They think it’s all over. It nearly is.

An apology in advance. WordPress has me tearing out what remains of my hair. It steadfastly overwrites all my paragraph breaks . But not consistently. When this is all over I’ll find a way to outsmart it and bend to my will. Imagine ‘Cold hands’ and ‘Brickies’with stanza breaks. You could even guess where they go, I suppose.

On April 16th you’d sent in an Actuary, an Aviator, a Balloonist, a Bookbinder, a Centaur, a Chauffer, a Cleaner, a Clockwinder, a Dental Hygienist, an Explorer, a Gardener, a Graphic Designer , an Ice-cream Man, Jones the Meat (a Butcher), a King, a Kitman, a Mime, a Nurse, a Quahogger (beat that!), a Stallholder, a Taxidermist, a Turfcutter, an Undertaker, the Vulnerable, Wonder Woman, an X-Ray Technician and a Zoo Keeper.

The arrivals by April 25 were: an Artist, a Baker, a Bingo Caller, a Butcher, the CatsMeat Man, a Curator, a Chain Surveyor, a Fashionista, a Jigsaw Puzzle Designer, a Jack of All Trades (I liked the chutzpah of that!), an Orthodontist, an Organist, a Phrenologist, a Probation Officer and a Prison Officer; a Questioner, a Tailor, Tommy, a Trapeze Artist, a Yachtswoman, a Zinc Plater and a Zaminder.

In the last two days, you’ve sent eight more including: A Long Distance Lorry Driver, a Musician, a Flower Grower, and a Dustman’s Apprentice Tea Maker.

And here’s the thing: there’s about thirty hours to the deadline, when the gates will swing to with a final hefty thud. And that means twenty of you need to get your skates on. No pressure. But think of the Nike slogan. Just do it. Stick to the plan.

In the meantime here’s a couple of poems to pass the time, or even kickstart a different way of thinking. I like poems that celebrate trades and crafts…like Heaney’s lovely elegy to his dad cutting turf on Toner’s bog. 

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft   

Against the inside knee was levered firmly.

He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep

To scatter new potatoes that we picked,

Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.   

Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day

Than any other man on Toner’s bog.

It’s the business of recognising the overlooked, taken-for-granted, apparently workaday jobs. I think of my mother, the simple ease with which she made pastry.

Cold hands

She had a touch for pastry.

A gift. She hung on to it.

Never passed it on to me

who watched her pinching

pastry: butter, sugar, flour;

how it fell from her fingers,

how it fell through the air.

She tried. She did. But grew impatient

with the way the mix would clump

and stick. O, give it here she’d say.

The pastry would flake, and fall.

You need cold hands she’d say.                    

She’d not let go of life. 

Could not, would not

pass it on. Until her hands

grew cold enough to let it fall,

and leave them clean.

Or building workers, bricklayers especially; I can watch them for hours, envying the way they point the joints. It looks so easy; me, I get more mortar on the ground than in the joints.

Brickies

have a way with a trowel their wrists

are right the way they work cement 

from a board or a barrow like butter on a knife

the way they wedge it on a brick how

it never falls how they lay a brick

and tap it down with the trowel’s heel

how they trim off what squeezes out 

that they flick in the barrow

how they tidy up the way they point

how they keep a line and a level brick

after brick course after course for ever.

And this was Babylon and Florence,

Milan, Bologna, Lubeck, Munich, Vilnius,

this was Manchester and London, this

was everywhere with wood for kilns,

with clay to be dug and slapped

in moulds and fired. This was viaducts

this was great cathedrals and stations, 

mills and palaces. This was men 

who mix cement and barrow it,

who see things straight. 

I’m indulging myself, I know. But I spent this morning starting to repair water damage on part of the kitchen wall wher the rains came in a couple of months ago. A mucky job, chopping out plaster, scraping, chiselling. And then clearing up, which always takes longer than the actual job. And now I’ll leave it to properly dry out for several days, and see that accusing map of old paint, plaster and brick every morning till I finally start to demonstrate just how inept I am with a hawk and trowel. So forgive me.

I’ll finish off with one that that’s not the viewpoint of the worker/craftsman/tradesman, but his partner. I’d not considered this when I set off on this project. But what about someone who thinks of how it will be when a relationship with him is over?

The end of the affair

He was deft and dapper, Mr Pierrepoint. 

Self-effacing, self contained. Quiet and considerate.

