Sunday, 22 May 2022

 Sea Poems (of mine!)



SEA SONG

The tar-macadamed night

Sparkles with expectation,

As cypher signals from a distant ocean

Strike blow on blow before the anvil shore.

Immersed in waves of light and sound and water,

We plunged in deep, straining to accommodate

Love's sweet, bitter, painful metre,

Filled to the brim with lunar distillation,

We wax and wane, a pale reflection

Of some elusive beat

In God's pulsating score.


Waking


Day follows night. Bright colours splashed where all was grey

So in this flight of fancy labelled life

We cautiously emerge from sleep's strange crypt

And dress the temple with sweet meats and flowers.


Upon soft winds divinely placed

To rouse our senses from their rest

The scents of drying grass and ocean spray

Float silently and permeate the space.


Drawing up the strings of wakefulness

We gather up the broken fragments

Into an ordered familiar face

Mirroring who we think we are.


Smoke balloons and fades

Birdsong fills the air, then gone

Water seeps through grains of sand

All to who knows where?


Spirits that trip on the gentle breeze

Also fill the billowing sail

Bearing aloft the timorous craft

Before the looming swell


Riding the impulsive wave

We crest the foaming wave

And diving down with outstretched arms

Embrace the fateful day.


Mount's Bay

On silver platter the ocean glides,
Mercurial lines of grey,
Slide metal plate, on metal plate,
Towards the sloping shore.
Sweeping from mysterious Mount
To silhouetted familiar settlement
Of dome and tower and many roofs,
Of granite, wood and slate:
Mount's Bay once more!

Shining blindingly in the West,
An infernal chemical reaction measuring
A million, million footsteps hence
From suspended scorching flame
To this fine experience.
But towards the east, magenta sea
So blue upon the eye,
Even the hardest heart would soften, break.

Accompanied by a symphony of sounds,
The shuffle of the pebbles, round on round,
The primitive screech of Oyster Catcher, Sand Piper, Egret,
Dunlin, Curlew and Pee Wit,
And man with bounding barking dog,
Just Lowry shapes against the icy 'scape.

Later, a deep vermillion fills the sky,
Ground from a rock called Cinnabar,
To which the blazing sea reflects, relates.
Great artist, who with deft stroke and rich palette,
Created such stupendous canvass, ever changing!

The sinking fire beckons the quieting dusk,
Then night, when multitudes spectacular,
Illuminate with twinkling gems of light,
The auditorium we call space;
Reminding us how small we are,
A momentary flash of acquiescence
And sentient aberrance.

Whilst surrounding all, a vast unfathomable moat,
Enfolds us in its temperate arms,
To lull us gently into sleep,
Of timeless and eternal banishment.
My only thought: Should I my lover meet?


HANGING


Hanging by the rope, I dangle every day

The noose it slips and tightens, squeezing my life away.

For every sky above me, A heart for every fate.

A tear for those that love me. A smile to those that hate.

My sky is grey and louring. Filled with swirling sleet

Abyss beneath, nothing but unfeeling feet.

Suspended animation. Time itself is held in sway.

Where hope hanging only by a thread, allows the Fates their day.

Storms may rage about me. Stones fall down on my head.

Biting fingers running through me, Numbed pains of freezing blood.

The spirit leaves reluctantly. It does not want to go.

A superhuman act of faith involved in saying no.

I feel the rope around me. I feel it closing in.

As every hour you fight it off, you know its going to win.

So near and yet so far. The rescuers at hand.

I can hear their voices call me. I can smell them where they stand.

But still I hang quite helpless. A baby freshly born.

The final knot of hope, becomes the knot of scorn.

It is the rope that saves me and the rope that does me in.

There's no way up and no way down. There's no way out or in.


The clock chimes six and soon it will be day.

Another night of hanging and keeping death at bay.

The strongest constitution will surely be dispatched.

The most courageous spirit be extinguished like a match.

For there comes a point in everybody's time

When the simple act of letting go, is more welcome than the climb.

When with relief the life-force ebbs away

And with it pain and fear and love, the struggles of the day.

