Neil Fulwood - Poems

Neil Fulwood

BWV 176

Es ist ein trotzig und verzagt Ding

(after J.S. Bach)

Compress the human soul into a logic box,
make the first choice something daring or shy.
Everything down the line precedes from this.
Fast forward: no delivery slots for online
shopping, self-isolation locked in place
for three more days. A cupboard audit, then:
a checking of tinned goods’ expiry dates.
Two meals instead of three a day: you’ll make it.
You’ll learn to love that overlooked Pot Noodle.
They’d laugh at you, who made the other choice:
hermits, trappers, mountain men. The kings
of social distancing before it even existed.

BWV 20

O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort

(after J.S. Bach)

Do the maths: however many hours
times however many days, the view from this
window eternally the same. Time’s
not exactly in short supply. A grand project’s
what’s called for. Me, I’m working my way
through the Bach cantatas. Who on the estate
is similarly engaged? Who’s undertaking
the final and definitive curation
of Irish rebel songs? Who’s downloaded
every version of ‘Body and Soul’ and circled
back to Lady Ella’s? Eternity, O thunderous word,
a fortnight and you’ve made us connoisseurs.


Bleib bei uns, denn es will Abend werden

(after J.S. Bach)
A pocketful of mercy, picked by a thief.
Two larks throwing their shadows
across the valley. You never believe
that the worst of the daily news
(dispatches from the deep end
of the doldrums) will affect you
or anyone you know. Then a friend
you messaged for a chat texts you
back and the rug’s yanked from beneath
the whole “stay safe” construct.
Their loss. Life taken arbitrarily. Utter grief.
Evening is closing in. Abide with us.

Three Zen Lockdown Poems
(for Marie Cooper)


Be calm. You no longer have to seek out
the spaces between things. It was not your hand
on the mechanism that widened the vice,
that lifted the drawbridge. It was not your doing,
this silence, this emptying away of activity.


Be calm. The spaces between things
are pockets of thought, periods of silence.
They can be occupied or observed
at a distance. They can be signpost
or sanctuary. They are not absences. 


Be calm. The silence need not threaten.
There is opportunity here. Solitude
can be utilised. Enlightenment exists
in the spaces between things,
in the slowing of thought almost to stillness.

Copyright © Neil Fulwood, 2020