Poem: Locked In, Locked Down

April 8, 2020

Collage created by Sadie with images from Pixabay

Sadie Souter explores a restless mind in quarantine

We didn’t ask to be a part of history
yet here we are

Locked in, locked down
My four walls bury me six feet deep

My restless heart swimming
through a reverie of roses, tulips and lilies,

apple pies and bee stings and the smell
of fresh cut grass and dust after rain,

mountains crashing into the sky,
a thousand songs of the summer breeze

and the foam that lives on waves,
a turquoise dream. But I can’t sleep

My restless mind keeps thinking
of fevers, coughs and aching lungs

and the time that’s stolen, frozen, melting
into the palm of my hand

but I release it and quivering wings
flutter away, slowly but surely

I breathe in the silence and it fills me
like a balloon

Stretched out in the endless days
endless nights sprawling before me

Has a month ever felt this long?
Condensed time

Four walls of past, present, future, history
Here we are.

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I wrote this poem in response to Simon Armitage, the poet laureate, who wrote a piece titled ‘Lockdown’, about the coronavirus pandemic. He attempts to soothe the swirling minds of Britain, as a ‘Lockdown’ descends across the world.

In my poem, I tried to achieve this same sense of intermingling suffering and hope, as it is exactly what makes Armitage’s poem so profoundly intimate. He encapsulates the collective consciousness of anxiety and introspection.

Essentially, what I took away from ‘Lockdown’ is to stop fighting our fears, and instead embrace them in all their imperfect glory, channelling our restless energy into art instead of dread.

His poem instantly struck me with its meditative tone, encouraging us to assess the situation, consider how we feel and, ultimately, accept it and move forward.

Armitage preaches that this time in quarantine is a chance to escape the hustle and bustle of our lives, and disappear into our creativity, a good book or the beauty of the natural world.

Armitage’s poem has got me thinking about the power of creativity and poetry, reinventing what freedom really means to us

The contrast of the extensive semantic field of epic and whimsical language; “streams like necklaces, fan-tailed peacocks, painted elephants”, with the trapping “lockdown”, suggests people are responding to the crisis with fantasies of elsewhere, to escape this “waking dream”.

By intertwining domestic imagery with the natural, “bedspreads of meadows” and “streams like necklaces”, he suggests that we can appreciate nature at home by becoming grounded by it; enjoying our immediate surroundings, and being considerate of each other and the world.

The poem travels through a global history of pandemics, with a narrative movement in time and space, from a tragic romance during the 17th century bubonic plague outbreak in Eyam, to the epic poem Meghaduta written in Sanskrit.

This exploration makes a profound statement on the cyclical nature of disease, and emphasises the humanity amidst this alien situation.

Armitage’s poem has got me thinking about the power of creativity and poetry, reinventing what freedom really means to us, particularly in times of isolation when hope seems all but lost.

We can embrace our own emotional and spiritual freedoms in spite of physical boundaries.

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