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Social Dancing

Coronavirus Spring


Spring has returned, in all its fragile newness.

Here the magnolia, and there the prunus—

Like any other spring,

Yet more entrancing


Now that so many sense their need for air,

And find that all their fellow-beings share

The same desire to cling

To life, not chancing


Contact with that spiky floating mine.

Now is the time to walk in the sunshine,

Hearing the blackbird sing

Above, and glancing


Upwards at the now untravelled sky,

Newly reclaimed by bird and butterfly.

But, on encountering

Someone advancing


Towards me, I step aside into the road—

Unless they do so first—give them a nod,

A smile, or some such thing,

Thereby enhancing,


Not severing, the bond uniting stranger,

Neighbour and friend against the hidden danger:

Not social distancing

But social dancing.



Dermot Killingley

27th April 2020



I was born in Liverpool, in an Irish family; my father was a teacher of French and Spanish. I made my career in Sanskrit and Indian studies, and taught in the University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur. I taught in Newcastle University from 1970, and retired in 2000 as Reader in Hindu Studies. Some of my poems are published in Narrowboat Music, by myself and Robert Jackson (Newcastle: Grevatt & Grevatt, 2015).

The poem came to me from walking in Gosforth this April, and thinking of the incongruity of the term "social distancing".

About the author

Dermot Killingley

Dermot is chair of the S. Y. Killingley Memorial Trust, which gives grants to part-time learners in the arts and humanities in the North-East ( It was founded in 2005 in memory of my wife Siew-Yue Killingley (1940-2004), who was a professional scholar, and also a musician and a poet.

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