UA-116782038-1 MY CORONA VIRUS POEMS | nicktoczek

My Corona Virus Poems

On Friday 13 March, as Covid-19 (aka the Corona virus) began to establish itself in Britain, I started writing one poem per day about our relationship with this killer. Each evening, I then posted my latest poem on my own Facebook page and on Janine Booth's CoronaVerses Facebook page. Here they were widely read and shared. Several have since been published.

        Because I'm 69 with some low-level underlying health issues, I've been self-isolating here in my Yorkshire hometown of Bradford with Gaynor, my partner, since mid-March. Under normal circumstances, as a performance poet, I'd have been performing these new poems at reading in pubs and other venues where I'd have had feedback from a live audience. With the whole county in lockdown since late March, that's not even been an option. Facebook has therefore served as my substitute public platform -and the feedback (usually positive, occasionally not) has kept me going.

        Now, in late April, while I continue to produce and post daily poems, I find I've reached the milestone of having forty finished poems. Eventually, I hope to publish a longer book-length collection and record an album featuring a selection of the poems set to music. In the meantime, here are those first forty.

        Please feel free to share any or all of them. That's precisely why I'm writing them. They represent my thoughts and responses, many of which are, I hope, fairly widespread. Oh, and I welcome all feedback. 

                                                                                                                Nick Toczek (24 April 2020)



Okay, we’re mortal, but pause to admire us.

Like our computers we’re fighting our virus,

Won’t let it scare us, defeat us or tire us.


Respiratory rather than renal or thyrous,

It’s proving fatal. That’s hardly desirous.

Tell the Grim Reaper he doesn’t require us.


Tell our employers they don’t need to fire us.

World goes to shit, we’ll go back to papyrus.

Talk to survival and tell it to hire us.





Safe as where what’s ghostly goes is

Safe as ghastly when it grows is

Safe as plague and ring of roses


Safe as fighting off your foes is

Safe as fright as figures froze is

Safe as hopelessness proposes


Safe as sentenced to death-rows is

Safe as murdering of crows is

Safe as daily news discloses


Safe as touching lip or nose is

Safe as wash your hands of those is

Safe as when their coffin closes


Safe as poetry and prose is

Safe as fast which never slows is

Safe as when your driver dozes


Safe as world and all its woes is

Safe as faith which never shows is

Safe as tablets can’t cure Moses


Safe as ventilator hose is

Safe as all that no one knows is

Safe as every question poses


Safe as how this wild wind blows is

Safe as where our future flows is

Safe as contact risk exposes


Stay safe…

Safe till virus metamorphoses



Dead right that we’re globally under attack.

This world we’ve been trashing is trashing us back.

We took it for granted. We’re watching it crack.


Though lifelong we’ve always been part of the pack

Our self-isolation sees us on our jack.

We’ve no one. We’ve nothing to take a new tack.


We’re losing the pattern, the plot and the track.

Our families and neighbours lie stretched on this rack.

We’re sick and it sucks cos they’ll give us the sack.


This tightrope we’re walking seems suddenly slack.

Where there’s no known cure for these coughs we can’t hack

We’ve some who won’t make it. We’ve those we’ll soon lack.


Like junkies grown drunken on skunk, coke and smack

Our interest is fading. Our daylight grows black.

We’re restless. We clock-watch. We’re insomniac.


We’re groping for answers. While facing fresh flak

We swim through statistics. The numbers don’t stack.

Grim Reaper’s here mouthing: ‘hypochondriac’.




The virus we’re calling Corona

Which squats in the lungs of each owner

Pays nothing in rent

Just stays till they’re spent

This sly 20-20 death-donor.




A silence like dumb desperation

Or some slightly numb dislocation

Treads every dread street of this nation.


You think this a strange situation.

No people. Are they on vacation?

Or moved to another location?


You’re puzzled. Why such consternation?

It’s simple. There’s one explanation

For this abrupt depopulation.


Ignoring the viral gestation

We mingled for food and libation,

For travel, work and recreation.


