Today’s prompt was to take a rhyming dictionary and find as many rhymes or near rhymes as I could to write my poem. Now, I don’t have a problem with poems that rhyme: some good poems rhyme and some don’t; but I really don’t like the idea of forcing in rhyming words for the sake of it. However, the reference to near rhymes made me think of Wilfred Owen, a young man who wrote some very powerful anti-war poetry in 1915 when he was recovering from shell shock after fighting in the trenches in World War 1. Owen plays around beautifully with language and his half-rhymes and near-rhymes lend a sense of uneasiness to his poetry whilst still enabling it to flow – something that reflects the unsettled state of Owen and many of his fellow soldiers at the time. Most people are probably familiar with ‘Dulce et decorum est’, and other poems to look out for are ‘Exposure’ (currently one of the poems for English Literature GCSE with the AQA board) and ‘Strange Meeting’ (which my English teacher read to the class when I was 14 and I’ve loved it ever since).
My aim was to channel Owen – which I certainly haven’t done in this poem, so will keep trying. However, you could say I was inspired by him to write a poem that reflects the general unease of the population during this time of isolation – I’m playing with language but I’m also trying to tap into some of the very real feelings and anxieties of people in government-imposed quarantine.
Outside, the streets are silent.
The world holds its breath, waiting
to see if this violent
disease is just a siren –
should we expect something more malevolent?
Inside, there is no peace, no quiet:
children and animals continue to riot,
raising their voices in a discordant choir.
Burning up with cabin fever, I feel quite
Delirious. My throat is on fire.
A sudden spasm of fear
Twists my gut, bringing me near
To total breakdown. Does no one care?
I scroll down my phone. My social life is deserted:
Online chat leaves me disconcerted.
I wander through empty rooms in the desert
Of my existence – and loneliness hurts.
A momentary burst of noise
Sends me to the window, expecting boys
Or gangs caught up in a fight;
Instead, outside in the night,
Cheers and whistles echo support for the NHS in their plight.
For now, the streets are empty of violence.
The applause over, the whisper of silence
Hums like a thousand tiny violins.