I am Persephone with the lid on
Hidden away from the world
The mattress in my bedroom is companionable
Moulds to my contours
The rumpled sheets give testimony to boredom
Days shrivel to the size of a window
I could be an Egyptian pharaoh
Entombed in a pyramid
Dead flowers stiffen in a vase
Lace curtains wilt in the heat
Such incarceration would torture
A humming bird
Health is like porcelain
Easy to crack when older
All who are shielding are Ladies of Shalott
Living in shadows, half lives
Night spreads like a bruise over the face of the sky
Moonlight, corpse-white, limps through the dragging hours
About this poem
This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2020. Best Scottish Poems is an online publication, consisting of 20 poems chosen by a different editor each year, with comments by the editor and poets. It provides a personal overview of a year of Scottish poetry. The editor in 2020 was Janette Ayachi.
The title and the first couplet of this poem stole me. A lock within a room, mummified within a house, and down with the lid strikes a hand that arrives in the shot to crease more sheets, stare out of more windows. Yes, this poem spoke to me of the passing of time this year, and the various metamorphosis felt, and of always sealing each day with the adventure of catching a glimpse of the moon in her many ‘corpse white’ guises. The fragility sensed at the centre ‘Health is like porcelain / Easy to crack when older’ that gong-struck testament to how brittle the body can be; no matter how supple the mind as we face threat to our mortality. This poem is a postcard of 2020.
When writing Lockdown In a Bedroom, I thought first of emtombment, of the living death by isolation being experienced by so many. This sparked thoughts of characters from history, myth and literature: Persephone, The Lady of Shalott, entombed Pharoahs. And then, I thought of creatures who represent freedom: the weasel, the humming bird, the Archangel. Finally, I considered those nearest to death, especially confronted by Covid- the elderly. At seventy three, I’m aware of how vulnerability increases with age….becomes fragile like porcelain….and the dragging of days..