September 2020

Back to Issue 8

Cherry blossom (and other letters from lockdown)

By Emily Barker



Despite the lockdown 

the cherry tree blooms. 

Bubble gum beneath party blue. 

A pink so loud it bursts 

the new quiet. 

Bird song augments

the eerie un-hum

of engineless streets and skies.



Our air soon as clean as

every fingerbreadth of our houses,  

every spidered nook remembered 

in the wake of hollowed time. 


We suck in spring through open doors,

rooms like winter flesh exposed.

Hear a neighbour whisper wildlife 

is moving in where we are not


A herd of deer in the town centre 

strut around like nervous youths. 

            How quickly nature takes over

when we’re caged up.   

Walls inch closer by the hour. 



One walk a day. We pass our local

(now a corner shop), the queue 

for allotment vegetables, backyard eggs and ale

winds round the pub car park 

and down the street towards the woods. 

Three-dimensional humans! We bask

in the gift of momentary connection. 


Pictures of rainbows 

stuck to street-facing windows

all the colours of isolation 

arch in gratitude towards new heroes,   

those behind-the-scenes saviours we hope 

catch the applause thrown every Thursday, 

that drowns out rivers, shakes the five valleys

from their green and daisy slumber.  



I lie in the grass of The Heavens,

follow the branching pathlets 

of an ancient oak and ask: 

who am I without deadlines,

without somewhere else to be?


I learn new words like furloughed, 

write lists I won’t take with me 

(no flour, no red split lentils, no IVF),  

begin to learn to let go as I stare 

down the barrel of an empty diary. 


Cherry blossom starts to fall 

and the death toll rises

with waves of the warming sea. 



I count the minutia of blessings: 

the blood-deep burgundy of our Japanese maple, 

the haptic wonder of waxen leaf between thumb and finger. 

A path of sunlight that falls beneath the piano, 

disrupted by my husband’s shadow. The sparrows, 

that dart from eave to garden, then back again. 


The smell of morning coffee. 


What of this slow down,

if I could choose, 

would I dare take with me?