As with nearly everyday since lockdown, the weather was perfect again. I was forced once more to spend this perfect day with my favourite person in the world in our beautiful home. When we walked it was through St James and Green Park. Places created specifically as public spaces through which to walk. I live a blessed life.

In St James Park, which we had virtually to ourselves, the tulips blazed colour.


The bridge which is usually packed with tourists taking selfies and views, was empty.


In St James Park the blossom sang and the trees welcomed us.

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As it always does the blossom reminded me of the Peter Viereck’s, Archer in the Marrow. It was sometime in the late 1980s that I first started reading this cycle of poems by the conservative poet. I still do not get most of it. But each time I come back to it, as I get older, another part of its mediation on human existence makes a little more sense. The lyrical passages, Viereck was a great turner of phrases rather than a great poet, always make sense and seem to stand as separate poems.

At this time of year the first and the third verses of Cycle Thirteen, part 7, often come back as I walk:

If blossom could blossom

One petal of petals

To whom all other blooms are

As leaves are to flowers

It would be to the others

As you are, my daughter,

To all other daughters

Whom songs are adoring

For what am I here for

If not to make love-songs

Of all the world’s beauty

Whose birthday we share?


Say yes to the breezes.

If any dishevels

One curl of a ringlet,

I’ll know and be with you.

The grace-notes that feather

The wing-beats of longing

Are lead till they heal with

Their singing your crying.

For what is song for

If not to smooth ringlets

Of daughters too hurt by

The prose of the world?


There is a blossom tree directly outside our house. My wife’s writing desk sits by the window and the petals float down onto our tiny basement patio like snowflakes.

As always on a bright day, as we walked, I looked at the sun light through the trees and the clouds moving slowly, and I remember a story my mother used to tell.

At the very end of the Second World War, she would sneak out of her house on Via Garibaldi, in Calinato near Brescia, to lie out on a hill at the back of the church, under a tree and watch the sun through the leaves, waiting for the allied planes to come and bomb the railway line in the valley below. The earth would shake and her small body would bounce up and down on the ground. The planes came at the same time each day. After the planes had passed and all was still again she remembers that you could suddenly really hear the wind in the leaves of the tree and see the sun through the leaves as the wind moved them. Like many of my mother’s stories this was probably not a completely accurate historical account but it was spiritually true. She would run home to her mother and been told off but also be returned to that feeling of safety. She hated the curfew and the lockdown of war but she always liked being confined with her mother and all her brothers and sisters. She was the youngest and she had many mothers amongst her older sisters who made her feel safe and later, when she ran away from her tyrannical father, looked after her in Milan.

To feel safe is the most precious gift we can give the people we love.

So imagine if you did not feel safe in the home in which you are now locked in.  If your home, or rather the place in which you had to live,  was the place you tried to escape from whenever you could. When school or work provided the places that felt safe. When home was the place in which fear surrounded your every waking moment. Fear pervaded your dreams and nightmares when you could sleep. Because it is so far from my experience it is a feeling I have been thinking about on our walks, on our quiet evenings, during the busy working days.

Then yesterday morning, another morning of the COVID spring and another number came out. So much of the experience of these days is driven by numbers and our understanding of numbers. How many deaths today? How many in other countries? How many PPEs do we have? We want some number to be smaller so that we be released from the lockdown and we want other numbers to be bigger so we can look after those who are ill. 16 is quite a small number compared to all the others that are swimming around the news and social media. It is lower than the 17 bodies from the Care home, I wrote about in my last post.

16 women have been murdered by men in the UK between the 23 March and the 16 April. A threefold increase on the same period recorded over these same dates for the  last ten years. Last year in these three weeks of normal time 5 women were killed by men. For children and women who suffer sexual, psychological, verbal and physical abuse, from bullying to rape, this lockdown is a lock-in to their prison of fear. The veneer of social interaction is removed, the limited protection of others, the rest bite of going out to work or school, removed. The violence is liberated and accentuated. But the number that is really staying with is 5 and not 16. That is a terrible number in “normal” times in which there is no global pandemic, no lockdown to enforce proximity or any other states of exception that might account in some way for the killings. In a normal 21 day period in 2019 five women were killed by men in intimate partner violence. That is an epidemic in our midst during a normal spring. It is three times as bad this Covidspring.

The blossom of the Archer in Marrow is part of the sequence which is called Auschwitz. The final verse of that section did not come back to me on the walk that day. It was only when I was home and saw the article about the killing of women that I remembered it.

That is, I suppose, how we survive as humans.

We do not think of it all, all the time, if we did, we could not stand being human anymore.

Final verse

When the camp says: “Dig graves now,

We’re coming to shoot you”,

I’ll help with your shovel

-(I’ll know and be with you)-

To give you more seconds

To look up from digging

To look at the sun while

I pillow the sand out.

For what is love here for

If not to smooth ditches

For all the world’s daughters

Whose dying we share?