I like that in a man. You don’t see enough of it

these days. Old fashioned you could call it.

There was something reassuring

in his neatly parted hair, his clean collars, 

and his nicely knotted tie. And his fingernails

were clean. He was prompt to open doors

for me, to hand me up a stair. He was tidy,

good at cleaning things away. But in the end,

when it came to intimacy, he’d lift me up

and it seemed that he was estimating

just how much I weighed. And he had a trick

with his white hands of gathering up my hair,

and I’d feel the light scratch of his breath on my neck.

Equally, at my back 

I always hear/Time’s wingéd chariot hurrying near

What on earth are you doing, reading this? You’ve a poem to send in, and not long to do it .

[A note on the banner picture. I came across it searching Google image. It’s the work of a street artist in Sheffield. His workname is KidAcne. I’d like to get his permission to use his work. You can see his work on his own blog. Here’s the link]

Cold Hands: first published in Gap Year. SPM Publications 2017

Brickies : first published in Magma 74 . 2019

When this is all over: down to the wire

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again

On April 16th you’d sent in an Actuary, an Aviator, a Balloonist, a Bookbinder, a Centaur, a Chauffer, a Cleaner, a Clockwinder, a Dental Hygienist, an Explorer, a Gardener, a Graphic Designer , an Ice-cream Man, Jones the Meat (a Butcher), a King, a Kitman, a Mime, a Nurse, a Quahogger (beat that!), a Stallholder, a Taxidermist, a Turfcutter, an Undertaker, the Vulnerable, Wonder Woman, an X-Ray Technician and a Zoo Keeper.

The latest arrivals are: an Artist, a Baker, a Bingo Caller, a Butcher, the CatsMeat Man, a Curator, a Chain Surveyor, a Fashionista, a Jigsaw Puzzle Designer, a Jack of All Trades (I liked the chutzpah of that!), an Orthodontist, an Organist, a Phrenologist, a Probation Officer and a Prison Officer; a Questioner, a Tailor, Tommy, a Trapeze Artist, a Yachtswoman, a Zinc Plater and a Zaminder.

Amazingly, twenty nine more poets are letting it go right to the wire. Twenty nine! That’s a whole alphabet and three over!

We are short of jobs beginning with D and E. 

(At one point in his life John le Carré was an Elephant Washer/Scrubber in a Swiss zoo. Think on the possibilities of that). We have no Desperados as yet.

And we still have no occupations beginning with H, L or R.

No hairdresser, housekeeper, haberdasher, home help, horologist, 

hostess, historian, hunter, harbour master, or hay trusser…..

No lawyer, librarian, labourer, lollipop lady, lifeguard, locksmith, laundress, lamplighter, lyricist………

No roadie, rag and bone man, rent collector,rustler, registrar, rum-runner,

roofer, radiologist, receptionist, ringmaster, rabbi……….

Let’s fill those gaps. We need the full alphabet. No one goes home till all the letters are taken. Really. In two more days I shall be naming names and pointing fingers. You’ve been told.

In the meantime, it’s possible to do a slightly different take on Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin’s Swineherd. It’s possible that ‘when this is all over’ you might just be doing a job you quite fancy, one that you dream about, in a not-so-purposeful way. If you actually had to do it it’s possible it wouldn’t live up to you expectations. But you can always dream.

Closed shop

Apothecaries. Smoke and mirrors,

all that business of indentures, seven years

apprenticeships, guineas paid down in bond.

Closed shop, closed ranks. A trade – profession

they’d have it thought – that thrives in all weathers.

Hard winters, damp springs, feverish summers

all grist to the mill. Consumptions, cramps,

night sweats, rusty joints, births and deaths

and all the desperate business in between.

Keep it mysterious; don’t spread your profits thin.

But just how complicated can it be?

herbs and simples, tinctures, salves. I have, I think,

an aptitude. I have steeped tea, made soups.

A poultice can be not unlike a potage.

I can make oatmeal; just keep stirring. Don’t

let it catch. Any fool can tear a sheet in strips

for dressings, or hang up rose and lavenders to dry.

And pills. Just a question of an apparatus

for making pills in. I am told my manner

with the old, and sick, can be congenial.

—–

Apothecary. It has a ring. I shall learn Latin,

practise a spidery hand, obtain flasks of colour.

Bespeak a wardrobe of subfusc. I shall require

a darkish shop. A narrow street.

