I’m utterly delighted to start this Monday’s post off with the ultimate tradesman:
When this is all over,
I’m no longer needed, and
I can finally put my feet
Up (so to speak),
For a moment I’ll take the
Spectacle in –
The morse code of stars,
Fields buttered with spring.
If I had a last wish I might let
Rain do what it wanted
To do if I hadn’t invented gravity,
Or, bring the clouds down to
Flow in the river bed.
Even absolve the sins
Of the haunted dead!
But really, these powers are
No, when this is all over
I’ll take my time, carefully pack
My pillowed robes.
I will dip myself into the
Universal sea, dissolve –
Slip between the trees –
And become unknowable
When this is all over: The Curator
I will rise before the sun
make my way through streets
still claimed by foxes, feral cats.
I’ll catch the first train,
sit, as before, in the middle carriage,
watch it fill.
I’ll listen to every word
of the litany of announcements:
a selection of drinks and light refreshments…
if you see anything suspicious…
the next station stop is…
When this is all over
I’ll slip in by the museum’s side door,
walk down the echoing halls
lighting each cabinet as I pass –
ridged spirals of ammonites,
a hail of belemnites,
the great grinding teeth of mammoths.
I will run a soft cloth
over dusty jawbones, femurs,
pause a while
by the protoceratops hatchlings,
breaking out to their Cretaceous dawn.
When this is all over
I will fetch the step-ladders
from the caretaker’s cupboard,
set them up beside my dear diplodocus,
I’ll climb to the top,
lean in, rest my head against
the coolness of her cheek.
The Dental Hygienist
when all this is over, said the dental hygienist
when I’m done with full protective gear
with trolleys and body-bags
and the long slog in sticky heat
from Intensive Care to the refrigerated
trucks lined up on the far side
of the overflow car-park
when I’m done with the stink of death
I’ll be glad to get back to the office
the tropical fish flickering in their little sea
the dolphin poster blu-tacked to the ceiling
the tinies eager for their reward stickers
and the old ones with their bleeding gums
and their knock-you-out-from-two-yards breath
Dustman in the days of the plague
I work at the dustmen’s depot
Right from seven in the morning till three
Scrubbing floors and wiping the tables,
Boiling water and brewing ‘ot tea.
I’m alone in the canteen all morning
Now the rest have all fallen away
But I cheer myself up by elevenses
When we all have a nice cup of tea.
I’ve sorrows and joys just as you have
And my feelings get just as welled up.
I have laughed with me friend the night porter.
I have mourned with the crack in a cup.
I know you think I am dispensable
But I’m only apprentice till June
And I hold the key to the cupboard
And I know where I keep the spoon.
So I know that you’ll see that I can’t die
Cos they don’t know where I keep the key
And besides just you think of the dustmen,
How they’d feel without cups of ‘ot tea.
I appeal to all kindly ‘and washers
To preserve me from ‘orrible doom.
Keep your distance and leave tables tidy.
Don’t anyone finger my broom.
The Drystone Waller
When all this is over, said the drystone waller,
after the long silences of millstone grit,
I shall turn to verse,
pass my days gathering myths, gathering words,
eyes adjusting to distances, looking up
to gaze at hills and seas and clouds.
I shall watch county cricket at the old Park Avenue,
sit on a wooden bench at the pavilion end
between Brigitte Bardot and Julie Christie,
Trueman bowling to Cowdrey.
In the luncheon interval
Brigitte will go and buy the pies
while Julie and I discuss field-placing
and Ovid’s Amores.
A day they will remember always.
Or we’ll wander barefoot through meadows
fresh with the flourish of early summer,
rest beneath glad green leaves by a clear stream,
its banks dense with the scent of wild garlic.
They will listen, eyes closed,
as I recite from memory, wishing only
for more such afternoons as this.
And I shall build lyrics, course upon course,
shaping syllables to the memories that followed;
trade hammer and chisel for a fountain pen,
when snows are gone and warm winds blow again.
What a lovely last line to sign off on. Ironically, since I’m writing this in advance,the weatherman tells me that temperatures will plummet tonight. Apparently it’s all due to the Arctic Vortex. Snow forecast for the NE USA. Get your bobble hats out.