknowledgement that, ‘under the circumstances’ touch is ‘not a priority, or not too much’.
Lockdown has caused many people to reflect on their lives. The narrator remembers an unkind, possibly cruel, teacher at primary school and charts, in a set of four poems called ‘Catholic Primary’, how he has tried to exorcise her lasting impact on him. In part four, he discovers that the written word will help:
Now it’s autumn twenty twenty
trapped inside, I leave a curse
There are three short poems entitled ‘wet’ dotted among other poems. The second, wet(ii), is most closely aligned to the pandemic with its evocation of nightmares but also the harsh reality many face:
Not this boring gargle though,
from drowning lungs. No visitors.
Also, in dreams, usually you live.
I loved the image ‘a slipper-tipperous glance’ in ‘Eat Out To Help Out’, where C.J. Thorpe-Tracey vividly paints a local café scene only to end:
When you’re not used to it,
it’s unexpectedly cold,
‘Second Spike’ reflects on a range of emotions and realisations as the lockdowns continue into autumn:
We have different angers, you and I
you’re a spike
and I’m a curve.
The final poem, which gave the pamphlet its title, starts:
We imply an enemy
And portray this as a war
The poet covers much ground in this pamphlet, giving insight into how this mysterious foe affects our relationships and peace of mind, as well as our health.