Key to the Hermit Kingdom

Once far to the back, now far out in front,
to bear the brunt and wear the shame,
the minister for health arrives by stealth;
children have assembled for the last bull-run.
The basis of life in these islands is sun.
Random offence takes knee-jerk exception
to a nation's internet solipsism.
They want to topple Cook's statues, wave through
freedom protestors, tweeters who invite you
to burn replicas of J.K.Rowling at the stake,
or shout cancel in Putin's graffitied face,
then pose on Instagram to game the blame.
As yesterday's cassette static unspools,
white noise buzzes across the tells
of a whole world in bruise-coloured blue,
globe mortified by heat-wave distortion,
though too we might die of rabid exposure,
our tarpaulins snatched away by storm-cells,
Our gathered thoughts await their closure;
while all look on, thanks to their lit devices;
and beware the naked blade that flashes
in dearer chainstore supermarket aisles;
beware pop pop pop of police gunshots,
attempts to liberate property from capital.
When asked, step away from those unmasked;
accept the chill vaccine that burns the arm.
Everything depends on the arrival
of red wheelbarrows from China for big box stores,
before global supply links break again:
ever-remoter quotas of autumn's dry spell
frozen, like jagged truths of rock pools drained,
those barren rocks where marooned sailors listen
for the lure of mermaids and police sirens.
Winter's stew of anonymised outrage
lasts lockdown season in the Hermit Kingdom.
Then jet-set Spring arrives, tanned and smiling,
in a jeep towing Summer's caravan,
which brings an all-weather finish to year's end.

— David Eggleton

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