Quarantine Poetry from Across the Pond
By. Beau Williams
The current state of things has me wanting to shove my fingers in my eyes out of boredom, frustration, curiosity, and because every person and government organization is telling me not to (rightly so). In these days (months?) of reflection and uncertainty, I’ve found poetry to be one of the only logical tools I have left to counteract slipping sanity, income loss, and uncertainty.
The following poems were written during quarantine on commission. They attempt to acknowledge the constant topics that seem to be lodged and yelling in my head: Home, compulsion, and death.
The first piece, Locks and Latches, was written in response to the question, “What do I consider home?” In a time of forced seclusion where a lot of us feel like intruders in our own home, I wanted to explore what home meant to me.
Locks and Latches For Kaitlynn
Sometimes it’s a bed in a shoebox with a price tag made of gold.
Sometimes it’s the woven tea cozy walls of a poem. Sometimes it’s a kitchen billowing with the scent of warm food
and your mother’s voice in song.
It’s a warehouse in Galway where artists leave their hearts in shavings on the concrete walls and the concrete floor and we sip good coffee on the couch.
It’s a small town in California where the sunset
can be an open wound but the sky’s been through
heavier shit than that and is happy to sit and laugh with you about it.
We all find home where we do
and know in our guts where it isn’t.
Sometimes we aren’t sure if the doorknob will chill or warm our hand, but we sure as hell know the weight of it, know the creak of the clocks and the walls inside, but we pray to locks and latches that it still knows and wants to warm our bones.
We know the sound the door makes when it opens,
know the crash a door makes when it shuts.
Though many of us are stuck at home, cabin fever and being roadstrung have alarmingly similar attributes. Anxiety begins to blend with monotony and this is where imagination seems to be the only way to break out of this fixed path. This next poem is a “left field” take on not touching your face.
What They Tell You Not To Do For Brittany
Outside the windblown tree ticks at my window like an old clock counting off-beat. I know there are rubies hidden under my tongue. Cat burglars creep, hang from the dome, repel down.
Incapacitated bodies longways in my teeth, arms and legs in knots behind their backs.
I’m told to keep my fingers from my mouth. Told the day is not mine to save, the jewelers and victims aren’t asking for help. At day five, my fingers are Avengers after the snap;
My hands can’t snatch a culprit from a cavern or pick a queen bee from a web. Can’t undo knots or break bonds. Today, our mouths and eyes and ears take the treasures
and the rest of the day tick, tick, ticks on. ***
With death seemingly on every door knob and street lamp, it is hard to keep that thought from your head. Every cough is a death sentence, every railing touched is tragedy. This last poem is a take on seclusion and what happens after you die.
For Those Who Didn’t Think They’d Outlive Me
Or When I Die... After Ryan
I tried to write a poem about the time I found God in an apple core,
but that never actually happened. We haven’t talked in years. Not for lack of trying, I just had the phone on silent, still do. It’s always in my pocket or it’s always in my hand but She’s one of those I know will always call again tomorrow. I’m physically so far away from everyone who’s gotten me here.
I wish good things in their direction. A free drink that leads to a new friend, a good dog that greets you on the street, your housemate does the dishes or your lover changed the sheets.
You catch yourself smiling without reason.
If I die in my sleep in a shoebox in Dublin, God will show up like “Dude, have you been ghosting me?” Then we’ll laugh at the irony. She’ll reach out for me because things with wings tend to forgive easily.
I’ll reach for my phone without thinking and my hand will go right through.
It will blink in the dark the way apples, through an orchard, drop.
Notifications from people who knew for sure I’d outlive them.
I won’t respond, but I’ll pluck an angel feather from my back and write a poem on my forearm on the way out. I’ll revise it on the way there and read it to strangers in a dive bar
or wherever it is that angels take you when they finally take you.
About the Poet:
Beau Williams is a performance poet, writer, organizer & facilitator from the United States. He is currently based in Dublin, Ireland.
Launching his career in venues of the New England region of the States, Beau has performed his work as part of collectives as well as solo across the US and Ireland along with competing for Manchester, NH & Portland ME in the National Poetry Slam. His work, published by numerous websites and journals, may be found in his own collections RUMHAM (2016, Red Bench Press) and Nail Gun and a Love Letter (2018, Swimming With Elephants). In January of 2017, Beau was the Artist in Residence at Burren College of Art in Ballyvaughan, Ireland. At the World Poetry Slam in Paris in 2019, Beau, as Ireland’s representative, placed 15th overall. He is also the Head Organizer of the Glasshouse Poetry Open Mic in Galway.
Currently, Beau is studying at the University College of Cork in the Masters in Creative Writing program; is the 2018-2019 All-Ireland Poetry Grand Slam Champion of 2018; and remains fairly optimistic.