When all this is over, the stallholder whispered,
I might unpack the van one final time,
unload crates of boxer shorts and socks,
thermals, big girl pants and lacy scanties
at the door of the helping-house for refugees,
and put my arms around whoever answers.
Then I’ll head out by buses, trains and ferries
to sniff my children and my grandchildren,
nuzzling my face into their luscious skin,
and I’ll tell my granny’s story from the time
she ran the stall all through another curfew,
while the Black and Tans were burning half the town,
and on a summer night was out too late,
drinking tea in a friend’s house, playing pontoon,
when my father kicked up a clamour to be born:
and she walked the fearful streets in gathering pain,
in need of refuge, and found her own way home.
Triangulation : the Surveyor
When all this is over, said the surveyor,
You will find every bench mark has shifted.
Nowhere will be quite the same.
Satnavs will struggle, even with favourite routes.
But I will look at my theodolite in the corner;
My steel toed boots by the door
And I will know that before all this
There was never a closing error.
But I have hung up my high vis jacket.
I am planning some two destination breaks;
Maybe from here to Cairo, then on to Bermuda
or the Flatiron, to the Louvre then home.
You trust your 5G and global position systems.
Trust, that they are smarter than my eye.
But remember the world was discovered
without satellites; with only the stars in the sky.
(After The Swineherd, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin)
The Tailor’s Way
When this is over,
to be let out, let off,
to strut his stuff
on summer lawns,
a peacock patterned
tale of no’s and ayes
to cover all his lies.
No overlocker leaves
an inch of self edge
if it can be stitched.
For two pins
I’d show him how
the bias hangs.
(It’s all the rage.)
than one way this
will button up.
I’ll fill my spool,
dust off my chalk,
attach my needle,
keep my knife
sharp and to hand.
I’ll do this until I die or reach a point where I can’t;
due to the dulling of sight or onset of the shakes,
and wouldn’t it be wonderful if someone performed
these intricate rites on my own relinquished remains,
perhaps using these very tools: my scalpels, shears,
Glover’s needles, my scissors, these fleshing knives,
and mounted me in this same pose, intent, ever so
hunched, caught in the act of the art of re-animation;
a scene faithfully choreographed, titled with a plaque
that reads in calligraphic script, delicate as a sable tip,
Necrotic Groom, Gardener of Death, Coiffeur of Fatalities,
preserved in formaldehyde, oils, pastes, adhesives.
I’ll need no casket nor gravestone to mark my passing,
folk will gaze upon my fate with their own glassy eyes.
Tommy in 1934
When all this is over, said the telegram boy,
I want to wheel my red bicycle
right up to front doors, hear the spokes whirr.
I want to wink as I pull the telegram
from the pouch across my hip.
I want no special mark of bad news,
the signal not to wait. A smile instead,
at the sight of my navy-blue uniform
at the dry wit we exchange.
I want to chat with mates, the boys-only
about life after this Great Depression,
then go home to greet my collie,
herding me like a dervish,
as I spin into Greengairs Avenue.
When this is all over, I intend to learn,
return to what was denied me,
the turn of book pages, the scent of words.
I intend to illuminate the half-light
and become a white collared chap.
I’ve been making a list, said the flying trapeze.
When my house is paid for, when my car is paid for,
when I’ve got that orthopedic surgeon off my back,
when there’s money enough in my IRA
to chance that it’ll see us through,
and enough in the bank for Sarah’s care,
that day my feet will touch the ground.
Never again I’ll fly these giddying wires.
Never again I’ll please these gasping crowds.
That day my feet will do their real job.
They’ll know the soil, they’ll feel the damp,
they’ll push my toes in deep.
That day my feet will wrap in boots.
They’ll stride the solid streets and break into a run.
They’ll cover miles on roads built by machines.
That day I’ll know I’m not a bird.
That day I’ll know again that I’m a man.