We thus met with annihilation,

Our lungs all deprived of aeration.

Survivors hide in isolation.




Grim as this fear when we’re simply out shopping.

Grim as handwashing and wiping and mopping.

Grim as news stories we’re posting and swapping.


Grim as health services all belly-flopping.

Grim as each labouring lung stalling, stopping.

Grim as these losses like limbs that we’re lopping.


Grim as this daily death-toll that’s not dropping.

Grim as the count goes from small up to whopping.

Grim as the long list this virus is cropping.




Fewer planes are flying now.

This planet’s getting greener.

Fewer cars are on the roads.

The air is getting cleaner.


Pubs are shut. We’re drinking less.

Already we’ve grown leaner

On water, coffee, cocoa,

Tea, orange juice, Ribena.


At least we’re trapped in this place,

Not Halifax or Heanor.

We’re nicer to each other

In everyday demeanour.


Way things are, we wash a lot

Which makes us much hygiener.   

And we’re both stuck at home where

We two can get obscener.




Save a neighbour, sister, brother

Friend or worker, father, mother.

Not to gather.

Not together.

Stay away from one another.



Evenings and mornings,

in this water-thin

slanting Spring sunlight,

midges mass and mingle.


We don’t. We stay single.

We heed our hard warnings.


These nights grow cold.

We wake to frost and    

lost at home at first

we stall but soon re-start.


We keep ourselves apart.

We do as we’ve been told.


We mow, trim borders,

plant seed and feed the birds,

hang out washing,

do more garden chores.


We then return indoors.

We obey their orders.





Only ask where this all heads:

Dearth of doctors, too few beds,

Everyone deprived of meds.


Optimism’s slashed to shreds.

Day by day this virus spreads

Emptying each trail it treads.


Outcomes every witness dreads

Dangle lives from slender threads,

Endings blunt as pencil leads.




It’s not where it comes from,

It’s where the thing’s going.

You point your short finger

Without even knowing.


It’s when numbers dying

Will start to cease growing.

You shrug off these losses

To keep finance flowing.


It’s what can be done to

Get this virus slowing.

You feather your nest while

You’re tweeting and crowing.


It’s all of those deaths that

Your policy’s sowing.

You’re deaf, dumb and blind to

This dead wind that’s blowing.


It’s counting the countless

Whose lives you are throwing.

You don’t see the dying,

Just profit beats owing.



Inhale, exhale; inhale, exhale.

Listen to lungs. Don’t let them fail.

Weak where once they blew a gale.

Hear them whistle. How they wail.


Inhale, exhale; inhale, exhale.

These ribs are bars which built this jail.

Each breath an inmate begging bail.

There’s no reprieve. No call. No mail.


Inhale, exhale; inhale, exhale.

Never known struggling on this scale.

Failure at the speed of a snail.

And, oh, it leaves a dreadful trail.


Inhale, exhale; inhale, exhale.

It’s crucifixion, nail by nail.

A sacrifice beyond the pale.

A landed fish to flap, to flail.


Inhale, exhale; inhale, exhale.

One day this wind will fill our sail.

One day we’ll live to tell this tale.

One day our souls won’t be for sale.




We’ve empty schools and clubs and malls

And pools and pubs and concert halls.


And housebound here within four walls

We hope this virus never calls.


Our headlines clock its latest hauls

With counts of lives it stops and stalls.


We don what stuff we’re told forestalls:

Wear masks, hats, visors, scarves and shawls.


None can foresee what next befalls

Our own and others’ urban sprawls.


Invisible, unheard, it crawls

From lung to lung. This toll appalls.


We wish it came with caterwauls,

With yelps and yells and yowls and yawls.  


We’d all fight back. We’ve got the balls.

But we’re without the wherewithals





Walk from your front door to your garden gate.

Talk to yourself. Try to have a debate.


Scroll your way through Facebook for eight hours straight.

Patrol the whole of Netflix, dusk till late.


Make a meagre meal. Maybe masturbate.

