Quotes are verbatim, from the survey of those being vaccinated at the Institute.

People have been coming here, to receive the vaccination
and have expressed their feelings and divulged
their situation
to be made into our poems, for the public observation.

What has been worst about this time and what,
       perhaps the best?
Some reveal the sadness of the threat and the unrest:
‘temporal dislocation’, ‘disconnection’.

Yet, set beside any doubt,
is believing, hopefulness, gratitude.
Gratitude for the call of the Crick itself –
‘an exciting trip out.’

By train,
by car, by tube, bike, hike and bus:
in the main,
gratitude for the gift of the jab,
the lift from the laboratory:
the ‘science has saved us.’

Gratitude for ‘people pulling together.’
‘Tearful gratitude for all who have worked so hard
and faced danger, so I can be here now.’
Gratitude for the wildlife and water of
       Walthamstow Wetlands.

Gratitude for the wave of a granddaughter
when there is no place for an embrace:
‘Waving not kissing.’
Gratitude for the glass a quarter full
though you see three-quarters missing.

Gratitude for ‘pause to reflect’ –
what might be waiting
in the world, beyond disconnecting and dislocating.
A chink of light in the doorway.
Gratitude to be ‘emigrating to Norway’.

The Norwegian for gratitude is Takknemlighet.
The Somali – Mahadnak.
The Bengali – কৃতজ্ঞতা Krittogota.
With this word, the final ta you say
as in, tap. Not as in, tar.
As in, family
and not, as in far away.

Gratitude for ‘a new freedom on the horizon’
for the good there is
and the good there is yet to be.

Gratitude for the smile of a stranger,
if only in the eyes.
Gratitude, possibly,
for extra supplies
of poetry.

Artistic Statement

For myself, the first bleak days in the world and word of ‘lockdown’ received a lightening when I found the uplifting note up on our block of flats’ noticeboard, inviting anyone who needed help to be in touch. We pinned our own numbers alongside it, along with our thanks.

Coming to write this poem, I decided I wanted to concentrate on gratitude. I also wanted to broaden it, beyond the borders of my homeland and so, included ‘gratitude’ in Bengali and Somali, kindly told to me by two other poets on the project, and in Norwegian which was suggested by one of the handed-in postcards.

In the back of my mind, I had a line from John Keats’ poem ‘Hyperion’ – So on our heels a fresh perfection treads. I hoped to bring in such
a perspective. The Crick Institute is a place of science and it is not in the nature of scientific activity to seek out data which supports a bias – however, I have concentrated on that which gives an affirming, and I hope, upbeat picture.

I am grateful for the help of producers and organisers at the Institute, and at Poet in the City. And, for the eloquence of the members of the public, whose contributions have been thought and feeling-provoking, humorous, deep, dignified and surprising.

Artist Bio

John Hegley was born in Newington Green in 1953. He has published numerous collections of poetry for adults and children with his most recent being New and Selected Potatoes (Bloodaxe Books 2013).

In 2010, he worked with Company Paradiso in Warning, May Contain Nuts, alongside BBC radios Sussex and Berkshire, challenging stigmas around mental illness.

In 2012 he was the Keats House poet in residence and in 2019, his Arts Council funded project, Putting You in the Picture took children to galleries to delve into, and respond to art works. He was the Keynote speaker at the marathon Geopoetry 2020 and has run workshops in prisons, hospitals, schools, libraries and has also toured theatres and festivals with presentations involving music, verse, drawings, and a small amount of French baroque dance.

Read the other poems here:

Survive(d) – Hanna Ali

Of Partings & Preludes – Momtaza Mehri

ধন্যবাদ – Nazneen Ahmed

MementoUs – Keisha Thompson

Now এই সময় – Eeshita Azad

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