Artemis. The Current Situation on the River Wear

By Diane Cockburn

For the attention of Zeus.

Because He said ‘I’m so angry. Get down there and report,’
I hurried out of my door, half- dressed.
My doeskins were in the wash.
My sandals had been melted down three dozen centuries ago,
so, I fastened on hiking boots with socks.
Couldn’t think straight, hair shaggy,
hunting dogs all dead, just the mixed breed terrier in the red collar
waiting for the whistle, toothed and ready for ratting.
Took my bow, (a plastic ball thrower),
found my arrows, (blue orbs from Pound world, polycarbonate).
Furtively unfurling the social distance pennant,
I flew down by the white gates into the river loop.
Right. Report. Nothing at first. No humans.
Naiads in water lockdown. Dryads stumped.
We are alone. Recording. Dog ears up.
There is some evidence of rats down holes, rabbits and many movements in undergrowth.
Squirrels scuttling up trees.
Then the sounds.
Volume turned up loud as Hades.
Big bosom garlic flowers honking their stink,
Bluebells shrieking violent-blue pigment,
Violets screaming ‘we’re living our best life down here. Hear us!’
Acid-green beech shouting ‘tips, buds, sap’!
Chestnut candles tapping ‘Cream pink, pink pink, cream pink!’
-some kind of code?
Ducks the size of dragons mating everywhere,
woodpecker eardrum burst on the right,
swans big enough to ride on hissing fire. Positively gathering.
I might use the term drifting.
The Fulling Mill is all friction. Up to something and I’m not talking tweed.
Things growing aggressively in every crevice. Moss. Driftwood.
Evidence of passive-assertive otter action by Prebends Bridge.
Blood trails on the path.
Dog eating a rancid eel.
Fresh regurgitation on a tree branch.
Smell of a clogged sewer pipe where there is no pipe.
This does not bode well.
Nature is out of control, Sir.
We need a plan.
We need Olympus.

Diane Cockburn is a Northern Irish poet living and working in Durham. Latest collection Electric Mermaid by Arrowhead Press. She is currently exploring poetic form and is working on a new collection.

Artemis. The Current Situation on the River Wear. For the Attention of Zeus.

Early in lockdown, I escaped to the Riverbanks on the River Wear and spent every morning walking the dog. Everything was so quiet, but nature was bursting out everywhere. All   senses were electrified. I wondered what the Gods would think and realised Zeus might have to send someone to investigate the chaos.

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Katie Green
2 years ago

The explanation of the poem really brings this full circle. Yes – I bet the gods are quite inquisitive right now!! Such an experiment going on right now. Humanity is in our final exam.

Barbara Bareham
Barbara Bareham
3 years ago

Brilliant Diane. Loved your bow ( a plastic ball thrower) It’s been fun walking with you and Emma.

Josa Keyes
3 years ago

Absolutely loved this. Old gods coming to earth is a favourite subject. “Acid-green beech shouting ‘tips, buds, sap’!” I felt this so much in the spring. Mad nature.

Eithne Cullen
Eithne Cullen
3 years ago

Great images… love thepoundland balls

Verity Delgadillo
Verity Delgadillo
3 years ago

Zeus played you. He definitely orchestrated the whole situation! Great poem, I loved the screaming nature, Artemis’s 21st century gear, and your characteristic darkness.

Diane Nash
Diane Nash
3 years ago

Brilliant Diane! So proud!

3 years ago

Fabulous! Full of imagery and so original. A touch of fun too, just the thing for these dark days

3 years ago

I’ve always felt the riverbanks were alive and writhing. A cracking poem!

3 years ago

Fabulous! So unusual and full of wonderful imagery. A touch of humour too, just the thing during these darks days

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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