Exhausted slump, the howling wind's embrace

Reclaimed by universe. A frozen mountain's face.

As a billion times before, in a billion different ways

People slipped into that ocean and sank beneath those waves.

But each a mystic moment when another unique soul

Evaporates completely or is reclaimed to wander whole.

Yet heroic is the victim who with every sinew and device

Fights the overwhelming odds or the throwing of the dice.

Now just a body hanging lifeless and ill at ease

Whilst all about continues as normal as you please.

Only the screaming wind, the scudding clouds, the icy rock and snow

Are witness to this towering feat,

How great, how small, we know.


Incoming Tide


(Rather strange that only the next day after writing this, it was reported that many Chinese cockle pickers had been drowned at Southport Sands. It was based on a recent walk I took with a friend but has to be dedicated to them. And also the friend.)


What can we say of the perfect day?

What can we say?

The broad sweep of yellow sand,

The white crested breakers, breaking;

The mighty power of the ocean

Held at bay

by the gentle Hellespont

And ruthless ridges

Of a multitudinous patterned

Beach.


A dog intoxicated

By the boundless beauty,

The featureless expanse,

Of flat soft silica,

Stretching to some invisible

Vanishing point,

Runs in circles,

Always coming back.


Two people arm in arm

Unable to disentangle

The here and now

From the here-to-fore;

Afraid to cling

Or yet in letting go;

Holding only to the moment,

Trying to feel the force

Before the next obliterating wave.



SWAN SONG (Part 1)


White swan, white swan, so nonchalant,

With what amazing grace you glide;

So disenchanted with the human world,

Riding the fast incoming tide.

Strangely incongruous upon the sea -

Out and beyond the salt-filled bay,

Stretching as far as eye can see,

Pitted and dappled, silver grey.

Here where river meets the ocean,

Marking out a smoother darker rivulet,

Your elegance explores the deep dark weed

And orange beak sups still fresh wine.

Whilst we poor humans gaze in awe,

Struck dumb by beauty so complete -

A milky opal, a perfect pearl,

Set in a sparkling amulet.


CIRCULAR MOTION

round and round covering the ground

an exercise in perpetual motion

silence on silence envelopes all around

and only the sound of the ocean


the sun comes up the sun goes down

in all its brilliant splendour

the moon comes out and shows its face

in silver phases, wonder


how in spinning we stand still

how in travelling we get no where

how all our plans are doomed to fail

and all our loves despair


the Corpus Christie fair is here

with all its noise and show

the flashing lights and music blare

the screams of girls unknown


around around they swing

oh the joy of spinning round

in vertical and horizontal planes they go

whilst standing on the ground


and then as luck would have it

whilst coming round the corner

i met a man I'd met before

the latter meets the former


and as he passed me by

he poked his tongue right out

but then I caught him with my eye

and swung him round about


as cycling on and on and on

I make the wheels revolve

around the time when time stood still

and we were almost one


God Dog(gerel)

The storm has past. Its day at last.

The sun a blaze of glory.

Those fears and dread which in my head,

Are now a different story.

The cat's been fed. The fire is red.

The kettle's steaming brightly.

The tea's been made. The music's played.

Im really feeling sprightly.


Last night the room was filled with gloom,

Today its lit in yellow,

So in my mind the world is kind:

A mellow sort of fellow.

Before was plain that love's distain

Had crippled me for ever.

That I was left, unloved, bereft,

Without a friend to savour.


My dreams were strange. Life's rearranged

By those recently departed.

Maybe they came to ease my pain

And help me get re-started.

One final verse before the hearse

Draws up before the chapel.

Another day in its unique way

Keeps us going, rhyme or no rhyme.


The phone's gone dead. Its all been said,

There's nothing more to say.

The friends have gone. They've all passed on

They've died or moved away.

The ringing phone shouts I'm alone,

The striking clock agrees,

The brittle leaves shake in the trees,

To force me on my knees.


In silence grand I take a stand

Against the dogs of war,

My simple life so full of strife

Rolls up against the shore.

Its strangely gone. This feeling's done.

