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Monday, 11 January 2021 09:08

The Masks of Anarchy

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in Poetry
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The Masks of Anarchy

The Masks of Anarchy

by Barry Smith

The song of the Thames-side boatmen
As they sail the ship of state
Rings out across the choppy waters
While the winds of pestilence blow
Row, boys, row!

The helmsman stands at the rudder
Surveying his motley crew
Tousled blond hair all askew
Give it all you’ve got, boys
Row, boys, row!

The virus may rage in China
And Italy’s hospitals are full
The Spaniards are on their knees
But we’re still playing football
Row, boys, row!

The scientists say the death-count
Is heading for the skies
So jam on the brakes boys
A U-turn is looking wise
Row, boys, row!

And everyone’s confined to barracks
With ambulances lined in a row
Treating patients in the car park
While hospital wards overflow
Row, boys, row!

We’re dishing out contracts like confetti
Ordering PPE from Pestfix
Aprons and masks from Turkey
And gloves from Nigel’s aunt
Row, boys, row!

We’re setting out arrangements
Treatments and tests are ramping up
Our track and trace is brilliant
And our strategy’s world-class
Row, boys, row!

So why is the death-count climbing
And numbers going out the roof?
We’re out in the streets hand-clapping
What more can doctors and nurses ask?
Row, boys, row!

Now little Nattie climbs the podium
And explains our masks won’t fit
We ordered the wrong specifications
The PPE is rubblish but it’s all we’ve got
So put it on and row, boys, row!

And Woodcock looks shifty-eyed
As the Captain falls sick with covid-flu
He’s whisked off to the hospital
Coughing and spluttering too
Row, boys, row!

Pottie Piranha takes the lurching helm
She’s calling up the gunboats
To shaft the migrant crews
It’s diversionary tactics
Row, boys, row!

We’re closing all the schools
And cancelling all the exams
But we’re keeping the pubs open
Serving pints and double Scotch-eggs
Row, boys, row!

Now we’re closing pubs and shops
And cancelling the booze
But we’re keeping the schools open
The economy’s got too much to lose
Row, boys, row!

We’re honing all the slogans
To get the message through
We’re locking up and locking in
And introducing tiers too
Row, boys, row!

But still the numbers are climbing
Our advisers haven’t a clue
We’ve over eighty thousand dead
And we don’t know what to do
Row, boys, row!

We’re top of the league for deaths
Poor Italy’s left in our wake
We’ve beaten France quite easily
And Germany’s a piece of cake
Row, boys, row!

It doesn’t look good in the papers
It’s hard to explain the amount
But Connings has a nifty wheeze –
Johnny Foreigner can’t count!
Row, boys, row!

We can meet if we’re in bubbles
But we’re not allowed indoors
Unless we’re looking after kids
Or clambering up gym bars
Row, boys, row!

It’ll all be over by Christmas
We can carve the turkey breast
And book our Spanish holidays
And have a well-earned rest
Row, boys, row!

But we’re heading onto the rocks
There’s a waterfall ahead
We promised sunny uplands
But landed up the creek instead
Row, boys, row!

Now the scientists are telling us
There’s a new variant on the way
We’ve unleashed a world-beating virus
That will blow us all away
Row, boys, row!

The public’s begun to doubt us
They think we’re telling lies
It’s pain for them and jam for us
As they’re swept away in the surge
Row, boys, row!

There’s rumbling in the streets
And anarchy in the skies
So put on your face masks boys
And we’ll slip away in disguise
Row, boys, row!

Author's Note: with apologies to P.B. Shelley. This is a work of fiction with imaginary characters and events – it couldn’t happen like this for real, could it? 

Read 295 times Last modified on Monday, 11 January 2021 15:43
Barry Smith

Barry Smith is co-ordinator of the Festival of Chichester and director of the South Downs Poetry Festival. He is editor of Poetry & All That Jazz, and his poetry has appeared in Acumen, Agenda, Frogmore Papers and other journals.