The four faces of COVID-19 – the surreal, the sad, the hopeful and the angr

Professor Hilary Cremin, April 9, 2020

Bitey Poem

(to an imaginary group of friends)

I feel quite bitey at the moment!

Do any of you feel bitey?

Do you feel like,

You know, biting everything?


No one?

I mean, look at the cat’s leg

Don’t you just want to bite it?


Not relatable?

Well he’s bitten me lots of times!

Oh OK, I won’t bite the cat.

I mean, I’m not normally….

Yes, I was 2.

I know, I know

It needs to be something resistant

And a bit squidgy.

Maybe a ball?

I think if someone came to the door right now

(not that they would)

I would probably bite them.

I know, I know

Not really.

I am sure I can get a grip.

Will you come round?

That might help.

Ah yes you can’t.

When this is all over?

Well I know you will be busy.

Yes, OK I understand.

Ah well, when you have time then.

I suppose I ought to get back to work.

Yes, yes, I am quite busy actually,

I fact I have a F****** DEADLINE


(sounds of yelling and things being bitten).

War without Bullets

And the doctors

Hold hands

As souls unclip

From claggy bodies.

Rising into the air

Like so many planes.

One then another

A macabre line.

Queued on the runway

Filling their slot.

And the watch

Is still ticking

And the text

Is unanswered

And the bookmark

Still marks

And the doctor weeps

Second-best tears.

And the souls

Float free

Of cooling bodies.

And the virus,

Deadly passenger,

Has already moved on.

And beyond

Eerily quiet

Streets lie dreaming

And birds

Nest undisturbed

And dogs whimper to the moon

And cats look to the skies

And run away


Towards the Sublime

When you wear

Yesterday’s socks.

When you don’t bother

To close the bathroom door.

When you quietly stop yoga

And leave the garden to hungry birds.

When you ‘see’ your mum and dad

Every day.

When your daughter and sister call

Every day.

When you breathe ozone

Under clear blue skies.

When streets lie dreaming.

When you see colleagues and students

In homes all over the globe.

When you share sorrows,

Their worries and their joys.

When you discover who the heroes are.

When a stranger’s distant smile,

And small acts of kindness,

Become towering acts of humanity.


You isolate

In your garden,

Take sun

On your balcony,

And on country walks

Away from it all.

I isolate

In my tiny urban flat,

No garden,

Only glass,

And the window painted shut

Against thieves.

And in the park

Taking in sun

You disperse me,

Shame me, tut me,

Not staying home

For England.

You queue

At the supermarket,

Two meters apart

Even three.

The virtue

Of your civicness

Signalled for all.

One in one out,

A friendly smile.

The shelves are full

I walk past

Supermarket security,

Face masked with suspicion.

Fear not smiles.

Shelves gap-toothed,

People anxious

Carrying muscle memory

Of other supermarkets

In other times

And other places

Where only the strong were served.

You teach your children.

Your global projects

Becoming living-room small.

So many books and ideas.

We see your family performances

On Facebook

I, fearful, choiceless,

Needed care-worker,

leave my children

To their iPads and crisps,

And idleness and video games.

We perform chaos

And getting by.

Trying to forget

That we share

Exam halls.

You go to your study,

Important work.

Your wife fills the slot

Recently vacated

By the ethnic female.

She re-embodies

Domestic woman,

Just for now.

A goddess of sorts.

Your god-status


I am,

Have never not been,

Domestic woman.


Of course.



Cycles of food and faeces

And water and sweat


These are my media.

My art goes unnoticed.

You eat into your savings,

A little.

A few cancelled projects,

You will pick up.

I eat store cupboard basics,

Instant noodles

Until they are gone.

Seeing the end of the month

Coming too fast

Like a brick wall.

You have always been

Your own project.

Organic food

And supplements

Health from the gym,

And Pilates at noon.

Needed restoration

After stressful responsibility.

You celebrate your immunity.

My project is survival.

Fighting asthma

And fumes from cars,

And bone-weariness

And the depression

That threatens to engulf.

My stressful responsibility

Not registering on your radar.

I fear for my immunity.

You say

We are in this together,

Clapping the NHS,

Plucky Brits

We will meet again.

And I say

We were never together.

Your humous and holidays

Carried your vote,

Not the NHS.

Divided Brits

Shall we meet

For the first time?

If death is a leveller

Will you die with me?

Will you take this chance,

This unique precious chance

To be re-born,