When all this is over, said the hop-picker,
I’m going back to the time before the war
when there was morris dancing and singalongs
and blokes called Len who looked after their own
unless they were in the Scrubs. Before my time,
of course, same as the hop-picking.
But I almost remember the caravans
where you used to sleep, and being poor but happy,
hungry but happy, maybe, or just plain hungry.
I’ll flog the telly,
cancel the direct debit on my phone,
and set off on foot to Kent, to sell my skills
to whoever needs them: people with polytunnels
who’ll show me a bed in a shed with nine other men
and no running water, and take the bed-and-board
out of my pay, so I end up owing them.
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
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.
( Synergy, or the infinite bloody mindedness of the univers. …..you wait for hours and them two turn up at once)
When all this is over, said the Ice-cream Man,
I will not hum along to any blasted tinny chimes –
Greensleeves and O Sole Mio will be put on ice.
My puppies will never be slushy or mushy
or outrageous blue – they will be fawn and warm,
with abrasive tongues like Wet and Dry.
I will not spell Kool Ices with a ‘K’ or have rivers
run in ripples across my tongue. I will mow down
the ninety-nine waffled police cones outside my house
and not Watch that child! I will eat scoopfuls
of burning chilli flakes and peri-peri chicken,
drink huge mugs of steaming chocolate,
raise tropical twirling flowers of peach and tangerine
in my roasting greenhouse. My thermometer
will rise at night to twenty-five degrees −
I’ll tie a hot water bottle to my waist,
look up to the stars through misted glass
and know my eyes will not waver,
they will not be fogged; they will be dry.
Jones y Cig
Pan fydd hyn i gyd gorffen, meddai Jones y Cig…
Bryntir ap Gof, Glyndyfrdwy
When this is all over, said Jones the Meat,
I’ll sell the blydi siop.
For years, I haven’t eaten flesh and blood.
I hope I haven’t left it all too late,
but Jones the Bread might buy it, double up.
When this is done, I’ll tell him that he should.
I’ll move up to the Hafod on the hill.
It’s rented now, I know,
but soon the shepherd’s lease will run its course —
they’ll take away the bleats and passing bells.
I’ll dig the garden up and try to grow
my sort of food. I’ll buy a working horse,
and call it Patch, like Dafydd’s used to be.
I’ll turn the tractor shed
into a stable, plough the upper field for wheat.
Or maybe leave it growing wild. I’ll see.
When all of this is over, if I’m not dead,
I’ll close the blydi siop! said Jones the Meat.
Jigsaw puzzle designer
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.
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
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