Keep those poems coming in. The wheel’s still in spin.

When this is all over: here comes a chopper….

Deadline closing in. Not long to go. Six more poems arrived today……you are stars, all of you . Thirty three of you are still to send in your poems . But seriously, if it’s not working for you, don’t push it. As Helen Mort once said to me you can make a poem be, but it won’t be much good. If it doesn’t want to be, leave it alone. Be at peace.

In the meantime I’ll share something that I find troubling, which is that I keep writing poems about executioners and hangmen. For instance, one about a man who’s explaining to his apprentice the right way of making crosses for crucifixions, his concerns for doing a proper job. That one’s been published, but others haven’t. Till now. Well, in a minute or so.

If you’ve been re-reading Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring up the bodies before settling down with The mirror and the light, you’ll have noticed that she’s appalled by the business of late-medieval executions – burnings, hangings, quarterings. She can’t let it alone. Three times she revisits Thomas Cromwell’s childhood experience of watching the burning of an 80 year old Lollard woman. It haunts him, so it haunts her. And once it’s in your head, it haunts you. It gives me nightmares.

And then there’s Cromwell’s genuine practical tradesman’s interest in the business of Ann Boleyn’s execution by the sword, his need to know how it is done, whether the scaffold rails are secure, why there’s not proper attention to a coffin for the corpse and its head. All trades interest him, from the arts of the kitchen to the weaving of carpets; he notices fabrics, the state of roofs; he takes a keen interest in the price of bricks; he wonders at his wife’s dexterity with yarns. And so on.

Because, after all, everything we do is, in one way or another, a job, an occupation, and if you’re immersed in being good at it you might not notice its human and moral and social dimensions.

but someone has to do it

Mudlarks, toshers, night-soil men, 

bottom-sawyers , crossing sweepers;

they’ve got their pride and pecking orders.

Steady trades. Midwives, 

quacks, gravediggers. And us.

It’s a job, and someone’s got to do it.

There’s always dips and forgers,

infanticides, highwaymen and thieves.

And religion’s good for business, too.

Best start young. Rough joinery. 

Scaffolds don’t just build themselves.

Then there’s all the mucky jobs,

the swabbing and the sweeping up.

Drawing’s the worst for that.

Later you can learn the ways of ropes,

how to put a good edge on an axe,

and how to calculate a bribe. It costs

to get it over neat and quick.

Why do we wear a hood?

It’s up to you. Me, I like a bit of theatre.

Some don’t like the customers

to see their face. Don’t like the idea

of it printed on the vision of one

who’ll take it all the way to hell.

Anyway, time-served,  you  need to choose:

rope, or axe, or stake. First two,

you get to share the dead ones’ clothes.

Burning. It’s a dustman’s work, knowing

which way the wind is blowing,

not much liking rain. A still, cool day’s

what you hope for, and cash in hand

for a quick strangling behind 

the first thick white smoke.

It maybe suits the clumsy, or the cruel.

It’s not what you’d call a trade.

Still. Someone’s got to do it. Like I said.

I can’t imagine this one gives much thought to what life might be like when all this is over. It’s a job, and apparently, it comes without drawbacks. You can see him collecting his pension when he can’t get up a ladder any more.

On the other hand, the most famous public executioner of recent times, Albert Pierrepoint, was a remarkably complex character. On the one hand he took meticulous pride in the detail of the job, and in getting through a hanging as neatly and quickly as possible. He believed the dead should be treated with respect. On the other hand, he kept his job (which was his second job) a secret from his wife for some years. How did he manage that?

He’s a man I can really imagine dreaming of a life after killing hundreds, including the Nazi war criminals he hanged in batches. He had a grocer’s shop, then kept a pub. A tidy, respectable man, by all accounts.

The  family business

Albert Pierrepoint took just seven seconds to whisk 

James Inglish from his cell. Strapped, hooded, noosed; 

pin pulled. Dispatched. Fastest English hanging ever.

Rehearsed for hours before he’d throw the lever.

Measuring, and calculation; cursive annotations

in his neat, ruled notebook; Height, Weight, Length of chain.

Comments:  necks ‘ordinary’, ‘very strong’, ‘long’, ‘thin’.

He’d need to be punctilious.  They’d strangle

if he got it wrong or, worse, a head torn off.

