• Alec Finlay

lock-down back-garden: a coronavirus journal

Alec Finlay has had Covid19 since just before the UK went into full lockdown in March 2020. Finlay is part of a high-risk group and the virus has had a significant impact on his body, leaving him unable to walk more than 150m. During lockdown, no matter how ill, he wrote one short poem every morning. The following are some of the entries from his daily poem-journal, presented in chronological order.

lock-down back-garden: a coronavirus journal

16.III.20 – 31.VII.20

a dove on the door

of those about to die


the sag in the quilt

must be my knees fault


will you allow me

in your bubble?

are our two house-

holds one home?


I say I feel

like an old Polo


for a Trabant

he says Trabants

run for ever


you can meet one

parent in the morning

one in the afternoon

and both apart


I understand you

very well, better than you

understand yourself


now it’s kid’s rules:

everyone (except some)


nicola’s manifesto

if your life

is normal

something’s wrong


the odd walker on the path

with an aura of danger


I’ll call it my grianan

this futon I drag

around the room

in a fold of sunbeams

grianan, Scottish Gaelic: a topographical term meaning sunny spot


she says every


carries col-

lateral beauty


i.m. John Conway

in his game

each cell with

one or even

no neighbours

died of loneliness


take your water

with a pinch

of ascorbic

do as the tea

says: breathe



at the zoo the talk is of

feeding animals to animals


he says he hopes

I am as healthy

as a cucumber

so I sit a little longer

in the window sun


at 60 you have 6

problems they say

at 70 you have 7

and 54 at 54


her cold-water cure works for

pain as well as melancholy


after Mandelstham

the first apple

speaks as it ripens

the second apple

listens as it falls

the third apple under-

stands as its eaten


if you can walk

a half mile

places connect

if you can walk

100 yards

then that’s it


life with lock-

down (37): more

notebooks, brassier

birds, less breath



a friend’s



the term

of a birth


eachy peachy

one side says

no better

pear plum

one side says

no worse


days in the week:

scant good in

a slew of bad


for this first-waver

long chain replication

pushes the pain

through day 60


flipping the journal recto to face

recto to pass into spikes of pain


my wee world will stay wee

but what of my hurt heart?


she dreams we

held hands

in the undersett

of a tartan rug


she says he’s

not the battle

he’s the battle-



everyone’s out


with their hair

too long


my body speaks

does yours hear?


here is your Google

Location History

data for May: a red

dot without a line


these morning poems

they don’t write

themselves you know


the thing about an anchor is

at a gentle angle it can be lifted


the drawing gone wrong

becomes the loveliest

paper for lists


counting the days

‘til the back

channel meds

pop through

my letterbox


I can see the sea but it’s so long

since I could walk to the harbour


here’s to love,

pure breath, and

a bolt of sun

up your arse


raise the arms

over the head

palm-to-palm finger

tips holding a beam

let the body open


the postures we make

the postures we take

the postures we keep


the tiger in the tank

(the thorn in the paw)


snuck behind

the cause

is the cause

of the cause


filling out my PIP

form in pencil

there’s no tick-box

for ‘in the sun’


they’re already div-

iding the old

fatigue from the

new fatigue


a tick

for the walk

to the post box

with my PIP form


day 6 of the off-

label trial:

less sore, more tired

and my muse

is depleted


3 days recycling in the hall

by the door is my jenga


the sunset turns

pink for next-

doors long drawn-

out orgasm



the economy

open up

the virus


the pain