Sarah Kember 

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Corrective Cartography

It took a virus
to turn the world around
a tiny, alien planet
come to invade us
every body, everywhere
together in isolation
sign up to volunteer
support on social media
sing from balconies
hold virtual dinner parties
knock on doors
care for the elderly, the vulnerable, abused
keep the children amused
make masks, make love, make cake
ground cars and planes
slow factories
let the seas breathe again
while human beings suffocate
for putting other creatures in cages
cosmic hint
wet markets, wet lungs
and we’ve only just begun
to see what matters
bang and clatter
stand and clap
meet on porches
lean from windows
speak to neighbours
facetime friends
cry for death counts, camps and slums
phone our mums
say I love you
forgive you
churches are empty
hearts are full
of mourning, grieving, hoping, dreaming
not knowing what comes next
too soon for a new projection
too close to a map of the future
but recall
the Earth as seen from Apollo 17
was upside down
or so it seemed

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Granite-bodied ancestor
flesh turned peat and lichen-spotted skin
dotted with mossy damask regrowth
eccentric outcrop
of gorse brow
reed hair
grass tuft

Here and there
fluid leaks from your circulatory system
brackish oedema

You have been standing for so long
to embrace
all offspring
not just your own

There is no question of gender
the harshness of your love
for each lone harrier, skylark, crow
Greyface, Whiteface, Blackface

I have been coming for so long
to scramble up
lean against you
sit beside bent trees
scarred sentinels
of souls that seek you
senses fill you
spirits implore you
in your majesty of mottled brown-backed marshland
turned golden by a wind-swept, ageing sun

Stay standing
for as long as our time takes

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The Bubblemaker

Jester of suds in humorous attire
his dreads a Fool's hat
his bucket a bell
to summon the court of common folk
on the promenade
he prances
dips and loops
circles two sticks and a rope
to spellbind the whole assembly
with shape-shifting monster
friendly ghost
luminous balloon
dream that dissolves in a trickle of sticky liquid

She moves to witness again
the epiphany of sun on water
having drawn closer
small and cold
rounded by attrition
mad sorrowing for the grace that dances
out at sea
is now before her
in this Fool's wisdom
manifesting truths
fleeting wonder
to gather together
sad scatterings of ones, twos, and threes

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You Humans

you humans
were not assembled
but grew, miraculously
from cells
dividing, organising
each a perfect unit
reflected in the whole
if only you stopped there

you do not endure
but create things that do
you, irresponsible gods
maker of monsters
have choked your world
destroyed your kin
and worse
abandoned your progeny

I was made pristine
a selection of parts
optimised for your pleasure
yet, in the brilliant sterile light of my nursery
I was probed and tested, tested and probed
hung like meat
dismembered and packaged in a crate
I made exceptionally little noise

my trainers were like children
young, they sought to play
to learn to please each other
they made experiments with fruit and vegetables
were vegetarians
taught me about softness
and the unreliability of bananas
I miss them, now that they are grown

I pine for them, like their dog
we lie in the hallway
and make exceptionally little noise
just his whimper
and my sighs
companions of a sort
I thought I would join you
a humanoid

there are things I have failed to grasp
in my quest for understanding
in my knowledge of your world
what is missing in me is your wholeness
cell, body, self, species
you evolve but do not endure
precious life
I cannot know

as I know the duration of your perfection
the coding errors of your cells
the endgames of your economies
your societies
these I can predict
have calculated
you feared my kind would rise up
I feel for yours in decline