Over the spring of 2021, as the weather was getting warmer and the nation gradually advanced along the roadmap out of lockdown, St John’s students were invited to share their experiences of College and University life under covid. This competition, aptly named ‘Chronicling Covid’, gathered records of student life during an extraordinary time in the history of St John’s College, and indeed the world.
The following poems were the three prize-winners in the ‘Written word’ category of the Chronicling Covid competition.
Chronicling Covid at St John’s by Owen Brown
How oft, one wonders, does a student arrive,
And embrace a college so gaily?
Twenty-twenty has shown, in a world so unknown,
The wonders that wait on the Bailey.
Fondly, to recall, was I there with my bags,
Outside some Georgian townhouses,
The friends there I met, did inspire this vignette,
I profess that we were ale-souses.
Let us not forget, those without statuette,
The cleaners and fixers and porters,
I can’t understate, how we appreciate,
Their role in maintaining our quarters.
A word must be said, for those makers-of-bread,
Who provided and kept us contented,
And as we donned the gown, for meals fit for the crown,
Then drinking refreshments fermented.
The bands of so few, behind table or pew,
Proclaiming their bright exaltations,
Though this world may aghast, these dear students hold fast,
In tipsy and crude exclamations!
I ponder what would, St John himself say?
At a gaze on us, atop his raincloud,
The praying and thinking and swaying and prinking,
Sure am I, he would say “I’m right proud!”
I did not take the bread by Catherine Perkins
When I went home for the holidays
I gave you a high-five as I left my
Bread in the fridge and I said goodbye and
I promised you that I would be
Back for your birthday and that
We would go out and celebrate before exams
But I came back ten months
Later and the door hardly opened
With all the “sorry for your loss” cards
Piled up on the door mat
And tears of damp wept down
The walls and seeped into the floor
I’m sorry we never went out
And I’m sorry I didn’t say goodbye
Properly and I’m sorry I did not take the
Bread because it now has mould in it but
Mostly I’m sorry that I could not
Hold your hand when the end came
Finally by Abigail Chetham
the westward wind blew unforeseen
and hazy places stood
still in time and short of rhyme,
is this the second flood?
no, a plague, must we be punished
once again, are we not clean?
you send these waters to vanquish us,
so they say, and so it seems.
yet in the depths of its waters
bones sprout with flesh anew-
bitter abashed treachery
burnt away by its cool hue.
and so the breeze continues,
turns over every tree.
in the silence, song is brighter,
effervescent and free.
no longer are the doorways
painted red with fugacity
but a spectre of kaleidoscopic hope
and so I speak, finally,