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
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.