When this is all over: Day 15. Omega Day!!!!

To be honest, I’ve not been looking forward to today. Last post (in the series). But I promise you, it’s a good one. Like all the others. Thank you all for following.

X-rays are my life   (David White)

(the Radiologist)

.

When this is all over I shall shed tears of blackened silver

.

But then it’s not silver anymore 

So maybe I shall shed pixels

.

But it’s all pictures 

with beauty and sadness

Surprises and sameness 

A tree in bud 

A fissure found 

A neoplasm blossoming unexpected 

Like Breughel 

After plague  

No vague hope of vaccines just prayer 

His Triumph of death

.

And hope was less that tides could be turned and breath could be saved 

.

But also that crowns came with thorns

And redemption 

.

But Now

.

 Fluffy shadows on a screen

The puff and wheeze of air and spit and sweat and shit 

And tears over phones 

No hands to be held

Without plastic and masks

.

How will I leave those shadows behind?

.

A Xylophonist reflects (Rachel Davies)

When this is all over

and the C# Minor strains of the requiem’s

final movement dissolve and fade, 

when the world is open for business again 

and I’m free to go anywhere I choose 

.

I’ll choose to sit on the banks of the Congo

in the shade of a great mninga tree

eat nyembwe with saka saka

and let my instrument speak

to its ancestors, rediscover the peace 

of connection, hear the music of a warm 

breath of wind over its wingfruit, 

its coral wood. When this is all over, 

.

I want to discover a new normal 

away from the accelerando and allegro 

away from the march and symphony,

in the quiet hymnal of the forest, 

find the largo I fear I’ve lost.

.

.

Zaminder (Ruth Valentine)

.

When all this is over, said the zamindar,

the tenants will queue at my door to press their taxes

into my sapphire-ringed hands, along with gifts,

water-buffalo, rice, and from time to time

their most beautiful daughters.

I will of course decline

.

at first.  My ten per cent

will go towards building a bigger palace

with daring frescoes copied from Isfahan

in the private rooms, and peacocks in the gardens.

The Resident

will get off his high horse and bow to me.

I’ll requisition the horse.  I’ll organise

polo on the maidan, and champagne cocktails

afterwards on the verandah.  There’ll be none of this

insolence or elections or journalism.

.

Zamindar: in the Indian sub-continent, a landowner who collected taxes on behalf of the Mughal and later British ruler

.

The Zinc Plater (Wendy Pratt)

When this is all over

I will never clean again. 

 .

Dust will gather on the surfaces

in balls and motes the size of mice.

I’ll run my fingers through it; 

let the breeze release it like pollen.

 .

I will pickle only food: rough-skinned gherkins,

slick aubergines, the hard whites of onions.

 .

There will be no baths, no bathing. 

I will wash at the Belfast sink with water 

from my own well, water I heaved 

from the dank earth, water that stinks 

of moss and peat. I will swim 

in silt-clouded rivers and nothing 

will be rinsed away. 

 .

I will live by the light of gas lamps

or candles; the honeyed scent

of bee’s wax. There will be 

no electricity, for me. 

 .

My skin will be tanned mahogany

by red flakes falling from my corrugated roof, 

my boots will crust with it, my white linen

will blush with it.

 .

When this is all over, nothing 

will be smoothed to a mirror-shine

and no surface will be untrue to itself. 

.

Zookeeper (Maggie Reed)

after Eilean Ni Chuilleanain

.

When this is all over, said the zookeeper,

I’ll move to the North, where 

property is cheaper and they have hedges,

drystone walls – fewer fences or railings.

.

I’ll roam the Cumbrian fells, watch ravens

soar through the blue, pick heather,

stomp through the bog grasses, laugh

like a hyena at the full moon.

.

Listen, I can do this, learn how to let go,

run with the ants and spiders,

bounce with the bees.

I’ll follow my nose to the dark

.

corners (under stones, behind bark)

I’ll root out the undiscovered,

the unloved, place them in my heart,

beside the tiger, elephant, chimpanzee.

.

And here we are, at the very end . Whatever will I do with my time? Hang on…there’s the selection, then the announcements, the joy and the despair, the re-editing. Not the very end at all.

And in any case, I almost forgot that we started with a Prologue poem by Ian Parks, and we’ll end this leg of the journey with a stunning Epilogue ,a reflection on the ultimate when this is all over, from the endlessly prolific and multi-talented Jane Burn..

