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.


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.




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


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

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.


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.



You don’t dump Euterpe, she dumps you


When this is all over, said the organist –

people say that, don’t they?

Like you can get up and leave,

not look back. Push your chair into the sun,

forget. Take up golf, or gardening.

But they don’t have the music in them.


When this is all over – we don’t say that here,

don’t tempt fate. The day you wake up

to a shaking hand, a foot that won’t sit

on the pedals, can’t hear the bass note,

or the treble. Death.

Slow, silent imprisonment in the ordinary. 


When this is all over –

every musician knows that music never ends:

sound just fades into silence, 

silence is just a different kind of sound.

Listen – the birds, the tick of that clock.

See how the trees are swaying like singers.



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.

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