Rodney Wood lives in Farnborough and is co-host of a monthly live open mic in Woking as well as one on Zoom. He has been published in many magazines including recently in Black Nore and /jerryjazzmusician. He has published two pamphlets, Dante Called You Beatrice and When Listening Isn’t Enough.
I’M MISSING THE SWEET SMELLS OF HERBS & SPICES
“Plague doctors wore a mask with a bird-like beak to protect them from being infected by deadly diseases which they believed were airborne. In fact, they thought disease was spread by miasma, a noxious form of ‘bad air.’ To battle this imaginary threat, the long beak was packed with sweet smells, such as dried flowers, herbs & spices.” Frances White (2 June 2014), Why did doctors during the Black Death wear ‘beak masks’? History Answers.
My camouflage face mask: double-layer
microfibre, wire nose bridge, machine
washable, coloured grey & green.
It’s the deluxe commando version.
Great if you’re in a jungle or forest
but I only trek to the supermarket
when needed, usually tomorrow,
just me, a plastic bag & my face mask.
Today I’m short of chicken,
cream & potatoes for my dinner.
So I walk down the hill to the shops.
Cars honk when they pass me.
They must be really impressed
by my deluxe face mask.
I join the queue. Again I think
people must be really impressed
as they’ve even called the police
to come & see my commando face
mask. Here they come. One of them
carries what could be a banana
and shouts put down the bag, show
me your hands, get on the ground,
put down the bag or I shoot!
They must be shouting at someone else.
I’m not wearing glasses because
they steam up easily when I wear
my camouflage face mask & without
specs all my vistas become shimmery.
I imagine my Hugo Boss eyewear
at home on top of the electric
upright piano listening to someone,
something playing Misty for me.
© Rodney Wood
IT’S ALL GOING TO RISE & FALL & RISE AGAIN
“People had parties to celebrate being alive even though most of the people…already had the Black Death & did not know it.” Vicki Rowe (24 November 2019), The Black Death, storymaps.aregis.com
the Garden of Earthly Delights
filled with people clinging to each other
the pictures of my family on the mantelpiece
poised between elegy & history
the video clips of my dreams show
our terrible wars have fallen silent
the sounds of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
the scattered codes of dogs
the slate blue mist from the river
opal stones in their bed
the movement of my eyes
is really beautiful
the way I jump around like a three year old
the green of wind between leaves
the zigzagging at the edge of the ocean
of this one life I have
the routine of coffee in disposable cups
my jerky heartbeats
the expected appearance of god
with an entourage of angels
the fluorescent rose of being
in a world where everyone laughs
the feeling of wonder where all things
are filled with light
the future spread out like a feast or a song
filled with people listening
to poems while they can & talking
of the world full of our things
© Rodney Wood
THE GENERAL LAW OF CHANGE
At the time of the Black Death war, plague, hunger,
droughts & ecological threats were thought
to be punishments because society
had turned away from God. Flagellants believed
governments & church had let them down
& the only thing they could do is ask God
to show mercy. They wanted to do something
for everyone & acted like heroes,
families were growing weaker by the day
& sons & daughters were probably dead,
buried & that was the start of another,
better story for them, so they pray because
the more they pray the more true their faith becomes.
They march with other zealots in single file
dragging a wooden cross to arrive in town
wearing white garments to show the blood better
but I wonder about the laundry. Penitents
wear a hood so attention is not directed
at them but to God. The line heads straight
for the church where bells would ring to announce
their arrival & they would begin to scourge
themselves with nails embedded in whips
experience so much bloody pain while
chanting & atoning for all our sins.
The Flagellant movement faded when one
of their leaders was burnt at the stake
& in the towns people noticed they carried
the plague with them. Post-Covid our God is money.
Authority doesn’t like “outsiders”,
“extremists”, “terrorists” anyone questioning
the existing social order & as soon
as they can banished these people
put them in prison, or have them disappear.
Wars, xenophobia & crises are used
by governments to distract people from
thinking the post Covid normal must be
nothing like the old normal. Change is needed
the past should be blown away puff – like that,
while there’s still time, the little time that’s left.
© Rodney Wood
MASQUE WITH THE BLUE QUEEN
“There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet-dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, there was wine.” Edgar Allen Poe
They leave the city & the dying
to have a party every night
in the happy castle deep in the forest
where the moon is a bowl of wine,
everyone has open mouths
shouts & acts like fools
they want to show they’re alive
that each day is made for pleasure.
The night is stitched with dancing –
ballroom, line, circle & the conga,
endless Abba tunes like Money Money Money,
The Winner Takes All, Dancing Queen,
classic soul like You Make Me Feel,
Let’s Stay Together, I Want You
& a bit of disco Born To Be Alive,
I Will Survive, Don’t Leave Me This way.
Ravens on the battlements are dancing.
In the hall below everyone waves their arms
display armpits to show all they suffer from
is Saturday Night fever but the Blue Queen
is decorated & disfigured with buboes under
arms & exploding from her face. Guards drive
her out of the castle together with a few retainers
& the ball continues as if nothing happened.
Months later on his way to see his bishop
a priest stumbles across the happy castle deep
in the forest. He pushes open the gates
& sees on the floor of the bailey a smiling
face under a crown, flowing silks, furs, hose,
tunics worn by a band of corpses all of them
painted blue, stained with pus & shit.
The priest sighs & carries the remains
outside the castle walls, along a blue road
to a field for a proper Christian burial.
Trees cross themselves & murmur
as the shovel says shhh, shhh…shhh…
© Rodney Wood