.

On the idea of leaving a part of myself wherever my ancestors lie

A piece of me left to the absent coal
and the village that failed above its death –
to Ireland, ringed by the sea’s aureole 
ever binding the secret of my kith.
A piece of me left to the scrapman’s cart
like a glint of tin in the gathered trash.
To Scotland and its beating selkie heart,
I will gift my changeling pelt of fired ash.
It will end with me, this birthright of scars.
The sky will carry my epitaph. Jane,
you did not rise up. You were not the stars.
here you were made and here you will remain.
Wherever my kin are cloistered beneath
I will lay my ghost like a coffin’s wreath. 

.

Falling leaves return to their roots : Chinese Proverb

When this is over : (Andy Blackford)

Nothing is ever over.

.

Events roll out of the night of the past

collide like snooker balls or Black Holes;

rebound and ricochet; altered, rumble on

to make their next encounter.

.

They leave us older, occasionally wiser.

But wisdom peels like wallpaper, otherwise

we’d all be hovering about as Archangels.

.

What we seem to learn least well is how we never learn.

For all the tears and fears, we opt to stay perpetual pupils,

truants on Double History day, wide-eyed and barefoot 

because sometimes, suffering and joy are inextricable 

and dangerous innocence is the price we pay for ecstasy. 

.

Last night, the Hubble Telescope was 30.

An aged astronaut talked us through a photograph

of Deep Time; a proto-galaxy hanging in the dark

a foetus in the womb of space, about to roll

out of the night of the past.

.

Nothing is ever

over.


When this is all over: Day 14…V is for Valetudinarian

With apologies to all the poets who were given a letter from the end of the alphabet to tinker with. It’s been a bit like reading round the class at school. Or, as it was in the unreformed 1950s when we all sat in alphabetical order.

By the time it’s your turn you’ve forgotten why you were in the queue .

Weaver

.

When all this is over, said the weaver,

I’ll weave you an Indian summer.

Jacquard curtains of forget-me-not blue,

green damask tablecloths spread with flowers.

I’ll plant rows of mulberry trees and breed

silk worms, weave satin and lace bridal gowns

.

instead of silk shrouds. When I’m free to see

the ancient barrows on the furrowed brow

I’ll listen for the song of Nightingales

in empty skies of bleached white cotton sheets.

.

Seeking the silenced voice as I unpick

lines from lips to find love among the ruins,

touch hidden words woven in tapestries

where wefts of truth cover a warp of lies.

.

When this is over

.

Nothing is ever over.

.

Events roll out of the night of the past

collide like snooker balls or Black Holes;

rebound and ricochet; altered, rumble on

to make their next encounter.

.

They leave us older, occasionally wiser.

But wisdom peels like wallpaper, otherwise

we’d all be hovering about as Archangels.

.

What we seem to learn least well is how we never learn.

For all the tears and fears, we opt to stay perpetual pupils,

truants on Double History day, wide-eyed and barefoot 

because sometimes, suffering and joy are inextricable 

and dangerous innocence is the price we pay for ecstasy. 

.

Last night, the Hubble Telescope was 30.

An aged astronaut talked us through a photograph

of Deep Time; a proto-galaxy hanging in the dark

a foetus in the womb of space, about to roll

out of the night of the past.

.

Nothing is ever

over.

.

Widow

.

When this is all over, said the widow,

I won’t sit with mandarins in my son’s fruit bowl

and chat while he counts potatoes. 

I won’t Zoom away from his kitchen

because my dandelion soup

starts pinging.

.

Nor will I tramp patterns into unmown grass

or bang drain-holes into a seized-up wheelbarrow.

I won’t clear the shed of broken umbrellas 

so I can train peas and beans 

up their spokes.

.

When this is all over, said the widow, I’ll sit down 

and scroll through Netflix. Read books about

derring-do on mountains. Tune in 

to Private Passions. 

.

I’ll live 

a vicarious life 

again.

.

Just one more day of X,Y and Z, and then they’re all off for judging.

When this is all over: Day 13

There’s light and shade in this collection. For some reason, U and V and W have brought some darkness along. But there’s hope by the end. And speaking of the end, no more poems until next Monday. Next week will see the final two posts in the sequence. What I’ll do with my life after that heaven only knows.

.

Undertaker (Tim Fellows)

.