Take a ton of selfies. Infatuate.


Beware of you because you’re not your mate.

Declare your home an autonomous state.


Winge to your friends down the phone about fate.

Binge the bloody news till your eyes dilate.


Shop on eBay for some crap that looks great.

Stop by your letterbox and wait and wait.


Lag, linger, loiter, loll, procrastinate,

Drag, defer, delay and then vacillate.    


Now the same again and then duplicate

How you pass the time while you isolate.



Jump and jive! Jump and jive!


You and I’ve

been cut lose from the human hive.

You and I’ve

no bus to catch, no rush-hour drive.

You and I’ve

got weeks without our nine-to-five.


Jump and jive! Jump and jive!


You and I’ve

not got pissed in a nearby dive.

You and I’ve

no work excuses to contrive.

You and I’ve

no cause to lie, we’re free to skive.


Jump and jive! Jump and jive!


You and I’ve

now nowhere urgent to arrive.

You and I’ve

no low co-workers who connive.

You and I’ve

no management to make us strive.


Jump and jive! Jump and jive!


You and I’ve

gained time to spare and time to thrive.

You and I’ve

got every reason to survive.

You and I’ve

to celebrate that we’re alive.


So jump and jive! Jump and jive!
































































There is no truth.

There are no facts.

Just lies to hide the blame.


Press questions ducked

By spokespersons,

Their waffle limply lame.


Try asking why

So many die.

They’ll simply say the same.




And death’s a numbers game.



Then act too late.

It’s wise to wait, they claim.


They got it wrong

Did all along

And still they show no shame.



We were once so confident.

We used to be so sure

About where we were going

But we’re not anymore.


We’d visions of tomorrow

Had faith in what we saw

With hopes and plans and places

We’d visit and explore.


And then came this pandemic

For which there’s no known cure

This dragon come among us

This unseen carnivore.


We were the western wealthy

Who grew up wanting more

And relished self-indulgence

And thought we knew the score.


But then this beast descended

Like life’s dark fatal flaw.

We thought we’d seen everything.

We’ve not seen this before.


We’ve cancelled aspirations

Deleted dates galore

And, now in isolation,

We hear the dragon’s roar.


So here we are in hiding

And who knows what’s in store?

We’re losing every battle

Led unarmed into war.




We’ve journalists listing the numbers who go.

Their increase initially seems safely slow.

So, caution and concern remain fairly low,

With crowds filling tube trains, each school, pub and show.


When this weather changes, much colder winds blow.

The ‘yes we can mingle’ soon alters to ‘no’

And feathers of fear flutter, black as their crow

While daily we witness what rate these deaths grow.


Dear God, we’re now losing the people we know.

We’re all heirs to shares in Pandemic and Co.

We’re seeds which this virus has chosen to sow.

We’re crops in the fields that its grim reapers mow.



I wish we all were less afraid.

I wish away these rules obeyed.

I wish this virus had decayed.

I wish no lungs let it invade.


I wish for life like lemonade.


I wish our colours had not greyed.

I wish attention had been paid.

I wish mistakes had not been made.

I wish for days less retrograde.


I wish for crowd and loud parade.


I wish this nightmare would now fade.

I wish it gone, not just delayed.

I wish to blunt its bitter blade.

I wish to wash away its trade.


I wish for where we’ve holidayed.


I wish no grave, no priest, no spade.

I wish the ferryman unpaid.

I wish a cure, not this tirade.

I wish my messages relayed.


I wish not mask, but masquerade.



I wish we all were less afraid.

I wish away these rules obeyed.

I wish this virus had decayed.

I wish no lungs let it invade.


I wish for life like lemonade.


I wish our colours had not greyed.

I wish attention had been paid.

I wish mistakes had not been made.

I wish for days less retrograde.


I wish for crowd and loud parade.


I wish this nightmare would now fade.

I wish it gone, not just delayed.

I wish to blunt its bitter blade.

I wish to wash away its trade.


I wish for where we’ve holidayed.