I'm not alone no more.


In ocean deep, this tryst I'll keep,

With spirits gone before.

Oh please please stay. Don't go away

And leave me as before.

I close my eyes to all those spies

Those gestures of distain,

My heart's on fire, Full of desire

I want to live again.


Not here but there. A spirit world

Transcending human pain,


Meeting

(Artistic license based on friend's report)


He had me in the quarry. Up against the wall.

I didn't try to parry. He was young and dark and tall.

Whilst on the beach I saw him

He was leaning on the rail

The sea was very blue then

The dinghies full of sail

I was very on my own then

I'd left my boy behind

A certain thrill pulsed through me

Just like the ocean wind

He just stayed there looking over

I pretended not to see

Whilst carefree stream rushed past me

Searching the foaming sea

I fiddled with the pebbles

Tossing them away

Whilst keeping this exotic stranger

In the corner of my eye

When finally he made his move

He disappeared inside

The small squat building sat there

I remained just where I lay

Deciding what to do

Held in the hand of fate

Following an unwritten script

After what seemed like an aeon

I rose and climbed the bank

And with my heart pounding

I thought he'd hear me come

"You after it?" then he said

Or words to that effect

My mouth went dry

Words sank in my chest

Within that small dark cell

He forced his way upon me

And I gladly gave him all

As, you will remember

He was young and dark and tall

After a few brief encounters

He's all but disappeared

But for the waves of excitement

Reverberating weirdly down the years

Every time I see the sea

And every time I stop there

To talk to empty space

Or to take a pee

Wondering if at any moment

He'll lightly brush my clothes

Or tap me on the shoulder

And show he really knows

Where I'm coming from.


LONG ROCK

Long Rock - a finger pointing out to sea
Horizoning to far-off Amazon
With nothing but a vast and watery waste to come between
Where monsters lurk, whales chirp and play

Where fish in shoals flash silver
Where man-made craft ominously prowl the deep uncharted waters
Where many ships have floundered
And myriad ancient salts have passed into solution.

Each day her head she hides, then slowly re-appears
Green locks unfurl, a neck encased in lace
To bare her crocodile-like back, jet black,
Basking in mid-day shine, or night-time ivory light

This crayoned line where earth meets sky
The only remnant of a lush and wooded hill
In times gone by when forest ruled the bay
And who knows who considered it as home

The oceans surge to time the final arbiter,
To unseen celestial forces and distant, distant spheres
Its mentor, barometer and periscope to a fragile earth that sighs
Our lifeboat drifting precarious amidst the stars

Long Rock so isolated and alone
Battered and hard. Bruised but un-bowed
Awake only when submerged, drowsing when dried
To human eyes inhospitable to everything but spume and spray

But oh the secret world that lurks beneath the flood!


 

Monkey Pox

Truth versus 'Fear-porn'.




I keep getting asked the same question again and again; is this outbreak of monkey pox a real threat, or is this another case of overstated and weaponized public health messaging? I am going to save my answer to this question for the end of this article and instead focus on what monkey pox is, the nature and characteristics of the associated disease, what we know and don’t know.

The monkeypox virus, which originates in various regions of Africa, is related to SmallPox (Variola), which are both members of the genus Orthopoxvirus. However, it is important to understand that Variola (major or minor) is the species of virus which is responsible for the worst human disease caused by the Orthopox viruses. For example, Cowpox, Horsepox, and Camelpox are also members of this genus, none of which are a major health threat to humans, and one of which (Cowpox) has even been (historically) used as a Smallpox vaccine. My point is that just because Monkeypox is related to Smallpox, this does not in any way mean that it represents a similar public health threat. Anyone who implies otherwise is basically engaged in or otherwise supporting weaponized public health-related propaganda. In other words, spreading public health fearporn.

Monkeypox was first identified in 1958 in colonies of monkeys, and the first human case of the virus was identified in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Most likely this was just the first case identified, as people living in Africa have been in contact with monkeys and the other Monkeypox animal hosts for millennia. The “West African” monkeypox clade (clade = variant) circulating outside of Africa at this time causes a milder disease compared to the closely related virus found found in other regions of Africa (Congo clade).   

