Death in a Time of Corona by Peter Wellby – based on artwork by Sue Vass


Fragility by Sue Vass

Sue chose the matches piece as a prompt because it attracted a lot of attention when it’s been in exhibitions so it holds some fascination even if it’s just to ask the question, ‘how did you do that?’

“I called the piece ‘Fragility’. There’s a melancholic feel to the piece. To me, it’s suggestive of where we’re all at at the moment. The world is in a fragile state (not just because of Covid) and we’re all feeling fragile. Some if us are breaking, some are bending and no one is untouched by the current circumstances.”


in our hamlet
we stood,
a bit self-conscious,
at our gate.
A smattering of gossip in the sun,
neighbours, some close,
some to nod at,
strung out,
keeping a
social                        distance,
a living kerb to the grey road.

12.58 PM.
a reassuring drawing-in of breath.
Punctually death comes
in his slow hearse,

in which, black, mirror-buffed,
we see a drowning image of ourselves.
The coffin pale oak,
a Union Jack stretched trimly over it.
Ray was a Brexiteer.

Three cars follow
holding the few the government permit
to mourn a body’s passing.
Following the hearse
Ray’s widow, very upright, very still,
blindly registering friend and acquaintance.
A dismal moment,
a poor farewell
but all that times allow.

The cars vanish up Rosemount.
we track
the slow three miles
to Horam Crematorium.
Obsequious drapes
purr open, close,
a curtain call on life.
The coffin slides on rollers
its own volition,
towards the intense
roar of eternity.

Six days ago
sunbrown, burnished by holiday,
fresh home from Tenerife,
the dead man and his widow
had been embraced home by the village,
back to the jolly bonhomie
of the Six Bells.

Now he is ash
in a wrought urn.
Who cannot hear
time’s whetting scythe?
Who in the Six Bells that evening,
does not feel the earth
less constant underfoot?

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