The first item in our poetry series on the Sarum College Blog, by Mark Pryce
‘Distancing’ is a playful look at the strange new phenomenon of ‘social distancing’ and its two-metre space between one person and another.
The poem picks up on the variety of language being used by public health advisers and journalists to describe the 2m gap – the length of a broom, width of a double bed, size of a parking space etc – and then goes on to imagine specific creatures, objects and historical individuals whose length or width would serve to keep two people two metres apart. It ends with a sombre reminder of mortality.
Set between yourself
and every other body living, dead or dying
a sufficient gap
big enough for holding out
a long-handled broom without touching
wide as a double bed
three shopping trollies end to end
half a car parking space two garden benches
four desk chairs arm to arm
the length of Gregori Rasputin
Peter the Great lying down
Abraham Lincoln Henry the Eighth,
Osama bin Laden Charlemagne
Margaret Thatcher with very high heels
Napoleon on stilts Hitler in a top hat
none close together
between each a certain distance:
wingspan of a golden eagle
broad as a Mantua court gown
length for a standard coffin
to pass by sideways.
Read the Sarum Blog to keep up to date with our poetry selection.
The Revd Canon Dr Mark Pryce is a visiting scholar in the Sarum College Centre for Human Flourishing. He is director of Ministry, Birmingham Diocese and Chaplain to The Queen.