The symptoms of monkeypox are somewhat similar to, but much milder than smallpox disease. The general clinical presentation of the disease caused by the West African monkey pox clade virus involves Influenza-like symptoms — fever, body aches, chills — together with swollen lymph nodes. A rash on the palm of the hand is often observed. In the latter stage of the disease, which may last for up to a month or more in some cases, may involve small lesions which develop a crust, and which can result in a small depigmented scar. There is no evidence of asymptomatic transmission. In other words, current medical knowledge indicates that it is only spread by person to person contact between an uninfected individual and someone who already has symptoms of the disease. Therefore, disease spread can be readily controlled by classical public health interventions such as contact tracing, temporary quarantine of those who have had physical contact with someone who is infected, and longer term quarantine of those who develop symptoms. Essentially all of the current cases in the west which we are seeing in the news are among men who have sex with men, and appear to be due to close physical contact. Monkeypox is endemic in many parts of Africa, and is a “zoonotic” virus, meaning it can be transmitted from a variety of animals (not just monkeys) to humans. Initial animal to human transmission followed by limited human to human transmission is probably the cause of the sporadic cases typically observed in Africa. Chicken pox, which is highly transmissible, is not part of the genus Orthopoxvirus, despite that name “pox.” Once again for emphasis, Cowpox and Camelpox are also in the genus Orthopoxvirus, and they are not particularly pathogenic when contracted by humans; just because Monkeypox is a “pox” virus in the genus Orthopoxvirus, does not mean it is particularly deadly.

Monkeypox is a double stranded DNA virus, which means that due to the double stranded nature of DNA each of the two strands act as a “check” on the other during replication. As a consequence of this “error checking”, this and other DNA viruses mutate much more slowly than RNA viruses do. Over time, DNA virus genomes are relatively stable. This means that, unlike SARS-CoV-2 (COVID) or influenza, Monkeypox is unlikely to rapidly evolve to escape either naturally acquired or vaccine induced immunity. For the purposes of making a vaccine, this makes it a much easier target that say, a rapidly evolving RNA Coronavirus such as SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19. Furthermore, from an immunological point of view, the various Orthopox viruses often are cross-protective. In other words, if you have been vaccinated with a smallpox vaccine, or previously infected by Cowpox, Camelpox, or Monkeypox, you are highly likely to be quite resistant to disease caused by the Monkeypox virus which is now being (quite rarely) reported in non-African countries.

Current data indicate that Monkeypox is not very infectious in humans - it has a low Ro (perhaps below 1), which is the term used to describe how efficiency an infectious disease can spread from human to human. Again, this is super good news for containment. An Ro of <1 generally means that (even in the absence of social distancing of other containment measures), for every person already infected, on average less than one other person will become infected. For comparison purposes, the Omicron variants of SARS-CoV-2 have an Ro in the range of 7 to 10. A virus with an Ro of less than one can be easily contained with the standard public health methods discussed above. A virus with an Ro of 7-10 essentially cannot be contained and will rapidly spread throughout the world, as we have seen with the Omicron variants. In the case of a virus with an Ro around 1 or less, traditional infectious disease containment methods such as contact tracing, identification and isolation of infected individuals can be all that is needed to control the virus. Now the fact that Monkeypox is being spread from human to human (rather than only arising from contact between a person and an infected animal) is not such good news, but since this transmission appears to be from very close contact, this means that it can be easily contained without resorting to a general population vaccination campaign. In this type of setting, if there is a significant outbreak, vaccination is often restricted to just the health care and/or first responder personnel most likely to be in contact with an infected person. Using a vaccine to help that containment via either “ring” vaccination or wide-spread vaccination strategies is generally unnecessary, and may even be counterproductive, depending on the safety of the vaccine - keeping in mind that no drug or vaccine is perfectly safe.