I wish no grave, no priest, no spade.

I wish the ferryman unpaid.

I wish a cure, not this tirade.

I wish my messages relayed.


I wish not mask, but masquerade.




I stir. I wake. I wash my hands.

I snooze. Daybreak. I wash my hands.

I’ve food to make. I wash my hands.

I fry. I bake. I wash my hands.


I grill a steak. I wash my hands.

I eat pancake. I wash my hands.

A thirst to slake. I wash my hands.

I drink milkshake. I wash my hands.


I shop. Queues snake. I wash my hands.

We crowd. I quake. I wash my hands.  

A friend. Handshake. I wash my hands.

That’s my mistake. I wash my hands.


I need a break. I wash my hands.

A walk to take. I wash my hands.

The park. The lake. I wash my hands.

Feed duck and drake. I wash my hands.


Skin starts to flake. I wash my hands.

With life at stake, I wash my hands.

Come cough, headache. I wash my hands.

For heaven’s sake. I wash my hands.




Our planes are down. We’ve empty air.

And we’re not going anywhere.

We’re home and held by rare despair

With our own company to bear.


Only the virus doesn’t care.

The world’s become its thoroughfare.

It and can and does go everywhere,

No passport and it pays no fare.


So, where’s it bound? We’re unaware.

It could come here. It could go there.

Wherever it goes, we’d best beware

Lest our own lungs become its lair.


Only the virus sets this snare,

Broadcasting its disrepair.

A nomad with one gift to share,

This plague to which we’re all laid bare.


Corona’s grossly grown affair:

From Finisterre to Delaware,

Bonaire to Weston-super-Mare,

We’ve millions needing Medicare.


Only the virus roves elsewhere,

Enters bodies it’ll impair,

Steals breath and then injects nightmare.

Sheer chance selects which ones to spare.




This is the monster, the mythical worm.

This is more thick-skinned than your pachyderm.

This is the virus much worse than a germ.


This is not here for a limited term.

This is the permanent wave become perm.

This is where birth and death meet in the sperm.


This is the stuff that makes innocence squirm.   

This is what picks on the old and infirm.

This the pandemic which corpses confirm.


(In a Northern accent, so ‘staff’ & ‘scarf’ don’t rhyme)


Running this country has gotta be naff.

Apes await wise words from you, their giraffe.

How do you – public schooled – talk to riffraff?

They grunt. You warble like finch or chiffchaff.


Running this country has gotta be naff.

Now, with this virus, it’s double the faff,

MPs and bosses and government staff

Having to come up with graph after graph.


Running this country has gotta be naff,

Shutting down library, pub, shop and caff,

Getting the plebs to all stay in their gaff,

Calling in squaddies, the navy, the raf.


Running this country has gotta be naff,

Your leisurely life left less than a laugh:

Empty decanter and empty carafe.

Pity you, thirsty, with nothing to quaff.




Nothing much that’s satisfying.


TV programmes magnifying

What’s already petrifying.

Politicians justifying,

Just avoiding specifying.

Petty pundits prophesying.

World so weird we’re wonder why-ing.


We wade through the falsifying.

Loonies flood the web with lying.

Rumours spread that fools are buying.

None of this is edifying.

Nutters on-line all denying

Meds and beds, the dead, the dying.


Airports empty. No planes plying.

Only birds and insects flying.

Like our hands, we’re washed-out, drying.

Locked down, parted, not nearby-ing.

We should all be out there lying

On our hotel sunbeds frying.


Instead, inside, in bed, sighing,

Lost and listless, hardly trying,

Sometimes angry, sometimes crying,

Mostly merely mummifying

Home’s this hole we’re occupying.

Oh, it’s dull, this death-defying.



(UK MPs can claim £10,000 for working at home and the same again for closing their offices)


Blow you and your bloody blether

Claiming we’re in this together

Like you care one fig or feather.

You can shove it up your nether.


Like a dog pulls on its tether

You bank big bucks, hell-for-leather.