There was only the faintest sound
of sobbing. It was cold that day,
as when Towton saw so many dead.
Soon, he hoped, when this is done,
things will return to as they were.
When he could deal with tumours, hearts
that stopped in shock. The mangled flesh
and bone, the aged
and those who chose to die.

.

They sat in separate pews, the broken
widow and the stoic son. No comfort,
no loving touch. An impotent priest.

.

This plague had come to his house,
the cross was on his door. 

.

The Veenboer: (Jack Faricy)

i.m. Andrew Weatherall

When this is over you’ll find me at the peat bog

with my cutter and spade and a gallon of beer.

I’ll have made short work of flaying the turf 

and raising a stack of slabs to be gathered.

You’ll want to hang back for the good stuff,

which means digging deeper into the moor

than has been dug before, but on my word,

though my back be breaking, I’ll not slacken

till I’ve extracted the richest, darkest nugget

you can imagine, and when it’s dried enough

I’ll tease out the fibres, pack them in my pipe,

pour us each a draught of sun-warmed beer

and you and I will partake of the mòine dhubh.

.

mòine dhubh – heavier and darker peats which lie deeper into the moor

.

Vulnerable Person (Lesley Merrin)

When all this is over I won’t be a vulnerable person

but, I’ll no longer sit in my she shed watching the robins feed

and begin to build their nest

or see the flash of the blue tit

flying into the hedges making way for the robin on the bird table.

.

When all this is over I won’t sit in my she shed in the evening

with a chilled glass of rose listening to the radio 

spilling jazz or classical music

feeling tranquil and serene, with the fairy lights

flickering on the lawn

making weird patterns with the shadows they create.

.

When this is all over, I won’t sit in my shed

and imagine I’ve been summoned 

by Gertrude to one of her soirees

along with Hemingway and Ezra To the Salon of Des Arts, 

and dream about the conversations we would have.

.

When all this is over I won’t get video calls 

from my grandchildren using silly apps to make me laugh

Or daily limericks which shows someone cares

.

When this is all over I might feel more vulnerable  

.

than I did before this lockdown.

.

Watchman (Laura Potts)

After Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin

.

When all this is over, thought the watchman,

I shall take to my garden, where 

the light will be long as tomorrow

.

and the larks will not depart from me. 

I shall lay on my lawn, lord of the morning,

and shed my black self, my shadow.

.

My watchlights will fill with the glisten of wings, 

the tinkle of wrens on the terrace. 

My whiskers will lift on the lip of the wind

.

and I’ll swing to the stars from the trellis.

When all this is done, thought the watchman,

and I stand at the gate of the day, 

.

my garden will never know absence. 

The swallows and sparrows will stay. 

.

.

May your gardens never know absence. Have a lovely weekend. Stay safe, be well, go well xx

When this is all over: Day 12. Crossing the T’s.

Stallholder ( Gráinne Tobin )

.

When all this is over, the stallholder whispered, 

I might unpack the van one final time,

unload crates of boxer shorts and socks, 

thermals, big girl pants and lacy scanties

at the door of the helping-house for refugees,

and put my arms around whoever answers.

.

Then I’ll head out by buses, trains and ferries

to sniff my children and my grandchildren,

nuzzling my face into their luscious skin,

and I’ll tell my granny’s story from the time 

she ran the stall all through another curfew,

while the Black and Tans were burning half the town, 

and on a summer night was out too late,

drinking tea in a friend’s house, playing pontoon,

when my father kicked up a clamour to be born:

and she walked the fearful streets in gathering pain,

in need of refuge, and found her own way home. 

.

Triangulation : the Surveyor. (Lou Crosby)

.

When all this is over, said the surveyor,

You will find every bench mark has shifted.

Nowhere will be quite the same. 

Satnavs will struggle, even with favourite routes.

.

But I will look at my theodolite in the corner;

My steel toed boots by the door 

And I will know that before all this

There was never a closing error.

.

But I have hung up my high vis jacket.

I am planning some two destination breaks;

Maybe from here to Cairo, then on to Bermuda

or the Flatiron, to the Louvre then home.

.

You trust your 5G and global position systems.

Trust, that they are smarter than my eye.

But remember the world was discovered

without satellites; with only the stars in the sky.

(After The Swineherd, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin)

.

The Tailor’s Way (Lydia Streit Machell)

.

When this is over,

he’ll expect

to be let out, let off,

to strut his stuff

on summer lawns,

a peacock patterned

tale of no’s and ayes

stretched seamlessly

to cover all his lies.

