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.
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.