In the spirit of Defoe (A Journal of a Plague Year) and Pepys (serial London diarist of the 1600s ‘great plague’) HOWL offers you the Lockdown Dairies, vignettes from around the planet, where members of the HOWL family share their ‘Covid’ thoughts and experiences.

A ‘lockdown’ poem by Scott Bywater (Phnom Penh)

the crowds are thinning
on the boulevard of cautionary tales
but maybe a new name is in order:
the street of the last chance saloons?
the avenue of the end times?
deathpat’s graveyard?
(have I been reading Tom Robbins too much?)

if only beer wasn’t half as expensive
as soda water
I think to myself
as I scratch the unshavenness
I am wearing to blend in

Monday has not traditionally
been a good day to start again
but so many of the old rules
are gone
and why wait for Tuesday?

as the street dwindles away
into shutters and sentries


one cannot help being impressed
by the creators of email spam
who continue to work tirelessly
through this crisis

the internet is our mirror
both individually and
our society
all the things we are
are in there
blaring back at us
staring back at us
in piercing shards
and loud lectures

our mythic heroes weep silently
in their corners and their caves
they are spent; they did what they could
for now we are on our own

the bandleader up on the bandstand
keeps calling up new titles but
the dream orchestra keeps playing
the same tune

the shadow protagonist
his time called at last
can only hack his way through the scenery
in stubborn repetition of past roles
on the same backlot
high shimmering painted skies
and smoke machines laid to waste
as he stumbles forward
incoherently shouting lines
from his past triumphant speeches
once there was not a dry eye in the house
now there is not a house
not even a rickety chair


after the day-after-day morning bangclatter
the view from my window
is still and flatly hot
like childhood summer afternoons
when everything was distant
and the birds were the loudest thing
to be heard

when we walk the streets
the comparison with zombies
is hard to avoid,
with our mouth hiders
firmly in place,
eyes working overtime in exaggerated expressions
to overcome the facewrinkles that
complete our brief exchanges

all plans mothballed
all bets off
all opinions bleated
all encouragements obeying
the law of diminishing cares


the streetscape edited
erratically, but continually
the familiar faces of these years past
home means different things to different people
particularly when pushed

strange times, we nod sagely,
as we quietly rearrange our priorities
even as we wonder what they are

somewhere it seems
our alter egos
are off hiking in the hills
picnicking halfway up cliffs
waving bottles of wine
at a different sun
wondering where the glasses are
wondering where the corkscrews are
wondering where we are

all plans mothballed

all bets off

shutters and sentries

the dream orchestra keeps playing
the same tune

Scott Bywater – poet, writer, word raconteur