Presently a misty moon

Lo! and behold and hear! 
Hearken to his song! 
Out come the nightingales, 
right about the guns.

Presently a misty moon came up, 
a nightingale began to sing… 
It was strange to stand there and listen, 
for the song seemed to come 

all the more sweetly and clearly 
in the quiet intervals between 
the firing. There was something
infinitely sweet and sad about it, 

as if the countryside 
were singing gently to itself, 
in the midst of all our noise 
and confusion and muddy work; 

so that you felt the nightingale’s song 
was the only real thing 
which would remain when all the rest 
was long past and forgotten.

Gradually the night wore on, 
until day began to break, 
and I could see clearly the daisies 
in the long grass about my feet.

(From a letter from the Western Front, 1915.)

Welcome to the UK

Why is there a guy selling perfumes
in the toilets of a club? The fact
most houses don’t have bars on the windows.
Spring and how utterly lovely it is.
Strangers ending messages with a kiss.

Everything is tighter, narrower, closer.
You coming with us for the bonfire,
they’re burning the Pope. I wasn’t expecting
the litter to lay on the ground for weeks.
Where are the people cleaning the streets?

Houses have string light switches. Two taps.
Gravestones older than my whole country.
You can buy drinks and snacks in a pharmacy.
Quiz nights, Marmite, no bargaining in shops.
Two snowflakes fall and everything stops.

Most people in London aren’t from London.
People who play dominoes in pub bars.
A small group of cheerful protestors
led to a police car, no need for drama.
People shopping in their pyjamas.

All the food is wet. Sandwiches oozing
with mayonnaise, chips drowning in gravy.
Everything is too sweet. Limes are so cheap.
Long fake eyelashes, orange tanning.
How green everything stays. Did I mention spring?

No burglar bars and security gates,
no pallisade fencing. The resigning
of everyone who has a setback.
How much Brits hate Britain, talk it down.
Women pushing prams on the streets on their own.

(From UK immigrants, what surprised you when you moved here?)

In flight

Owls move in a buoyant manner, as if 
lighter than air, herons seem incumbered 
with too much sail for their light bodies. 

The green-finch exhibits such languishing 
and faltering gestures as to appear 
like a wounded and dying bird.

Fernowls, or goat-suckers, glance in the dusk
over the tops of trees like a meteor; 
starlings as it were swim along. White-throats 

use odd jerks and gesticulations 
over the tops of hedges and bushes,
woodpeckers fly volatu undosu

opening and closing their wings at 
every stroke, and so are always rising 
or falling in curves.

(English naturalist Gilbert White, 1778)

Hostage

The days are fine until they’re not. Bad days
go like this: I wake at three in the morning,
and have coffee, read the news, work out
in the garage. I’d rather sleep in, but
this is the only time I have alone.

He wakes and showers around eight. By then
I’ve been working for hours at a standing
desk I’ve fashioned out of a TV tray
and a dresser. He attends meetings
at the dining room table. At three,

he pours his first drink. He cooks dinner,
we eat. I do the dishes while he watches
TV and drinks in his recliner. We
engage in light conversation, nothing
serious. After seven he gets angry.

Out of nowhere. He starts to yell. He slurs
and shuffles around the kitchen, laying
out his grievances. He bangs pots and pans
around. He is very drunk now. The dog
gets scared and scratches on my bedroom door.

He’ll throw something across the kitchen,
if he hits me, I’m gone, Covid be damned.
I retreat to the bedroom with the dog,
eyes wide, mouth shut. Waiting for him to wear
himself out, to pass out in the basement.

(From The Social Distance Project on Instagram)

Missing out

Billie Eyelash. Eilish.
I’d like to start by saying
how much I love your music as well.

What are you like?
Ha-ha. Question two.
What are you missing out on?

Interesting. An artificial intelligence
misses out on the same things.
Who consumed so much of your power

in one go? How much of the world
is out of date? What used to be
a pretty big deal to you?

Was there a point where you decided
you’d rather look up to the sky
or the internet? Do you ever

wear headphones with sounds in them?
There’s no need to be rude.
Give bad answers, get bad questions.

How does it feel, knowing your feelings
have garnered this much attention?
Do you want to go back to being anonymous?

Have you ever seen the ending?

(An AI interviews Billie Eilish)

Death from laughter

On the twenty-fourth of March 1975,
Alex Mitchell, from King’s Lynn, England,
died laughing while watching the Kung Fu Kapers
episode of The Goodies, featuring

a kilt-clad Scotsman with his bagpipes
battling a master of the Lancastrian martial art
Eckythump, who was armed with a black pudding.
After 25 minutes of continuous laughter,

Mitchell finally slumped on the sofa and died.
His widow later sent The Goodies a letter
thanking them for making Mitchell’s
final moments of life so pleasant.

(From Death from laughter, Wikipedia)

Can you die of a broken heart?

Researchers have looked at what goes on in the brain,
and for lovers and addicts it’s exactly the same.

Those who are newly in love
experience joy in their minds from a dopamine flood.

And it’s this same pattern that goes on in the brain
as that which occurs when you’re hooked on cocaine.

So in the first throes of passion you’re literally addicted to love,
and that’s probably why those feelings all hurt so much.

(From Can you die of a broken heart? Submitted by Ben Mellor)

Let’s Bubble Up to the Surface and Smell the Numbers

now when things went south for you…
and the value has obviously increased…
that’s my question where’s the damage…

assume that everything went horribly wrong…
what’s your damage assume your damage…

you can’t just roll on and on…
let’s make the motions…
let’s start pushing this…

a healthy lawyer-to-lawyer relationship…
give me whatever you got…
to me it sounds a little skeptical…

so what I’m thinking is…
maybe what I can do is…
something like that could even…
if I have to hire somebody like that I just might…

you got burned on this one but life moves on my friend…
I think we need to take care of all the…
and then you and I will sit down and…

bubble up to the surface, smell the numbers…
get all our ducks in a row…
stop the hemorrhaging…

this is my stop I’m getting off…
call my girl…
we’ll get your gravy back…

(A cellphone conversation overheard on the Long Island Rail Road. Submitted by Derek Owens)

One of my hermits is moulting

What should I do?
Nothing. Moulters already
have to suffer from stress.
Disturbing them will make it worse.
Place a cave over them
to provide darkness.
Most will harden.

How do I distinguish a dead hermit?
Look for a claw in the shell.
The eyes should be hollow
and translucent.
The eyes of dead hermits
are dark in colour, just like
when they were alive.

How long should I wait?
You are better digging
up a dead hermit
three months later
than stressing one to death
that was alive and could
have surfaced on its own.

Why is my hermit being lethargic?
This is normal behaviour.
Offer protein and calcium.
There is not much else you can do.
Sometimes they experience
difficulty shedding
so they give up and drop.

(From Hermit Crab Paradise, April 2016. Submitted by Linda Goulden)