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The Treaty

Having failed to crush, flatten,

or close our borders against it,

as Winter begins to put

its uncouth fingernails all over us

there is talk of negotiations.

King Virus comes to the table 

wearing a crown of spikes

that fans out to fill the whole room

and can’t be removed

except on the day of its state funeral,

for which – item one on its agenda –

we’re expected to pay.

Its minions scuttle in

all sporting slightly smaller

but equally spiky headgear

not to be hung on the hat-stand

until its wearer has been scrubbed

to death by soap and alcohol

even a journalist wouldn’t drink.

We are busy being impressed

by the tall portraits of its ancestors

which adorn the conference room walls

when its chief negotiator cuts through gristle to bone:

it wants all our old age pensioners and chronics. 

In terms of the drag they are on the economy, 

it’s doing us a favour taking them 

to the processing plants it’s building

here, here, and there

on the map it keeps pointing at

with its big long stick.

Being realists – on financial matters at least –

we have no alternative but to agree

and, as is our custom on such occasions,

offer it a little extra:

everyone over the age of sixty.

Its final condition,

to which we’re delighted to nod

statesmanlike agreement:

the rest of the population

will be known by this treaty,

which will have full force of international law,

as the ‘unoccupied zone’.

Congratulating ourselves on another deal done,

we bark our ribs up (or try to) 

and sweat in unison 

into the perfect white of the handkerchiefs 

we brought to wave at the world’s media.