Cats’ Meat Man
after Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin
When all this is over, said the Cats’ Meat Man,
I’ll become a nomad and travel
where everyone goes wild about birdsong.
I’ll listen to the street cries of the sellers of birdseed,
where bluetits have remembered
how to pierce the tops of milk cartons.
I’ll learn to cook and savour the aroma
of a rich lentil stew, with never a whiff of horsemeat,
the gnarled leavings of a slaughterhouse.
I’ll lie in long grass, hear bees counting as they forage.
At the top of Look-out Hill, I’ll reach up
and feel like I’m touching heaven.
I’ll watch the breeze stroke the surface of a pond,
ruffle the wild thyme,
and I’ll think of waves travelling through air.
At night I’ll feel the breath of the Sphinx moth
as it flies by moon-light, sips nectar from evening primroses
that glow like yellow lamps.
I’ll lie in my tent, listen to the crooning turtledoves,
and there’ll be no unearthly calls of tom-cats,
no secretive scratchings in the garden.
After all this is over, said the X Factor winner,
after my winner’s single gets to number 3
in the Christmas charts; after that Sun exposé
those teenage beefcake shots, my gay friend;
after the glamour model I’m papped with
in Ibiza is married with twins; after I choke
on kangaroo penis on I’m a Celebrity; score 7
on Celebrity Mastermind, nothing on Celebrity
Chase and bomb on Pointless Celebrities; after
no one turns for me on the Voice; after the scandal
of Celebrity Big Brother; after my book is reduced
to £2.99; after all this, I’ll never be able to shop
in Tesco’s again. At least, not without my shades.
When all this is over, said the centaur,
they’ll expect me to be one thing
or another. They’ll corral me
into their taxonomies,
as malformed human or –
to them – an enhanced horse.
They’ll make me choose between the headlong
gallop down the slopes of Taygetus
for the hell of the wind in my face
and the scent of crushed thyme
beneath my hooves – or lyre,
lust for nymphs and drinking dish,
and in either case, they’ll judge me
by standards that have nothing to do
with the foster-child of Apollo,
with the teacher of Achilles:
they’ll foist their human morality
on my mythic appetites
or track me with RFID on Google
Earth, up Olympus, as I search,
forlornly, for the gods.
When all this is over, said the chauffeur,
I shall live on a lane, where
the unadopted tarmac thins to cart-track
and the neighbour hides his secrets
under tarpaulin, peacock-tail-eyed with tyres.
I shall show my profile at every opportunity,
learn how faces look the right way around
and what words sound like when they are not
addressed to the back of my head.
I mean to learn how to start a conversation,
disagree with someone who can see and hear me
and listen to the radio news
no more than five times a day.
I want to cultivate a garden
of every flower and weed in the median strip
and when I dream, dream of a motorway of headlights
turning into the Milky Way.
When this is all over: the Cleaner
When all this is over, said the cleaner,
I’m going to be a round-the-world yachtswoman
in a boat called Cleopatra: scarlet sails,
a wind-up radio and a back-up crew
ten nautical miles away.
I’ll get an all-over tan and bleached-blonde hair
and sing along to Adele and Maria Callas
while studying charts and judging wind directions.
I’ll polish all the surfaces with saliva,
and throw the washing-up overboard, and shit
over the side, to save scouring the chamber-pot.
I’ll pretend I can’t receive the messages
from the sponsors and the film crew. I’ll sling my phone
into the vortex of plastic that circulates
somewhere off Hawaii. If I end up capsizing
in the doldrums or around Cape Horn, at least
it won’t be because somebody made the mistake of breathing.
When this is all over, said the clockwinder,
I wish to stop time
With the hands always set to twelve.
And when this time comes
I intend to be always early………
or fashionably late, whichever takes my fancy.
I will sleep during the day and
breakfast when the sun sets
and washes the trees with golden fire.
Later, when the time is right,
I will learn the photographer’s art;
to freeze time in an instant.
I will look out from the confines
of a gilt-edged frame,
my face knowing and certain
as I stare inwards to the centre of a room.
Never more will time be entrusted to me.
Never again will I hold it in my hands.
Because I will let time escape;
release it and see it fly with
wings of gauze and glinting moonbeams,
and watch it whirl and spin
like a sycamore seed,
until it twists and cartwheels away
through the indigo of the sky.
More on Monday.
cooks, chefs, chimneysweeps, clockmakers,chiromancers……….DJs, dentists, dieticians, drystone wallers, dancers, deckhands, dustmen…….who knows?
PS. You’ll doubtless notice that stanzas (and not just stanzas) are separated by dots/ellipses. Sorry, but it’s the quickest way I’ve found of defeating WordPress’ insatiable desire to get rid of stanza breaks and other breaks too.