by Peter Branson
‘That every house visited be marked with a red cross in the middle of the door, “Lord have mercy upon us” to be set close over the same cross until lawful opening of the said house.’ (London, 1st July, 1665) – from ‘A journal of the plague year’ – Daniel Defoe, pub 1722
Between 22nd Aug & 26th Sept, 38,195 Londoners died of plague, a far greater percentage of the population then that number would equate to today.
Back there, once it has taken hold, they know,
not rocket science, die-cast, there is no hope,
so prudent people recognise the need
for quarantine until the pestilence
has passed. The streets are wild with whispers, cures,
quack remedies dispensed by mountebanks.
Some, heedless of fair warning, desperate folk,
plunder the houses of the living dead.
Ours is the age where wizards charm within
the twinkling of an eye, both sight and sound
broadcast. We’re puppet masters of their world
made flesh, crave other senses too, the balm
of fond embrace, the salve of healing kiss,
‘Love conquers all’ the seal of tenderness.
Peter Branson, full-time poet and songwriter, has been published widely, including in Acumen, Agenda, Ambit, Envoi, London Magazine, North, Prole, Warwick Review, Crannog, Causeway, Iota, Poetry Salzberg, Butcher’s Dog, Frogmore Papers, Interpreter’s House, SOUTH, Crannog, London Grip, High Window, THE SHOp, Sarasvati, Measure, Columbia Review, and Huston Poetry Review. His last two collections, Red Hill and Hawk Rising, were published by Lapwing, Belfast. He was shortlisted for a recent Poetry Business Pamphlet and Collection competition. Art by Karyn Kloumann, founder of award-winning indie publisher Nauset Press.