Five Hundred Yards from Home

by Richard Moorhead
Wild Poetry Forum
Third Place, May 2020
Judged by Terese Coe

Metaphors of war
do not have empty villages
marked by closing notices
pinned to shop doors,
sun-dried paper, rustling
thanks and safeness.

Metaphors of war
do not have old folk
first in line for silence
on their usual walks, smiling
with a fretful friendliness

shy of their own fear.

Metaphors of war
do not say brief hellos,
to breach the distance
as if its silence opened us
to kindness with the gift
of gentle adult hands.

Metaphors of war
do not smooth the hopeful
paper, pull the ribbon,
open a fold in their heart
to keep a stranger
close for safekeeping.

This Pandemic poem hangs an elusive hopefulness on four iterations of do not. Is the Pandemic a war, a metaphor for war, or something else entirely? The metaphor/war rhyme is repeated and analyzed, and a triple rhyme comes to mind as well, metaphors for war. The sun-dried paper, rustling/thanks and safeness in S1 is the hopeful/paper in the last stanza. This intimates a forward and backward fluctuation much like that of the disease in spring-summer 2020 (and probably much longer). “Five Hundred Yards from Home” shows restraint and patience but the final lines are as enigmatic, contradictory, and lonely as the world’s attempts to isolate have been. Smiling /with a fretful friendliness/shy of their own fear contains profound emotional truth. --Terese Coe