No overlocker leaves

an inch  of self edge 

if it can be stitched.

.

For two pins

I’d show him how

the bias hangs.

(It’s all the rage.)

There’s more

than one way this

will button up.

I’ll fill my spool, 

dust off my chalk,

attach my needle,

keep my knife

sharp and to hand.

.

Taxidermist. (Bob Beagrie)

I’ll do this until I die or reach a point where I can’t;

due to the dulling of sight or onset of the shakes,

and wouldn’t it be wonderful if someone performed

these intricate rites on my own relinquished remains,

perhaps using these very tools: my scalpels, shears,

Glover’s needles, my scissors, these fleshing knives,

and mounted me in this same pose, intent, ever so

hunched, caught in the act of the art of re-animation;

a scene faithfully choreographed, titled with a plaque 

that reads in calligraphic script, delicate as a sable tip,

Necrotic Groom, Gardener of Death, Coiffeur of Fatalities, 

preserved in formaldehyde, oils, pastes, adhesives.

I’ll need no casket nor gravestone to mark my passing,

folk will gaze upon my fate with their own glassy eyes.

.

Tommy in 1934 (Maggie Mackay)

.

When all this is over, said the telegram boy,

I want to wheel my red bicycle 

right up to front doors, hear the spokes whirr.

I want to wink as I pull the telegram 

from the pouch across my hip.

.

I want no special mark of bad news,

the signal not to wait. A smile instead,

at the sight of my navy-blue uniform

at the dry wit we exchange.

.

I want to chat with mates, the boys-only

about life after this Great Depression,

then go home to greet my collie, 

herding me like a dervish, 

as I spin into Greengairs Avenue.

.

When this is all over, I intend to learn,

return to what was denied me,

the turn of book pages, the scent of words.

I intend to illuminate the half-light

and become a white collared chap.

.

When this is all over. Day 11

[Before we start, a teacherly reminder to all our poets. Some of you have identified yourselves on social media as the author of this or that poem. Please remember that when Kim Moore makes her selection, the principle is that she doesn’t, and can’t, know who wrote what. So if possible, can you amend or take down the posts. Please.

Right. Poems. Very very very good poems. Really.]

Receptionist (Jan Michna)

.

Her parents raised her to be unassuming, amenable, polite.

Ideal qualities for a job requiring a permanent smile

And a vocation for serving the public.

.

She was the sort of girl who could answer any query with a spin of her Rolodex and a telephone call,

Or keep her cool when irate pensioners slapped their rates bills on her counter,

Or happily accept work from the offices upstairs when stuck for something to do.

.

If she grew bored of being abandoned in her mausoleum of glass and polished stone

She escaped to a womb of a room at the far end of a corridor,

Where materteral telephonists shared their life stories 

And taught her how to plug long, thick cords into crackling ports

Without cutting off callers.

.

She took home stray dogs who’d wandered into the reception area and slept on its heated floor.  

She would have preferred not to have found their owners,

Especially the one whose German Shepherd turned and looked back at her dejectedly

As its master led it away.

.

Some lunchtimes she went swimming in the baths opposite her building

With a young man she’d met through a friend.

He once jumped jingling up and down in front of her desk in green bell-bedecked wellies.

.

Over forty years later, he still makes her laugh.

.

.

Schoolkid  (Niamh Shaw)

.

When all this over

I want to sit next to my friends in the diner

where the voices are like rainfall

and conversation is mainly about the teachers. 

.

I want to smell chips and perfume.

I want to choke on deodorant. 

I want tin classrooms stacked in fours. 

I want to see the blossom flying 

from the tree shaped like a falcon, 

to hear ninety-seven kids shouting shit.

And the smack of fist on flesh.

.

I want to see the plastic sheet that holds the roof up

and the mould on the classroom floor

where my friends laugh and chat 

and the glass lies shattered in the corner.

.

Seabound (Gaia Holmes)

.

Cruise ship dancers, Lauren Carrick and Joseph Harrison, have been stuck in their cabin for at least 21 hours a day for 32 days on the ‘Celebrity Infinity’ ship which is currently anchored off the coast of a private Bahaman island. The engaged couple had been performing on the Celebrity Cruises excursion around Florida and Mexico in March before the pandemic struck and lock down began… Mr Harrison, 27, of Hull, said “I know people back home must think, ‘a ship in the Bahamas, that’s probably really nice’ – it may sound lovely but we’ve been stuck in a room.” BBC.com

.

