Perhaps there are poets who will capture these times in the way that the poet Henry Reed captured the mood of soldiers training for battle during the Second World War.
Henry Reed’s words “which in our case we have not got” seemed a perfect expression of the feeling at a training session for lockdown. Preparations are in place for a return to the days of virtually empty streets.
The times are soft and easy when compared to the horrors of the 1940s, but talking to a group of teachers there seemed a sense of dwelling in a world where there were parallel realities.
The training was to prepare them for making lessons they could post online. Telling them to save their lessons in a format that could be posted on the YouTube platform, I said they should scroll down to where they could select the option to save in a compatible format, except the option was not there. The software on the machines was old, the machines were old, castoffs from an expensive private school in the town.
“We scroll down to save as wmv,” I said, “which in our case we have not got.”
The poem studied in teenage years echoed through my mind. Sitting in a school classroom seemed as far removed from the realities of an intensive care unit filled with people struggling to breathe as japonica was removed from the realities of war.
Today we have naming of parts. Yesterday,
We had daily cleaning. And tomorrow morning,
We shall have what to do after firing. But today,
Today we have naming of parts. Japonica
Glistens like coral in all the neighbouring gardens,
And today we have naming of parts.
This is the lower sling swivel. And this
Is the upper sling swivel, whose use you will see,
When you are given your slings. And this is the piling swivel,
Which in your case you have not got. The branches
Hold in the gardens their silent, eloquent gestures,
Which in our case we have not got.
This is the safety-catch, which is always released
With an easy flick of the thumb. And please do not let me
See anyone using his finger. You can do it quite easy
If you have any strength in your thumb. The blossoms
Are fragile and motionless, never letting anyone see
Any of them using their finger.
And this you can see is the bolt. The purpose of this
Is to open the breech, as you see. We can slide it
Rapidly backwards and forwards: we call this
Easing the spring. And rapidly backwards and forwards
The early bees are assaulting and fumbling the flowers:
They call it easing the Spring.
They call it easing the Spring: it is perfectly easy
If you have any strength in your thumb: like the bolt,
And the breech, the cocking-piece, and the point of balance,
Which in our case we have not got; and the almond blossom
Silent in all of the gardens and the bees going backwards and forwards,
For today we have the naming of parts.