Thinking in Crisis Times: A Collective Exploration by the English Department

Thinking in Crisis Times: A Collective Exploration by the English Department 2020-21.

For Thinking in Crisis Times, students at King’s responded to the first term’s readings with a series of poems (see

In the Spring term, a call was issued for submissions on the topic of the Extra/Ordinary, which elicited a range of powerful work in the form of writing and images.

The selected submissions for Thinking in Crisis Times on the topic of the Extra/Ordinary are:

Rosemary’s Bodies by Sarah Arnold, Body Talk by Finlay Cousins and Living in lock-down by Lauren Mappledoram.

(also published at:

Rosemary’s Bodies by Sarah Arnold

I sit and recall
How Rosemary’s Bodies push through the doors,
A ruffle of coats and scarves and masked faces,
Traces of names and numbers on spreadsheets,
As we carefully distribute bodies,
Navigate space and time and streamline groups in a one-way system,
Scattered around the perimeters of the bar.

How table service changed our dynamics, for
The government broke down our barrier.
Behind the wooden tiles and the ale lines,
We had to emerge, and leave the bar to
Locate bodies on the floor, on a map by the till
To find the throat down which the drink would flow.
But Rosemary’s Bodies, they’re creatures of habit and keep coming up to the bar.
// SORRY LOVE IT’S TABLE SERVICE // They just can’t help it.

So we blast the old rules and cast aside our dark colours
And we shuffle past you for a quick cig, and we ruffle past you for a soothing drink,
And we push ourselves into the arms of your dangerous comfort,
Your body up close, where the pub is an obstacle course of escape routes
With particles of potential danger crowding the air,
And yet the only safe space, and so we hide our face, and rush on and off

I sit and recall
How again we had to cry TIME
And after all,
We need to finish all the cask ales.
And we burn through the kegs quickly, and the casks need more attention,
And the lines need to be cleaned in between,
And none of that matters now.
Rosemary’s Bodies are never keen to leave,
We circle them like shepherd dogs
To drive them through the gates, abandoning all hope to return.
We force their drinks into plastic cups and we force their bodies back out, out, out.
No one’s allowed on the property. // I’M SORRY – WE DIDN’T MAKE THE RULES //
But we’re accountable (service, objects, kin).
When they leave, we are left to collect the heaps of glasses,
Wipe their remains off the tables,
And cleanse the space from the spectres of bodies.

Now, as I sit and recall, it’s, indeed, another day,
Ashy cigarette particles settle
On the remains of the white gazebo
Below into the garden of the Rosie.
Plastic drapes scattered, a skeleton on grass carpet,
The wind has burst us into pieces.

I gaze down from my balcony,
From the outside looking in, it’s strange.
(Once the barmaid’s left the bar, she’s useless.)

The weather’s made its massacre
(What’s the gazebo needed for without Rosemary’s bodies huddled beneath?)
And so I sit still through another storm and recall


My lips twitch.
One last time we rang the bell.

And that’s time for another four weeks.
And what’s time but another four weeks?

Sarah Arnold is an MA Modern Literature and Culture student at King’s College London. The poem ‘Rosemary’s Bodies’ is about the ordinary/extraordinary experiences as a barmaid at the Rosemary Branch and is very much informed by her studies in modernism.

Body Talk by Finlay Cousins:

Body Talk
a phone riddled with
the rumour
of how many,
the rumour of death,
the rumour of
Write one that makes us ache
with remembering,
one that doesn’t let
the language slip
through the seasons.
One that trespasses
clouded horizons of
soot, walls, brick,
mortar, screens.
Stop us losing
the real talk,
the body talk,
when every word
is another life
and who
does life belong to?
And reading the news
is reading each other,
enterprise, distraction,
lashings of calls into
radio stations
because the more
you hear
and are heard
the better.
And the host
frames the stories,
bread crusts
ready to be
polished off
until even thinking
becomes gluttony
and life,
a cocoon.
What happens
to the landscapes
in our rooms? The soot,
brick, screens, mortar,
when we turn
in the street and embrace,
shake the dust
off solitude,
what happens to the moon
by a safety clip
in the corner?
The small
tracks of
footsteps that
sunk into
cornices of the carpet.
When we drive a hook
through a cheek and
slip away,
do they slip away?
How much does
trauma pay?

Living in lock-down by Lauren Mappledoram:

When my watch stopped and days melted like ice cream –
did I come to my senses?

I saw how the sofa would sag
a little more each week,

how disco music thudding through the wall
would sound so distant –

I pressed my head to the bricks and heard blood rush,
the sea roared in my ears like a conch.

Under my door, smells of cooking drifted,
ginger, rich makani sauce

and sounds of muffled laughter. I counted three voices,
their words clear as custard.

One morning, my peppermint tea got infected
by dish soap that slipped in, tasting of hospital visits.

Now, outside my window the sky stretches stark blue
and I can do nothing but stare.

(also published at:

If you have suggestions or want to become more involved, please contact the Thinking in Crisis Times organisational team.

This initiative is organised by the Department of English, King’s College London. Please get in touch if you’d like to be more involved or have any suggestions.

Blog posts on King’s English represent the views of the individual authors and neither those of the English Department, nor of King’s College London.

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