Three Poems

By Rebecca Gethin

Exhibits of Curious Customs (1)

Here’s an album of handshakes –
that palm to palm nakedness
the trust in it
the politeness of it. One to each page:
there were wet handkerchief ones
that made you want to wipe your hand,
or ones that wrung your bones and fingers
till you had to pull away;
the ones where something seemed to pass
between you, and others that gave a lasting impression.

And here’s a book of hugs
that clasping in the arms
people used to show their love –
those warm claps on the back
the close still ones
the kisses in the air
or on your cheek (I used to kiss both cheeks)
but are now taboo.

Exhibit of Curious Customs (2)

In the glass case
you’ll see some coronas
of money. Each country
had their own coinage
bearing symbols such as lions,
monarchs or thistles
that the people understood
belonged to them.
In your pocket they jingled
together and weighed
heavy in your purse.
They smelled of all the hands
they’d been touched by.
They represented your riches
and were exchanged for foodstuff
and drink, for all items
nobody needed, like virus.


Everyday I put seed out
for the birds: they flew here
in droves and I watched them feed
taking extra for the partner
incubating eggs perhaps.
I thought of all the different
architectures of nest
I couldn’t see in tree and hedge
where naked chicks called
and called for more.
Then fledglings arrived
flapping their tiny wings
in urgent excitement to be fed
until their parents left them to it
and then the sparrowhawk
zipped by and trailed
the new feathers
of their innocence away.

Grey Wagtail

I saw its reflection first
a gleam of lemon-peel yellow
trembling in the current
and it stayed there
among the stones on the bank
flicking its tail as though it were clock-work
while water moved through
and under its brightness
and it didn’t fly
when I swam upriver
passing it quietly
and I thought how close to death
everything in the wild has to live
and getting up close
depends on how much we can tolerate.

Rebecca Gethin

Rebecca Gethin has written 5 poetry publications and has been a Hawthornden Fellow and a Poetry School tutor. Messages was a winner in the first Coast to Coast to Coast pamphlet competition. Vanishings has just been published by Palewell Press. She sporadically blogs at

Poetry has been a life-line throughout the pandemic, both reading and writing it, (sometimes a strong rope and other times a thin little string.)

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3 years ago

A great trio of poems here. Thank you

Hélène Demetriades
Hélène Demetriades
3 years ago

Love your Grey Wagtail poem Rebecca!

Moira Garland
3 years ago

Wonderful, all of them! The wagtail poem just perfectly describes a sighting I made a few weeks ago. First ever 🙂

Rose Cook
3 years ago

Love these poems

Poetry and Covid-19 ARCHIVE (This website archives the over 1000 poems submitted by over 600 poets, and viewed by over 100,000 from over 125 countries during the Covid-19 pandemic, June 2020-June 2021). Thank you to all who took part in the Poetry and Covid project.

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