For weeks we dance with each other,

and around each other, in our six by four cell.

We stew in each other’s sweat and gloom,

throb with same boredom. Strange how restraint

can make the tamest creatures feral. I shed my nails 

days ago, let you nibble patterns into the gaps.

.

There are nights when I sit with you

wishing I could lick the dust off your eyeballs,

pluck lice from your hair. Talking

has become wordless.

.

We have forgotten the texture of grass

and the coldness of pebbles. Our dreams 

are of mud and weed-riddled meadows. 

We wake up craving slabs of clay

with our cruise ship coffee. Our tangos 

have become more savage. 

When all this is over we will walk barefoot

through fields full of vetch and cow shit.

We will drink the dirty feathered water

from the cobwebbed trough.

We will roll in puddles.

.

.

[I can’t think of a better place to rest. Let’s all turn our faces to the sun]

When this is all over: Day 10…from Phrenologist to Quizmaster

.

Physician. (Carole Bromley)

.

When all this over, said the physician,

I mean to pack a bag, board a train

just keep going where no-one knows

my profession

.

I won’t stop till I find it, that place

where I can breathe again

and lie still watching the drifting clouds,

a murmuration 

.

I want to close my eyes and sleep

until the sun is high in the sky

and there are no more bad dreams

.

I intend to learn the banjo

and play it under the stars

probably I will do this naked

watched only by night creatures

.

and when my hands no longer shake

I will send for my love

the one I should have married

and ask her to come to me

.

and we will make love slowly,

shyly, our hands relearning touch

till the mountains echo with our cries.

Prison Officer (Helen Freeman)

.

When all this is over, said the officer of the prison,    

I’ll don my sunflower cocktail dress with heels and a cashmere shawl,   

wear bright red lipstick, diamond bracelets and earrings that glisten,  

.

I’ll step out – unescorted, hair loose – with wild racing frisson  

into a boundless garden of freesias, daisies and windfall.

When all this is over, said the officer of the prison,

.

I mean to invest in a velvet chaise longue and envision

installing a large freestanding Verona bath where I’ll loll

wearing nothing but a bright red shimmer and skin that glistens 

.

till it turns to cream. I’m going to keep roosters and chickens

to chuckle with, live open-plan and knock down most of my walls                      

when all this is over, said the officer of the prison.

.

I want to forget my surname and the sounds of derision,

inhale Chanel, dine on filet mignon and dawdle in malls 

where warm lights purge as I sip chai from my china mug. Listen

.

to the summons of the wind. I will stand beside the mizzen,

sail across oceans, along rivers, past plunging waterfalls –

when all this is over, said the officer of the prison,

wearing a blood-slick from a tanked inmate whose mouth-froth glistens.

.

Probation Officer (Jan Michna)

.

No, I never took my work home with me.

At the end of the day it was always 

lock away files

shut down the computer

go home. 

Leave behind the secrets and nightmares stored in tattered files and rows of hard drives.  

No ‘how’s your day been?’ chats and pray no work related dreams.

.

No I didn’t let the job get to me. 

Twenty years of there but for the grace of god

and trying to find the good in folks

and empathy

and help

and fear.

It was years ago, I’ve forgotten most of it.

.

Except for

the abused woman who finally retaliated 

and the unrepentant grandfather who was only showing his love 

and the lads who loaded the wheelie bin with its gruesome cargo 

and

.

and

.

there were more.  So many more.  

They sit on my shoulder and whisper you could have done better. 

.

But no, it never bothered me, the job.

.

Quahogger (Lisa Falshaw)

.

When this is all over, said the quahogger,

I will stand, steady and solid

On hardened sun-heated tarmac

Glinting liquorice-black at dusk.

I will walk, feeling the solid slip

Of boot on stone.

.

When the unyielding earth settles,

And the paint-red dust has finished 

Exploding around my feet

In petulant clouds

I will reach upwards to the heavens,

Feel the depths slipping away

From my too light arms.

.

Every day, I will savour an unsalted hunk of beef,

Resplendent with scarlet blood.

I will taste its earthiness.

My home I will make far inland,

Deep in a forest where the horizon

Hides like a fugitive.

My song will be the razor-sharp chittering of raccoons,

Slicing the velvet shadows.

.