Foodbank queues? You mouth “Whatever”,

Were you ever bothered? Never.


Virus rages. Lifelines sever

Yet you spot a good endeavour.

Frontline workers die… however

Shares are cheap. Investing’s clever.


This your free world. This its weather.

Kill the poor. Stay rich forever.




‘So, you’re seventy this September, huh?’


‘Yeah, but I look and feel younger.’


‘And you’ve prostate cancer?’


‘Low level, mate, and currently inactive.’


‘And asthma?’


‘Not used my inhaler for three years.’


‘How come?’


‘I’m a full-on fitness freak, Fitbit devotee

And daily disciple of my cross-trainer.’


‘You should kick that lot into touch

And act your bloody age, my friend.’


‘Why, so you can add me to your death list?’


No reply. The virus merely smiles.




You were always all vainglory.

Nurses’ pay freeze. That was Tory.

Now we hear a change of story.

Oh, hypocrisy’s so hoary.


All your lies and your outlawry.

We’ve no call for polls by MORI.

We’ve no need of judge and jury.

We know underfunding’s gory.


Don’t pretend it’s hunky-dory.

You’re behind this whole furore.

Blame’s – like Grenfell – multi-storey.

Endless death comes stripped of glory.






Kick up a fuss while stood in queues

When asked to distance, you refuse




Gather in gangs, not threes or twos

With park and beach as rendezvous




Incite your friends to break taboos

Invite them all to barbecues




Join party crowds for sex, drugs, booze

All human life is yours to use




Behave exactly as you choose

Absolutely nothing to lose…


…but you and you and you and yous

and loads and loads and loads of yous…




So to the west from the east

So comes Corvid, this new beast


So this virus starts to feast

So we tot up our deceased


So we vacate beach, bar, piste

So like herds of wilderbeest


So in four walls, mortgaged, leased

So we lockdown unreleased


So to Trump, our arriviste

So mad, wigged-out and hair-pieced


So he’s despot and high-priest

So democracy has ceased


So pandemic’s top artiste

So wants money masterpieced


So blames death for gains decreased

So more die but they’re policed


So the poor get snuffed and fleeced

So cash flows and palms get greased


So the rich see wealth increased

So not much has changed, at least.




Worldwide what quite brought us to this?

Alone with death, we dread its kiss.

That snake is near. We hear its hiss.


With virus cast as nemesis,

We grope for its antithesis,

Our S.O.S. as emphasis.


What did we do? What did we miss?

We yearn to learn the genesis,

The means, the metamorphosis.


Whatever the hypothesis,

When ‘Why?’ defies diagnosis

It frees disease to take the piss.


We’ve governments we rightly dis

And say, one day, they’ll face justice

If just for their paralysis.


No cure. No hint of synthesis.

No hope. We’re here, wrong side of bliss,

Left with this deft analysis:


To die’s today’s slow psychosis.




As a virus, I’m a scary ‘un

Yet I’m egalitarian


I kill


Both aesthete and barbarian

Illiterate and librarian

Anarchist and Aryan


Pop-fan and Wagnerian

Trappist and vulgarian

Huntsman and vegetarian


Leo and Saggitarian

Landowner and agrarian

Liberal and sectarian


Haitian and Hungarian

Bantu and Bulgarian

Bolivian and Bavarian


Prole and parliamentarian

Sikh and Rastafarian

Newborn and nonagenarian


Voter and totalitarian

Virgoan and Aquarian

Shaven-headed and hairy ‘un.




We’ve locked our doors. Yet we’re on edge.

He hangs beyond our garden hedge.


He lurks in lungs. His offspring fledge

In neighbours: Ronald, Rita, Reg.


He’s on their breath, their prayers, their pledge,

On supermarket meat and veg.


He haunts each handle, rail and ledge

And every nook in which to wedge.


He hovers here at whisper’s edge,

In newsroom rumour, sludge and sedge.


He owns those depths these death-tolls dredge,

Has come to stay till we next sledge…


… or slay us all, so some allege.