Let me take a moment to tell a personal story to illustrate this point. After the 9-11 events including the anthrax letters, I took a job involving clinical development of a wide range of biodefense vaccines under a US Department of Defense (DoD) contract (issued to Dynport Vaccine Company). One of the vaccine indications we worked on was for prevention of Smallpox. The Vice President of the United States at the time, Mr. Dick Cheney, was advocating for widespread vaccination against smallpox because it was thought that there was something like a 1% chance of a bioterror attack involving reintroduction of smallpox into the United States. The existing live attenuated smallpox vaccine began to be deployed throughout the United States to healthcare workers and first responders. Then multiple reports of vaccine-caused damage began to circulate. I was tasked with looking into historic DoD smallpox vaccine campaign records concerning these types of “adverse events”. Adverse events after administration of this live attenuated vaccine were well known, and generally fell into two categories. In some cases, a small subset of young warfighters and recruits had some previously undetected immunologic defect which resulted in them developing an ongoing infection by the live attenuated vaccine virus that was being used at the time. The other group developed more subtle symptoms including what now appears to have been vaccination-associated myo- and pericarditis - typically ascribed to an autoimmune process. These problems were known risks back when smallpox vaccination was common (and smallpox had not been eradicated) and therefore no surprise when the same vaccine was redeployed in the present. But smallpox had been eradicated, and Mr. Cheney’s worst case scenario never happened. Those who were vaccinated and damaged to protect against a non-existent threat provide a great example illustrating a completely upside down risk benefit ratio. All risk, no benefit. And, appropriately, the smallpox vaccination campaign was halted.

Key takeaway: this is not influenza or COVID - this virus mutates slowly, it is not highly infectious, naturally acquired immunity is potent and long lasting, and Orthopox vaccines are usually cross protective. The risk of immunologic escape is very, very low. And the spread of this virus can be readily stopped by simple, inexpensive classical public health measures. If it were otherwise, we would already have experienced a pandemic of Monkeypox decades ago.

Monkeypox disease severity can vary with different clades (found in different regions in Africa, which also suggest the virus has been around for a very long time). Luckily, this particular clade is less severe and appears to be endemic in Africa. Unfortunately, it has rarely been studied and so relatively little is known about the virus and associated human disease, largely because the infectious threat to the general population is so low. STAT news’ journalist Helen Branswell has recently interviewed CDC experts, and published an excellent summary of the clinical presentation:

“With one to three days of the onset of fever, a distinctive rash appears, often starting on the face. Many conditions can cause rashes but the monkeypox rash has some unusual features, notably the fact that vesicles can form on the palms of the hands. In countries where it is endemic, the virus is believed to mainly spread to people from infected animals when people kill or prepare bushmeat for consumption.

Once the virus jumps to people, human-to-human transmission can occur via respiratory droplets — virus-laced saliva that can infect the mucosal membranes of the eyes, nose, and throat — or by contact with monkeypox lesions or bodily fluids, with the virus entering through small cuts in the skin. It can also be transmitted by contact with clothing or linens contaminated with material from monkeypox lesions. (STAT News).

There was a prior outbreak of Monkeypox in the United States during 2003. That particular outbreak, the first reported outside of Africa, was traced back to the importation of small mammals from Ghana. As shown by this outbreak, multiple animals can contract the disease - during that outbreak, giant pouched rats and squirrels tested positive for the virus and eventually spread it to prairie dogs being sold as pets in multiple Midwestern states (per the CDC). Forty-seven people caught the disease from the prairie dogs. This is important and relevant history, because the current outbreak appears to be occurring from human to human transmission, with no single individual traced as as case zero. There have been a few other outbreaks outside of Africa over the years from travelers coming from Nigeria. It is currently thought that the Monkeypox virus is much more common in Nigeria than has previously been reported.

There is a vaccine that was licensed in the U.S. in 2019 for people 18 years of age and older to protect against smallpox and monkeypox; Bavarian Nordic’s Jynneos. A second vaccine, ACAM2000 made by Emergent Product Development, protects against smallpox and is also thought to offer some protection against monkeypox. Both vaccines are licensed only for people considered at high risk of contracting the disease because they are not entirely safe.  In the 2003 Monkeypox outbreak in the U.S., smallpox vaccine was deployed to persons considered at high risk.