Newly married, he’d thought best not tell the wife

about his other job. Paid attention to the books;

kept a tidy shop; careful how he weighed out sugar, flour,

wrapped lard and ham.  Always  a clean collar,

a nicely knotted tie. A line ruled between two lives

as separate as the cell from its adjacent twelve foot

brick-lined drop; as the quick  from the dead. Took

pains to show the dead respect. Sponged clean, dressed

decently for burial. Professional to the last.

Strapped, hooded, noosed. Pin pulled. Dispatched.

I think this is the man that Timothy Spall discovered when he played him (wonderfully) in the film. As I say, I think he’s a man you could write a ‘swineherd’ poem about. No one’s sent me a hangman yet. There’s time . Here comes a candle to light you to bed. Here comes a chopper ………xx

PS.

Both of these poems should be in triplets. WordPress has twice set its face resolutely against stanza breaks. If it happens again, you’ll have to imagine triplets. On the other hand, it might be an improvement.

When this is all over. Updates and deadlines

Eleven days to go. The pressure’s on. Fifty of you waiting till the last minute. Not to worry. Or perhaps not. I’ve been thinking that it’s a harder business than I thought when I blithely thought it would be A Good Idea to be inspired by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin’s Swineherd. I keep going back to it, and realising that it’s so much smarter than I thought it was…and I’ve always thought it was remarkably smart. It’s the business of never actually saying what his job involved, leaving it all implicit, all to be inferred from what he dreams of ‘when all this is finished’. The skills he’ll acquire. The conversations he’ll have, the way the trees will be, and so on.

I said that I’d post some poems about occupations and professions that doe the opposite…that actually describe the job, and then I’ve wondered, if the narrator really wanted something different, what that different thing would be. It’s a lot easier to celebrate the craft of a trade, because, when you think about it, that’s a given. And in any case, I probably wouldn’t have been writing about it if I didn’t think it was interesting. Why would the narrator want to give it up, or imagine that the person he’s writing about would want to.

One of my cousins was a milliner. She made amazing hats for weddings and so on. She had a cramped little shop she’d inherited from her mother, and I loved going there, just looking, wanting to touch and feel: the fabrics, the textures, the colours. For some reason, I wrote this. The motivation still puzzles me.

Cloche

I think I would have liked, just once,

a fitting at a milliner’s, a jumbled space,

a comfortably fussy woman with small scissors, 

pins between pursed lips, and wisps

of hair escaping, wayward, from a bun.

I think she’s wearing black, and a cameo brooch

and touch of rouge. I think she smells 

of Parma Violets, Cussons talcum powder.

I think there are muticoloured reels,

ends of rickrack, bias bindings, tiny satin flowers,

and hats with floppy brims on blank-faced Nefertiti heads,

and lots of little drawers, gilt mirrors, and a hush.

And I want a cloche in soft velour, dove-grey 

or dusty-pink, and a deep, deep violet band,

and one white linen rose.

I think I would have relished that.

If I was going to tackle this imagined milliner in homage to Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin’s poem, I’d have to be thinking of what would be banished. Multifariousness, finicky stitching, maybe the shop-door bell, all the pretty clutter, like the dressing table in The rape of the lock

Here files of pins extend their shining rows, 
Puffs, powders, patches, bibles, billet-doux. 

Maybe I’d be wanting some stripped back minimalist whiter than white bit of modernism. And vistas. Or maybe I’d want to work on a farm, a sheep farm, a dairy farm. And so on. So I’m writing this in solidarity. It’s hard. Thank you for joining in.

When this is all over: Update

A reminder that you have till April 30th to send you poems in. And a reminder that all of them will be published.

Just to gee you up, here’s the occupations that have arrived so far:

An Actuary, an Aviator, a Balloonist, a Bookbinder, a Centaur, a Chauffer, a Cleaner, a Clockwinder, a Dental Hygienist, an Explorer, a Gardener, a Graphic Designer , an Ice-cream Man, Jones the Meat (a Butcher), a King, a Kitman, a Mime, a Nurse, a Quahogger (beat that!), a Stallholder, a Taxidermist, a Turfcutter, an Undertaker, the Vulnerable, Wonder Woman, an X-Ray Technician and a Zoo Keeper.

I can’t wait to see who’ll be arriving next. There’s 50+ more expected . So send me your poems, and in the meantime, I’ll post some of mine about occupations you might think have possibilities .

