[Before we start, a teacherly reminder to all our poets. Some of you have identified yourselves on social media as the author of this or that poem. Please remember that when Kim Moore makes her selection, the principle is that she doesn’t, and can’t, know who wrote what. So if possible, can you amend or take down the posts. Please.
Right. Poems. Very very very good poems. Really.]
Receptionist (Jan Michna)
Her parents raised her to be unassuming, amenable, polite.
Ideal qualities for a job requiring a permanent smile
And a vocation for serving the public.
She was the sort of girl who could answer any query with a spin of her Rolodex and a telephone call,
Or keep her cool when irate pensioners slapped their rates bills on her counter,
Or happily accept work from the offices upstairs when stuck for something to do.
If she grew bored of being abandoned in her mausoleum of glass and polished stone
She escaped to a womb of a room at the far end of a corridor,
Where materteral telephonists shared their life stories
And taught her how to plug long, thick cords into crackling ports
Without cutting off callers.
She took home stray dogs who’d wandered into the reception area and slept on its heated floor.
She would have preferred not to have found their owners,
Especially the one whose German Shepherd turned and looked back at her dejectedly
As its master led it away.
Some lunchtimes she went swimming in the baths opposite her building
With a young man she’d met through a friend.
He once jumped jingling up and down in front of her desk in green bell-bedecked wellies.
Over forty years later, he still makes her laugh.
Schoolkid (Niamh Shaw)
When all this over
I want to sit next to my friends in the diner
where the voices are like rainfall
and conversation is mainly about the teachers.
I want to smell chips and perfume.
I want to choke on deodorant.
I want tin classrooms stacked in fours.
I want to see the blossom flying
from the tree shaped like a falcon,
to hear ninety-seven kids shouting shit.
And the smack of fist on flesh.
I want to see the plastic sheet that holds the roof up
and the mould on the classroom floor
where my friends laugh and chat
and the glass lies shattered in the corner.
Seabound (Gaia Holmes)
Cruise ship dancers, Lauren Carrick and Joseph Harrison, have been stuck in their cabin for at least 21 hours a day for 32 days on the ‘Celebrity Infinity’ ship which is currently anchored off the coast of a private Bahaman island. The engaged couple had been performing on the Celebrity Cruises excursion around Florida and Mexico in March before the pandemic struck and lock down began… Mr Harrison, 27, of Hull, said “I know people back home must think, ‘a ship in the Bahamas, that’s probably really nice’ – it may sound lovely but we’ve been stuck in a room.” BBC.com
For weeks we dance with each other,
and around each other, in our six by four cell.
We stew in each other’s sweat and gloom,
throb with same boredom. Strange how restraint
can make the tamest creatures feral. I shed my nails
days ago, let you nibble patterns into the gaps.
There are nights when I sit with you
wishing I could lick the dust off your eyeballs,
pluck lice from your hair. Talking
has become wordless.
We have forgotten the texture of grass
and the coldness of pebbles. Our dreams
are of mud and weed-riddled meadows.
We wake up craving slabs of clay
with our cruise ship coffee. Our tangos
have become more savage.
When all this is over we will walk barefoot
through fields full of vetch and cow shit.
We will drink the dirty feathered water
from the cobwebbed trough.
We will roll in puddles.
[I can’t think of a better place to rest. Let’s all turn our faces to the sun]