I will summon the moon

To relinquish its hold

And I’ll watch the stillness

settle like a mantle.

.

Questioner (Martin Zarrop)

 after Eiléan Ni Chuilleanáin

.

When all this is over, said the questioner,

I will put aside my face

and smile at children in the park

holding the hands of young mothers

who have all the answers.

.

I intend to take up still life drawing

and write a history of serious words.

I want to sleep in a dreamless room

with no crimson wallpaper or corners

no heavy chairs from dead offices.

.

I want to see the sun rise without a soundtrack

and hear throats singing only hymns.

One drink will be enough.

You know why I’m telling you this, 

don’t you.

.

…….

And if you’re wondering what treats are in store for tomorrow, I’m not telling . And I’m not telling you what a Quahogger does for a living x

When this is all over: Day 9. At the watershed

Here we are, half way. You can put your feet up, have a rest, look at the view, look back and see where we’ve been. Right. That’s long enough. We’re off again.


Mime (Alicia Fernandez)


When all this is over, said the mime,
I’ll craft my voice out of this blue light
to have it sound the way I always wanted,
as if I’d never so much as peeled off
the plastic sleeve of a pack of cigarettes.
My hands will finally know the matter
of human flesh, and soil, and tweed,
those things I touched but were never there.
Or if they’re by then stunted beyond repair,
there might be someone else’s in their place
to ground my coffee beans,
tear off all those photographs I don’t want to see,
call my loved ones for a final farewell
through a bright-red telephone that’s not made of air.

.

Nurse (Sue Jarvis)

.

When all this is over I’ll sleep for a week 

With no sounds of alarm clocks 

But the quiet of peace 

.

When all this is over I’ll shop till I drop

And just cos I can 

I’ll visit ten different shops

.

When all this is over I’ll wear satin and lace 

I will notice the sun 

And the breeze on my face 

.

When all this is over I’ll pray for the dead 

The old and infirm

Left to die in their beds 

.

When all this is over 

I’ll ask            WHY?

.

The Nit Nurse (Liz Veitch)

.

When this is all over, said the nit nurse 

I will retire to a cottage 

in a valley where no one knows my name

I ’ll be viewed with curiosity and

to some degree, acceptance . 

.

I will grow my uncombed hair, 

wreathe it with flowers, wear skirts 

of rippling silk In rainbow hues, 

muslin blouses, soft around my unbound breasts 

and take a long haired lover, 

young and strong and lie in summer meadows

sifting his curls with expert fingers,

my wayward hair spread wide 

.

One full moon I’ll slip away ,

my black bag stuffed with lotions, shampoos, coal tar soap 

and cruel combs of hard, bright steel ,

and hurl them down the mouth of my deep well 

and be at peace in my garden, 

a wildness of roses. I shall dream of lines 

of clean children, sheaves of bright hair 

and my fingers, touching their heads as they pass

Opera on the moors (Sarah Dixon)

for Anna Barry

.

Week 1

As she planted tomatoes 

she whistled a tune from Phantom 

imagined their vine-scent gathering in the darkness

She sang to the soil.

She conducted the clouds.

.

Week 2

As she disinfected the shopping packaging 

(fusilli, passata, parmesan) 

she hummed an aria from Carmen. 

She kept her volume in check 

not wanting to alarm the neighbours 

at their barbecue or sun bathing.

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Week 3

She walked up on to the moors. Alone.

And as she walked it crescendoed.

This irrepressible need to sing it out.

Anyone within a mile

could hear her 120 decibel burst

from Dido and Aeneas.

.

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Orthodontist (Paul Waring)

When this is all over , said the orthodontist

I will master the art of losing myself, 

seek wide open space to stretch my legs

like a Thomson gazelle, make time 

to see things in gap-stone stiles. I want 

to turn up unannounced, observe and learn 

dance steps of nearby insects, join in 

as stamen tongues wag in flowerbeds.

I will allow myself to stay up late, tune 

into night orchestra of new instruments; 

knit neurons to needleclack beat 

of unclosed taps, make ambient fridge 

belly rumbles, banshee car and ambulance 

alarms the soundtrack to my new life.

.

Don’t worry. It’s a long way to go yet, and splendid views on the way. See you all tomorrow.