For starters, how about a Fool? I think when I wrote this I was thinking of the poem “Advice to an actor”…about how to play the moment when the ‘statue of Hermione comes alive in The Winter’s Tale. Can’t remember who wrote it. When I do I’ll make good the information.

Seriously

If fhe fool would persist in his folly

he would become wise. That’s the kind of thing

to aim for. Antithesis is always good. That

and oxymorons. And garbled nonsense 

just this side of reason. Pillicock sat

on pillicock hill; take the edge off with

a folderol or some such. 

                               There’s a tricky balance

to be struck that leaves you poised right 

between a whipping and a chicken drumstick.

You can’t avoid the wearisome wordplay

that tickles the fancy of a fop, but look for the barb

that sticks lightly in the skins of the fond

or foolish, the admonition, delicately phrased,

the nursery rhyme with the undertow of sex.

And remember. The fool who persists

in his folly gets turned out of doors with  Poor Tom,

in pelting rain and all a-cold. Learn to keep your head.

Look to exit warm and dry, stage left,

just before the serious bit; the monologue. 

 

Questions for Keir – Jewish Labour members need answers

I wouldn’t normally politicise my blog but this seems profoundly important. It’s a question of shared humanity

rebel notes

Dear Keir,

Congratulations on winning the Labour leadership contest. I will confess that I did not vote for you, and also that, because the campaigning period for the contest had been significantly truncated by the Coronavirus emergency in which lives were and are being lost at the most alarming rate because of Government failures, I also proposed through social media that the contest should have been suspended, to be resumed later in the year.

Given that Jeremy Corbyn, as Labour Leader, was playing the central role in holding the government to account on these failures and putting forward alternative proposals for action, I suggested that Labour should have established an interim Emergency Shadow Cabinet Leadership consisting of Jeremy Corbyn and the three leadership candidates, which would last until the pandemic was receding and life was returning to normal, before formally resuming the campaigning period for the Leadership.

That didn’t happen…

View original post 1,953 more words

When this is all over: updates and moments

Thank you for all the poems that have arrived and the scores still to come.

I started on a whim. It’s grown like Topsy, and I need to get much more organised and keep you all in the loop.

First off: I’ll be delighted for you to ask for a letter of the alphabet if you haven’t already done so

Second: I’m setting a deadline of April 30th, and I’ll read no more that come in after that.

Third: After April 30th I’ll be involving other people to help me organise a sequence …. it won’t be random. I want to think of it as a properly edited online anthology; you deserve it.

Fourth: Everyone who submits will be published. If I have a problem I may ask for minor changes BUT your poem will appear on the blog.

Fifth: can I remind you that The Swineherd gets part of it strength from being written in the voice of the swineherd. I sort of assumed that everyone would assume that the poems should be ventriloquial …..you take on your character’s voice. The ones I’ve already got that aren’t, well, they have been accepted. Don’t panic.

Sixth. About those ‘moments that get you in’


Clive James says that these are the moments that let you recognise ‘a real poem’, the turn of phrase, or image that memorises itself as you you read it, the ones that make you blink in recognition. I sometime offer a list of these in the (very few) workshops I’ve run, and I thought I’d share them here. It’s impossible to define how they work. Alchemy. There’s always some sort of surprise. Keep awake for them, let them come in.

Some moments that draw you in.

At my back I always hear /Time’s wingéd chariot hurrying near

(Andrew Marvell)

..she was standing there/ silver bracelets on her wrists and flowers in her hair

….they’re selling postcards of the hanging

(Bob Dylan)

For five days and nights / the windows have worn veils of thin water.  

The stars go out/ as though a bluetit the size of the world /were pecking them out / like peanuts out of the sky’s string bag. 

He’s carrying a scythe/ but he’s young / he doesn’t notice symbols 

That’s it, said the stag, and buckled his legs, and fell over 

the mad, clever clown’s beak of a puffin

I think of Roddy drowned / off Cape Wrath gulping / fistfuls of salt

the road hemstitched on the skirt / of a mountain.  

(Norman MacCaig)

A fork of barnacle geese came over, with that slow / squeak of rusty saws

He went along the line / relaxing them / one after another / with a small knife

(Robin Robertson)

How fast the line of cold, dead candles grows.

