Developing Writers

Holly peters: after lockdown entry 1 – like driving in a city i don’t live in

21st April 2022

For 11 weeks, Mayflower 400 Young City Laureate Holly Peters has been keeping a lockdown diary, charting her experiences as a young person living through this time of global pandemic. Now, as England takes its first steps out of lockdown, Holly launches Plymouth Culture’s series of diaries which will chart what happens next…

Holly writes:
We were driving around the city, a figure of eight looping around the town and next to the sea. It was Saturday evening, July 4th, the day that the pubs, restaurants and hairdressers re-opened. Recently, I’ve felt my optimism falter, my belief that a national lockdown would allow time for healing and growth shrinking. I thought, hoped, it was cabin fever, but as we were driving, glancing through windows into dimly lit pubs, all I felt was disappointment.

This is the poem that came out of that drive.

Retracing the steps of a past self, a town we used to now,
Slight indentations of trainer markings left on the mud,
Their impressions washed away by rushes of rain,
melted by sun.
Noting what’s changed, what we’d quickly forgotten.
It’s like driving around a city I don’t live in.
We can hear the three ghosts bickering:
past, present and future.

Twentieth of June: one-thousand, three-hundred and forty-six new cases

The past barks about echoes of busy crowds
Retracing a route walked everyday by many into the mall.
The present presents one-way systems, blockades,
A shred of order amongst chaos,
Watching them, watching you.
The future shrugs, and stops the present
From ignoring the arrow instructions on the floor.

Twenty-seventh of June: one-thousand, three-hundred and eighty new cases

The past squawks on about popping into the pub,
Not hunting for a seat,
The present teaching about reservations,
Table service, queuing outside the glass,
Spontaneity suppressed,
Shrunken capacity.
Flashing blue lights.
The present bites their nails,
Too soon to know for sure if they had made the
Right decision.
The future shrugs and promises they’re working on it.

Twenty-ninth of June: nine-hundred and one new cases

The present watches the hairdresser silently
Muffling through their mask,
The contact alien,
The past observes with a frown,
No small talk or dancing voices,
Laughter trapped behind the glass.
The future just shrugs.

First of July: six-hundred and eighty-nine new cases

The past revels in the atmosphere.
Taps their foot to the thud of the drums,
Smiling out at the dancing bodies,
Letting the music fill their bones.
People tumble from the theatre, changed,
Stories moulding them, shaping the way they see,
Characters as people as actors right there
Just before their eyes.
The emotions real, new lessons to learn,
Not even looking for the wires.

The present shakes their head, a sigh,
Reluctant to tell them about the empty seats,
The dusty stages, the broken hearts.
The rusted guitar strings and silent drums,
Some doors closing for longer than the night.
The future prays,

Second of July: eight-hundred and twenty-nine new cases

It’s like driving around a city I don’t live in.
The present straining to fit the past into the wrong
Shape of the future.

Fifteenth of July:Words by Holly Peters.

This entry is an extension of collaborative commission by Plymouth Culture and Literature Works. It has been reproduced from the original, posted here.