When this is all over: Day 8

I was delighted to finish yesterday’s selection with a Jack of all trades; pretty much how I feel today, having spent several hours doing a job that involved trowels, plaster, decorator’s caulk, two stepladders, boiled linseed oil, three collapsible crates, kitchen sealant and a bucket of emulsion. I took a cupboard down, skimplastered the wall behind it, let it dry, emulsioned it, let it dry, and then put the cupboard back up . I had it in my head that it would take an hour or so. Jack of all trades, master of none. That poem resonated with me. As did the idea that when this is all over….I’ll have a coffee and a smoke. And at three o clock, I did. Sometimes it would be nice to simply get a proper man in. I imagine that royalty live like that, unthinking, blithe. Stuff just gets done.

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The King    (Kathleen Strafford)

When this is all over, said the King

I will pipe down the hammocks

float out with the tide

drink from an everyday jug left in the rain

later three sheets will blow in moonshine

                     & in the offing

                     watch the water-colour sky unfold

On days it’s pouring I’ll take long walks

            meet rainy day women shopping in doldrums

            who know the ropes

            grabbing hand over fist 

            for frozen tiaras & fishnet dreams

            who have no idea 

                       my heart

                                is at a loose end

they are deported in ships of fools

escaping through portholes

 I’ll chase their chasing shadows 

when I’m through      put on my shades

                    knock on your door  

                    bend on a royal knee 

like a seasick sailor      wave goodbye to the sea

                    hand you my heart 

                                       like a crown

  .

.

 Late Chain Survey              (Christopher North)

We drag our chain to the fuzzed margin,

        the field for us the only field on earth,

.

all else is blur. We rod the line,

        behind us upright wisps of red and white

.

and one distant in front. Then twilight’s grey pall

        and beyond the hedge falls black.

.

Our thin tape rasps out the offsets.

       The rye grass offers no mark,

.

the same in this station as the next.

       Then the chain goes forward.

.

Your figure quests onward into dark,

       until, link by link, there is only the moving chain.

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  Listener (Char March)

.

When all this is over

my ears will have grown

been re-minted

learnt to swivel, independently, and often

to the rasp of damp grass 

the thump of butterflies’ feet

the thundering rearrangement 

of feathers on tucked-deep nests

badger air’s duskly snuffle

oxygen easing from trees’ leaves.

.

It will be, by week three, as if I had laid

your Windmills of Norfolk teatowel over the daisies;

reached in elbow-deep through my clogged glup of Icarus;

to unpin; held my auricle to the sun; become cog-carer.

Disassembled helix and anti-helix onto Cley-next-the-Sea,

tragus and anti-tragus to Burnham Overy, concha and lobule 

(strange to remove my gold sleepers only now) safe at Stow and on 

into the percussion section – malleus, incus, stapes to Turf Fen – 

for the full Spring clean while pear blossom snowed the veg beds

confusing the bees for days.

.

.

Then 

crowdscarsbuildingsitesplaneshornslorriescrowdsbrakespiledriverscarsplaneslorriescrowdscarsthebellowofgooooooooal

And once more 

I shall be deaf.

..

.

When this is all over :Day 7

.

The Horologist (Mick Jenkinson)

I’ll tell you about time

You see enough, you come to understand

how shallow the conceit

that one might influence the falling sand

.

The tiresome tick and tock

my patience never tested so before

The plague’s relentless mock

beat us till we in blind obeisance swore

.

I need to clean my hands

This work requires a sterile atmosphere

Should you wish to observe

then do the same before you enter here

.

Bring me your broken clock

chronometer or clepsydra to mend

This is my element

a steady eye and yet more steady hand

.

I’ll show you whole worlds

within the shifting gears of this chablon

but out beyond these walls 

could you be sure that life and love go on?

.

And though time finds its voice

from pockets, mantle pieces and bell towers

now clocks can only serve –

each timepiece striking off life’s hollow hours

.

When all of this is done

would you meet me by the meridian?

We’ll take a quiet turn

I’ll tell you of the great John Harrison

.

Ice Cream Man (Anthony Wilson)

.

I pass the cones across the shelf,

planting them like light bulbs

in their fists, livid blue bubble gum,

squat tubs of ripple,

coffee and walnut tasting of nothing.

.

Tourists, mostly, even in winter,

detouring south to the beach

we aren’t famous for

before heading to the hills 

where at least the ice is real.

.

Or these schoolkids and their mams

for their three-thirty rush,

tips slimmer than I used to be,

hips held in by elastic

that never sees a gym.

.

I wipe things down and see it shine

between indecisive anoraks.

