To those born after a plague year

That you were conceived before the Afterwards of uncommon times

to emerge in such numbers, a ‘cohort’

as demographers will call it, in newly-scrubbed wards,

repurposed suites and decommissioned cots

will be your disgrace. At first, your cribbed front lines

will demand nourishment and swaddling

in packed classes of overburdened schools;

hardening to claim a lifetime’s coddling

as though born under your own special sign;

and then, you will decamp in droves to whatever forms

and fusions of love your legions compel; then the last jobs

will be divided amongst yourselves, judges presiding eternally in wigs

the same colour as their hair and their face, everlasting gigs

for politicians and celebrities.  Last scene of all, any available jabs

for the next plague year will go to your rest homes, first.  As to the coarse

question of what they were doing in the lock-down: well, that’s another matter,

                                                of course.

Quadrant, forthcoming