Look how they put their wax heads in their hands

to weep

we were destined to live like stones / warming ourselves in the sun

to fall like Jessica / who fell down a well and watched / the the bright disc of the / sun and moon slowly passing

(Kim Moore)

The village bell’s been broken for a month

Old honey wails for a mouth

I’ve been thinking too much about the night    

I slipped and the coal scattered on a snowed drive

(Niall Campbell)

Three masts will grow on the green ship /before she leaves the quay

Up the slow hill a squabble of children wanders

He lies, his eyes quarried by glittering fish, 
Staring through the green freezing sea-glass 
At the Northern Lights. 

(Charles Causley)

He is the Sparrow, the Friday lord.

I hoped to be the watcher on the rooftop,

but he was first. I’m flake of his fire,

leaf-tip on the world tree

A woman bribed her way in/ with a bucket of meat, and fed them like fledglings

God says, Let there be no light.

           Starlings think it night, celandines shut their petals.

trees in Westridge Wood stand frostily waiting.

(U A Fanthorpe)

Or you might find them in a prose text…like the start of Hilary Mantel’s “Bring up the bodies

‘His children are falling from the sky’

Or in a nonfiction writer like Robert Macfarlane…these are from “The old ways

The cold like a wire in the nose.

Snow caused everything to exceed itself

starlings…feathers sleekly black as sheaves of photographic negatives

big gulls…monitoring us with lackadaisical, violent eyes

a dolphin….a sliding bump beneath the water..like a tongue moving under a cheek

star patterns..the grandiose slosh of the Milky Way

gannets bursting up out of the sea…like white flowers unfurling…avian origami

(after a hard long hike)….feet puffy as rising dough

FINALLY

Here’s a treat. Before the poet Ian Parks understood the rules (mainly because he has no internet when the libraries are closed) he sent me this poem. I’ll post it again at the start of the online anthology after April 30. But you shouldn’t have to wait till then. And you won’t.

When This is All Over

While we were sleeping they were still awake.
While we were hiding they were in the light.
The cold dark angel passing over us
left nothing but the flutter of its wings.
We huddled in our places, locked from sight
each waiting for the hush that daylight brings.
So empty out the squares and thoroughfares,
make criminal the handshake and embrace.
There is no other future except this:
the bolted door, the window and the face;
all of our journeys cancelled or delayed –
and if we meet we cough instead of kiss.
When all of this is over we’ll creep out
astonished by the new world they have made.

When this is all over: Update

A short post, but since not everyone is on Facebook, I’ll be making sure that I reach everyone that needs reaching, and, possibly, people as yet unreached (in which case they’ll need to read the previous post, too).

71 people have claimed a letter of the alphabet! Five folk have already sent me poems! Wow!. But let’s be clear…there’s no rush and no pressure. We’ve still not filled all the available slots for three complete alphabets, and in any case, we can start another if we like.

Someone has sent me a poem and asked for another letter, and I’m thinking why not? . I was also thinking that the prompts I’ve sent out weren’t all that quirky or surprising, and I was delighted to be told that someone had decided to think of what a phrenologist might be looking forward to. I’ve been wondering what a psychic or an astrologer or a fortune teller might anticipate or eagerly wait for. And so on.

So here’s a call out for more poems, and maybe for some slightly off-the-wall occupations. In any case, we need Xs and Ys and Zs. Let’s see if anyone’s boat is floated by any of these:

Water-carriers, wig-makers (or perruquiers), wagon-masters, ironing-women (think Degas), werewolves, sentries, wild-water rafters, prospectors, desperadoes, night surveyors, vicars and yurt- (and yoghurt-) makers.

Upholsteres, Quakers, ukelele players, violin- makers and violinists, umbrella-makers, coopers, fletchers, double-agents, tripe-dressers and pigs’ head-boners, cutlers, twitchers and vagabonds.

Pavement artists (or screevers), pickpockets and confidence tricksters, trulls and dollymops, wayfarers, vagabonds, escapologists, centurions and galley slaves, valets and valetudinarians, vampires, vapers, vegans, vikings and vestal virgins.

X-ray technicians and crystallographers, archeologists, and Xmas card designers, X-Men and xenophobes, yak-herders, yardbirds and Yardies, yeomen and yogis, zanies and jesters, zebra-crossing painters, zen masters, zitherists, zoetrope artists, zodiac designers and zombies.

Once you start, it’s hard to stop. I forgot sherpas and swamis. And trout farmers. Enough. Send me your poems. Just ask for a letter or tell me you chose one from these lists. Message me on Facebook or reply via the blog. We’re on a roll.