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.
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
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
When all this is over, said the kitman,
I will hang up the whole squad’s boots & never marry
up a shin pad with its partner again.
I’ll visit properly all those cities we played in
that season we reached the UEFA Cup quarter-finals,
back when we were decent:
Split, whose crowd would’ve killed us just for opposing;
Istanbul, where the warm-up climaxed
in goat sacrifice; Vigo, the Grimsby of Spain;
& Parma, home of the winners, who spanked
our arses. A solo Grand Tour. In each,
I’ll seek the pleasures I had no time for then:
hire a Vespa, shoot up Roman roads & stop for limoncello
poured by somebody luscious,
who’ll ask me if I’m free;
& like the silver fox I am, I’ll take off my shades,
flash my new gnashers & answer
in smoothest Schteve McClaren Dutch.
[Note: When he managed FC Twente in the Netherlands, former England manager Steve McClaren notoriously answered interviewers’ questions in a peculiar, ‘Dutch’-inflected accent.]
Late Chain Survey
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.
When all this is over
my ears will have grown
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.
And once more
I shall be deaf.
When all this is over, I will take to the road
where day starts at 3am
and conversation is largely a matter
of country on late-night stations.
I want to learn a new language:
to blow my doors off, to be south bound
and hammer down through Europe,
to drive through centuries of forest,
the memories of trees in the dark.
I intend to travel in straight lines,
to be shocked by the colour each morning
and stop only where the services are worth it.
I want to be stalked by wolves, to be prepared
to drive on bridges that might not hold.
I won’t hurry. On the high tracks over La Paz
I will take it steady
where dusty plastic flowers mark the graves.
I will be adept with a mallet and hammer
and the weather will be my story.
The world will shrink in my mirror,
storms will approach me.
I want life to drive towards me all lit up.
I want to be awake through the night
with hundreds of miles still to go.
after Eileán Ní Chuilleanáin
When all this is over
I will wear cardigans, not cloaks.
I’ll enjoy the firm oak floor,
solid beneath my feet.
See a cat flap for what it is,
rather than an opportunity.
I will use a handkerchief to sneeze into.
The rabbits will grow un-tame
in the back garden.
Their pink noses soft and twitching
see-sawing dandelion leaves
late into the evening gloom.
When I enter or leave a room
I will utilise the traditional means.
Nobody will gasp
excepting Mrs Suprendo
who, on a Sunday night
will challenge me to poker
and make me deal,
do a swing cut, a riffle shuffle
the cards purring through my hands.
Magic. There’s a note to end on, like the swish of velvet curtains and rapturous applause. We’re half way through the alphabet, and not quite half way through the poems. Day 9 will feel like a watershed. See you there, on the ridge.