They broadcast brews made with mirrors and smokery

Conflicting news robed in jiggery-pokery.


We swill and we swab. We’re handwashing hopefully

Microbes of covid swept down the drain soapily.


Jailed in our own joints by this deadly jokery

We’re here on lockdown, held lonesomely locally.


Clapping on Thursdays is all we’re left socially

Rest of the time it’s just you and me, bothily.


Spending days gardening, daisily, rosily

Planting and watering, seedily, hosily.


Food from the veg man or tinned or kept frozily

Five o’clock stroll takes us round the block moseyly.


Keeping an eye on the neighbourhood nosily

Nothing much better to do I supposily.


Music on Facebook that’s mostly played folkily

Little that’s great but some played oky-dokily.


Late-night TV. We watch boozily, dozily

Baked couch-potatoes, we’re snuggled up cosily.




In our world we’ve always had plagues and diseases

And now come these dry coughs, these fevers, death’s wheezes.


We thought this was flu-like, but no. No one sneezes.

It seizes the lungs and then squeezes and squeezes.


Watch worsening symptoms which nothing much eases.

No miracles these days. No cure through Lord Jesus.


Bur still all you faithful, will pray till Hell freezes

With holes in your holiness plain as in cheeses.


It’s not due to sin and some God this displeases.

Your devil’s descended. Death’s breath’s like Spring breezes.




Covid-19 wholly owns us

Covid-19 clamps and cones us

Covid-19 just Jack Jones us

Covid-19 sticks and stones us

Covid-19 hunts, haunts, hones us

Covid-19 would bare bones us.


Covid-19 chaperons us

Covid-19 grants and loans us

Covid-19 tracks and drones us

Covid-19 texts and phones us

Covid-19 next de-thrones us

Covid-19 Al Capones us.


Covid-19 all alones us

Covid-19 soon postpones us

Covid-19 unknown zones us

Covid-19 moans and groans us

Covid-19 now disowns us

Covid-19 thus gravestones us.



I’ve heard commentators say:

‘Every microbe has its day.’

‘Watch the way these beggars play.’

‘None of them gives much away.’


I’ve heard commentators say:

‘Fingers crossed. We’ll be okay.’

‘This ain’t cricket or croquet.’

‘Gamesmanship has gone astray.’


I’ve heard commentators say:

‘Seems our team’s in disarray.’

‘No attack. Too much delay.’

‘Trust me, there’ll be hell to pay.’


I’ve heard commentators say:

‘March was bad, but April, May...’

‘Tactics shot. Now they hold sway.’

‘God, it’s brutal, this affray.’




Corona, the hunter, now knows no shame.

He sees all human life as game.

We’re merely sport, to murder, maim.

Wildlife bites back. We don’t. We’re tame.


Corona, the hunter, accepts no blame.

He stalks our aging, wounded, lame.

We see him pause, raise weapon, aim,

Cos every kill is his to claim.


Corona, the hunter, sits centre-frame.

We trophies amplify his fame.

So sod our family, job or name.

Just count each corpse. We’re all the same.




Shall unseat it.

Shall anon.

Shall defeat it.

Shall be gone.

Shall delete it.

Shall have shone.

Shall live sweeter.

Shall move on.


Shall sing Covid’s loud swan song.




On our street where dogs are crapping

On our street where we’re back-slapping

On our street you’ll find us yapping

On our street that Google’s mapping

On our street we’re loudly clapping.


On our street where we’re rat-trapping

On our street we’re overlapping

On our street with tempers snapping

On our street we’ve neighbours scrapping

On our street we’re proudly clapping.


On our street with pigeons flapping

On our street though strength is sapping

On our street we’re not caught napping

On our street where we stand rapping

On our rowdy street we’re clapping.

We’re So Safe and Be Positive, Be Keener have both been published in CoronaVerses, the anthology compiled, edited and published by Janine Booth.


Dead Rite has been published in the special pandemic issue (#19) of The Pangolin Review.    

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