Life in the Time of Coronavirus #14

The Moniack Mhor Writers Group, led by Cynthia Rogerson, has been meeting remotely during the Lockdown. They have been writing pieces inspired by the situation. Today’s words and photograph are by Sheila Lockhart.

As the weeks have flowed by since lockdown started, my creativity has, alas, continued to stagnate. I can’t help reflecting back to this time last year when I had recently completed a poetry course at Moniack Mhor led by Ron Butlin and Brian McCabe. I was fired up with enthusiasm to apply myself wholeheartedly to the joys and pains of writing poetry. Stimulated by their exercises and suggestions and encouraged by their feedback on my efforts, I was ready to try new approaches, be bolder. Poems, if not exactly flowing from my pen, did start to take more interesting (so I thought) shape on the page. I was writing. I could maybe even call myself a poet.

How fragile my creativity turned out to be in the face of adversity. The bubbling spring has frozen over, dried up, turned to mud, whatever clichéd metaphor you like. I needed something to stir up the waters again, find the old fizz. So I signed up for a three-week online course on writing nature poetry, thinking this would at least make me write again. At the end of week one we were asked to write a poem about a toad. Easier said than done. I was intimidated by the wonderful examples of toad poems the tutor produced for us, including the cracker by Norman MacCaig. What more could one possibly find to say on the subject of toads? Then I recalled Ron’s advice on sitting down to start a poem. Let your mind go blank, slip into that state of half sleep when the subconscious is freed to rise to the surface, let the imagination do its work. Then just write, whatever comes up.

This was the result. It seems my subconscious is full of disenchantment at the moment, though as toads have a tendency to come accompanied by humour, hopefully it will at least make you smile. And maybe give me credit for managing to turn out a sonnet.


If a toad were to squeeze beneath my door

If a toad were to squeeze beneath my door
like MacCaig’s toad, and fix me fearlessly
with his cool agate eye, I’d fall to my knees
and kiss his dry warty nose and gently
stroke his golden knobbled skin, offering
grateful prayer for such rare visitation.
But should my visitor then be transformed
into the handsome prince of fairy tale,
I’d send him packing without hesitation.
What need have I of an enchanted prince
with promises of happy-ever-after?
A toad to my mind is a greater wonder,
worth far more than any number
of smooth talking, perfect looking men.

Sheila Lockhart
13 May 2020


Views/opinions expressed are the author’s own and do not represent those of any individual from Moniack Mhor or Moniack Mhor itself. Copyright remains with the author.

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