James Fountain

Under the Microscope

A scientist scrutinises a drop of liquid showcased on the slide
through his thousand times magnified lens, with steady eyes
wide to its vitality, globules imitating the curve of the world,
global scope of this vaccine enough to rattle the technician,
the safety of billions, praying for an effective antibody,
tubes of cytoplasm racked in platoons against the invisible enemy.

Who would be them, is the question, and their colleagues,
in various countries globally with their pipettes and droplets,
quiet work at least, tense silence of study, the air tight with hope,
sterilised hands and gloves and masks, eyes covered by goggles,
hair plastered down by white caps, this alien virus they combat
covering more column inches of newspaper than any war.

These apocalyptic memories help spur the scientists along,
they all want the horror to be over, to expunge the oddity
of subways filled with masked marauders, some in heels and mascara,
of massive invasive adverts about covid adding to the oppression,
the sense of death everywhere, behind every door, lurking
on every handle, on metal bannisters, on lovers’ wet lips.

James Fountain was born in Hartlepool in 1979 and some of his poems have appeared in The Journal, Dream Catcher, London Grip, The Recusant and The Blue Nib. His second pamphlet, The Last Stop (Original Plus Press, 2018) was adjudged runner-up by Imtiaz Dharker in the 2018 Ilkley Literature Festival Chapbook Competition. His as yet unpublished first collection of poems was longlisted for the 2020 Erbacce Prize. The monograph of the PhD he researched at the University of Glasgow, the first on forgotten British 1930s-50s poet Joseph Macleod, will be published by Waterloo Press in Spring 2022.