Escape at the Speed of Transience

by Peter Halpin
Wild Poetry Forum
First Place, June 2020
Judged by Terese Coe


Then we all batten down the hatches,
stockpile food, ration alcohol and post pictures
of our mundanity on Facebook. Some entertain
with vignettes on YouTube, some amusing,
some, not so much.

We’ve rallied together in isolation, distance
ourselves, wash hands, wear masks and dressed
as germ crazed bandits we plank the curve.
And like springtime gophers, poke our heads out,
but scatter at the first sign of a cough or sneeze.

We crave closeness, but shun hugs and mark
out our space, yelping like feral coyotes.
Have back-fence conversations, pontificating
on “internet facts” like they came
from the mouth of the prophet and listen
to careless and greedy politicians talking
about“opening up” like the Ringling Brothers
bringing their circus to town.

We watch in shame as our old folk die,
locked up in nursing home prisons, staring out
windows like ghosts from Belsen; we praise
health care workers struggling to make do
with promises never fulfilled or dying
because that’s what they do.

But this afternoon sun entices me out of my hovel
as I make a run for it, take shelter in the arms
of the gentle breeze and let fear of humanity divest me.
As the rapture engulfs, I want to rush into streets
of familiarity and dance in close proximity or run
naked into a warm crowd of friendly strangers.


This touches on both the irony and tragedy of this Covid time. It begins in media res and continues with admirable spareness: “We crave closeness, but shun hugs and mark / out our space, yelping like feral coyotes.”
. . .

“We watch in shame as our old folk die,/ locked up in nursing home prisons, staring out / windows like ghosts from Belsen;”

The speaker retains a healthy degree of detachment with refreshing lightness of treatment, for the most part. The final stanza allows for hope and “rapture” in the company of strangers, as if the constraints of isolation could be left behind, somehow, in the imagination. It is a ray of light.

--Terese Coe

  • June 2020 Winners

    • First Place

      Escape at the Speed of Transience
      by Peter Halpin
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Second Place

      The Palace Hotel
      by Paul A. Freeman
      The Write Idea

      Third Place

      Camping
      by Mike LaForge
      The Waters

  • May 2020 Winners

    • First Place

      Burying My Brother
      by Bob Bradshaw
      The Waters

      Second Place

      The Asian man who walks past the balcony
      by Daniel J. Flore III
      Babilu

      Third Place

      Five Hundred Yards from Home
      by Richard Moorhead
      Wild Poetry Forum