The U.S. already holds supplies of the vaccines in the Strategic National Stockpile, a hedge against public health emergencies. “To combat a smallpox emergency, the SNS holds enough smallpox vaccine to vaccinate the entire U.S. population. In addition, the SNS has antiviral drugs that can be deployed to treat smallpox infections, if needed,” a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services said via email. In my opinion, the 119 Million dollar smallpox vaccine purchase which was just authorized by the US HHS and Biden administration represents an unnecessary and unwarranted expense, unless there are data showing that the current strain is significantly different from the historic predecessor strains within this clade.

The WHO’s Van Kerkhove noted that some of these products have been licensed using what is known as the animal rule, where animal efficacy data are used as a surrogate because the lack of circulating smallpox means the vaccines or drugs can’t be tested for efficacy in people. As a result, any such product could only be used in the context of a clinical trial, she said.

“There are options. We just have to make sure that they’re used appropriately. One of the things related to vaccines is we want to make sure if the vaccines are needed and used, they’re used among populations that need them the most. There’s not ample supply of anything right now,” she said.

Still, she expressed confidence the outbreak can be controlled.

“What we need to do right now is focus on stopping the spread. And we can do that. We can do that with the appropriate messaging, with the appropriate testing … with supportive isolation and clinical care as necessary, with protecting health workers,” Van Kerkhove said. (STAT News).

The Bill Gates funded organization GAVI has provided their assessment of the medical threat posed by Monkeypox, which can be found here. Many readers of this substack will not be surprised by my assessment that this GAVI threat assessment is highly biased towards overstatement. For example, the article seeks to create parallels between Monkeypox and Ebola:

Similar to viruses like Ebola, transmission only happens in close proximity by contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets or contaminated materials such as bedding or clothes.

The article also states the following pants-on-fire disinformation;

Although symptoms often ease within a month, one in ten cases can be fatal. Children are particularly susceptible.

Factcheck determination by qualified subject matter expert -

This assertion represents a very biased interpretation of a data report from the World Health Organization:

In 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported 4,594 suspected cases of monkeypox, including 171 deaths (case fatality ratio 3.7%). They are described as suspected because confirmation requires PCR testing, which is not easily available in endemic areas.

Those readers who have become sensitized to this type of information manipulation and weaponization will immediately notice two key things about this comment. First, the reported mortality of 3.7% (NOT 10%) of cases is from suspected, not confirmed cases. Secondly, this type of sampling is highly biased towards more severe disease- countries rarely will detect and do not report cases of mild disease to the WHO.

So, is the biothreat real? Is is imminent? Does it justify the global media hype? As I was waiting in an airport lounge to travel from USA to the UK two days ago, I saw a newsreel from CNN which was breathlessly reporting on this “threat” while displaying historic images of patients suffering from Smallpox disease. This provides a classical example of public health fearporn, in my opinion, and CNN should be reprimanded for broadcasting irresponsible propaganda - misinformation and disinformation- under the guise of journalism.

In my opinion, based on currently available information, Monkeypox is a virus and disease which is endemic in Africa, emerges sporadically after transmission into humans from animal hosts, and is typically spread by close human contact. It is readily controlled by classical public health measures. It does not have a high mortality rate. Unless there has been some genetic alteration, either through evolution or intentional genetic manipulation, it is not a significant biothreat, and has never been considered a high threat pathogen in the past.

So stop the fear mongering, misinformation and disinformation.


My interview with the New American is available for viewing, (on Rumble)

”A massive power grab by the UN World Health Organization and the Biden administration — with the World Economic Forum and Bill Gates in the background — is an attempt to subvert national sovereignty and build a one-world government with totalitarian rule, warned mRNA pioneer Dr. Robert Malone in this interview with The New American magazine’s Alex Newman for Conversations That Matter. This is an “impeachable offense” on Biden’s part, he said, warning of the extreme consequences of allowing this to go through. Dr. Malone is calling for criminals to be held accountable and for this power grab to be resisted by all Americans.”