I never pretend to smile.

I have worn this badge so long

I have forgotten my own name.

.

.

.

Jigsaw puzzle designer. (Di Slaney)

.

When this is all over, said the jigsaw puzzle designer, I’ll stop looking for identical blue bits and dark shadowed edges with the faintest hint of grey. I’ll abandon beige for the rest of my life, seek out the single bright stem, the gimlet leaf, leave overblossomed branches for someone else to fret over. I’ll take a long flight somewhere warm and as we pass over the sea, I’ll stop noticing puffs of wavecrest as differentials, and take a merlot without matching it to the headrest. When the scented woman next to me asks what I do, I’ll look at my blunt, practical hands and say “Carpet fitter”. I have transferable skills. 

.

Jack-of-all-trades Di Slaney)

.

When this is all over, said the jack-of-all-trades, 

I will focus on doing one job really well. 

No more of this fixing, mending, bending, 

up-ending, tapping, wrapping, brushing, 

rushing, slushing, plunging, de-gunging, 

wiring, re-firing, all in one day. 

I will be full fat perfection

in my niche, I won’t spread 

my margarine-self 

so thin 

the toasty burns shine through, 

I won’t be busted for my lack

of quals or certs. I will master 

my destiny, choose my path, walk the walk 

and talk – well, I’ve always been good at that

When this is all over: Day 6

Flower Grower. (Mary Matusz)

Searching for seeds online, I discover

Thompson and Morgan suspended orders,

there’s a queue to get onto Sutton’s, 25571

is my number, 6,630 people ahead of me.

.

I send a help message. Try Sarah Raven a friend

suggests. My brother calls, he was lucky

on eBay. I’m not snipping and bunching now

not even for the dead or dying. 

.

The birds seem louder than ever 

and I’ve never seen so many butterflies 

in a month. I view pictures of pendulous 

flowers of rusty foxgloves and bell–shaped

.

purple columbine, deep–blue cornflowers,

forget–me–nots, ragged robin, feverfew,

herebell and hemlock. I find wild flower seeds,

buy–two–get–two–free deal with free postage.

.

I order four packets for £6.45, calculate

100 grams will do 20 square metres.

When this is all over, my colourful

heads will thrive there, undisturbed. 

.

Forger (Steve Nash)

. 

When this is all over, said the forger,
I will lay my brush aside
and drown the bristles in unglassed water
for there have been too many purple skies.
.
My first had to be signed ‘necessity’
and it was the hardest I had worked,
to catch the lie from another’s teeth
in a painting that wouldn’t hang crooked.
.
The orders fell like words after the first
and always a new trick to hide
myself in the gilt frame’s tryst.
I mixed tears to star my nights,
.
crushed toenails into a dull pearl,
yes, blood in a scarlet Hannibal glow,
every one with my back to a world
that tallowed my spine through the window.
.
It takes closed eyes, bathed in linseed and lime
to peel rhyme from an orange,
and what canvases I would unprime
for a single skin of my own paint.
.
To colour my lost moon of Etta
I would lay my lies aside.
When all of this is over
I will find a new line.

.

.
 A Gardener in Lockdown (MariaTaylor)

Life has become verbs,

suffer    isolate    survive.

Out here verbs are kinder,

dig    plant    clear.

There is optimism in a seed.

A present of green space,

cherry blossom, herb 

and rosebud. I look at peonies

beginning to grow

and think about the summer

into which the petals

will blossom.

Even the weeds glow,

and the work is good and slow

and a piece of sky is mine 

whenever I look up 

from the soil. 

.

The Gardener (Paul Iwanyckyj)

I lie down on the cool grass

and feel each stalk push gently

against me, trying to raise me.

I hear the sound of the bulbs 

pushing through the loam 

and pinecones cracking in the trees.

.

The garden, the only sane 

place to be, now or ever;

close to nature, your hands

feeling the essence of the earth,

your mind freewheeling

as you hear the bees breathe.

.

The sun is warm upon my face,

and birds call, oblivious to chaos

coursing through man’s world.

Dates unpicked from diaries,

appointments erased or virtualised,

liberation amongst confinement.

.

And as we emerge the other side

and look into each other’s eyes,

neighbour, kinsfolk, countryman,

any citizen of the world, we will know.

Know what they have seen,

know what we have all seen,

and felt, together.

.

.

More tomorrow. Jobs starting with H.