When this is all over: Day 15. Omega Day!!!!

To be honest, I’ve not been looking forward to today. Last post (in the series). But I promise you, it’s a good one. Like all the others. Thank you all for following.

X-rays are my life  

(the Radiologist)

.

When this is all over I shall shed tears of blackened silver

.

But then it’s not silver anymore 

So maybe I shall shed pixels

.

But it’s all pictures 

with beauty and sadness

Surprises and sameness 

A tree in bud 

A fissure found 

A neoplasm blossoming unexpected 

Like Breughel 

After plague  

No vague hope of vaccines just prayer 

His Triumph of death

.

And hope was less that tides could be turned and breath could be saved 

.

But also that crowns came with thorns

And redemption 

.

But Now

.

 Fluffy shadows on a screen

The puff and wheeze of air and spit and sweat and shit 

And tears over phones 

No hands to be held

Without plastic and masks

.

How will I leave those shadows behind?

.

A Xylophonist reflects

When this is all over

and the C# Minor strains of the requiem’s

final movement dissolve and fade, 

when the world is open for business again 

and I’m free to go anywhere I choose 

.

I’ll choose to sit on the banks of the Congo

in the shade of a great mninga tree

eat nyembwe with saka saka

and let my instrument speak

to its ancestors, rediscover the peace 

of connection, hear the music of a warm 

breath of wind over its wingfruit, 

its coral wood. When this is all over, 

.

I want to discover a new normal 

away from the accelerando and allegro 

away from the march and symphony,

in the quiet hymnal of the forest, 

find the largo I fear I’ve lost.

.

Yachtswoman in the Doldrums

after Eilean Ni Chuilleanain

.

When this is all over I’ll ride

            waves, hold the helm light

  enough to steer a course,

            let this boat sheer her keel,

keen to the winds of chance.

.

I’ll chart my route to any

            port in a storm – bring on

        that storm, blot out those

            sharp stars – break mirrors.

Snatched by sea bird squalls,

.

wondering about the fuss

            of sitting here stock still

bound by flat seas on all sides.

            I’ll be flying – hoist! Hoist!

Seven years on, I’ll be laughing.

.

Zaminder

.

When all this is over, said the zamindar,

the tenants will queue at my door to press their taxes

into my sapphire-ringed hands, along with gifts,

water-buffalo, rice, and from time to time

their most beautiful daughters.

I will of course decline

.

at first.  My ten per cent

will go towards building a bigger palace

with daring frescoes copied from Isfahan

in the private rooms, and peacocks in the gardens.

The Resident

will get off his high horse and bow to me.

I’ll requisition the horse.  I’ll organise

polo on the maidan, and champagne cocktails

afterwards on the verandah.  There’ll be none of this

insolence or elections or journalism.

.

Zamindar: in the Indian sub-continent, a landowner who collected taxes on behalf of the Mughal and later British ruler

.

The Zinc Plater

When this is all over

I will never clean again. 

 .

Dust will gather on the surfaces

in balls and motes the size of mice.

I’ll run my fingers through it; 

let the breeze release it like pollen.

 .

I will pickle only food: rough-skinned gherkins,

slick aubergines, the hard whites of onions.

 .

There will be no baths, no bathing. 

I will wash at the Belfast sink with water 

from my own well, water I heaved 

from the dank earth, water that stinks 

of moss and peat. I will swim 

in silt-clouded rivers and nothing 

will be rinsed away. 

 .

I will live by the light of gas lamps

or candles; the honeyed scent

of bee’s wax. There will be 

no electricity, for me. 

 .

My skin will be tanned mahogany

by red flakes falling from my corrugated roof, 

my boots will crust with it, my white linen

will blush with it.

 .

When this is all over, nothing 

will be smoothed to a mirror-shine

and no surface will be untrue to itself. 

.

Zookeeper

after Eilean Ni Chuilleanain

.

When this is all over, said the zookeeper,

I’ll move to the North, where 

property is cheaper and they have hedges,

drystone walls – fewer fences or railings.

.

I’ll roam the Cumbrian fells, watch ravens

soar through the blue, pick heather,

stomp through the bog grasses, laugh

like a hyena at the full moon.

.

Listen, I can do this, learn how to let go,

run with the ants and spiders,

bounce with the bees.

I’ll follow my nose to the dark

.

corners (under stones, behind bark)

I’ll root out the undiscovered,

the unloved, place them in my heart,

beside the tiger, elephant, chimpanzee.

.

And here we are, at the very end . Whatever will I do with my time? Hang on…there’s the selection, then the announcements, the joy and the despair, the re-editing. Not the very end at all.

And in any case, I almost forgot that we started with a Prologue poem by Ian Parks, and we’ll end this leg of the journey with a stunning Epilogue ,a reflection on the ultimate when this is all over, from the endlessly prolific and multi-talented Jane Burn..

.

On the idea of leaving a part of myself wherever my ancestors lie

A piece of me left to the absent coal
and the village that failed above its death –
to Ireland, ringed by the sea’s aureole 
ever binding the secret of my kith.
A piece of me left to the scrapman’s cart
like a glint of tin in the gathered trash.
To Scotland and its beating selkie heart,
I will gift my changeling pelt of fired ash.
It will end with me, this birthright of scars.
The sky will carry my epitaph. Jane,
you did not rise up. You were not the stars.
here you were made and here you will remain.
Wherever my kin are cloistered beneath
I will lay my ghost like a coffin’s wreath. 

.

Falling leaves return to their roots : Chinese Proverb



When this is all over: Day 14…V is for Valetudinarian

With apologies to all the poets who were given a letter from the end of the alphabet to tinker with. It’s been a bit like reading round the class at school. Or, as it was in the unreformed 1950s when we all sat in alphabetical order.

By the time it’s your turn you’ve forgotten why you were in the queue .

Weaver

.

When all this is over, said the weaver,

I’ll weave you an Indian summer.

Jacquard curtains of forget-me-not blue,

green damask tablecloths spread with flowers.

I’ll plant rows of mulberry trees and breed

silk worms, weave satin and lace bridal gowns

.

instead of silk shrouds. When I’m free to see

the ancient barrows on the furrowed brow

I’ll listen for the song of Nightingales

in empty skies of bleached white cotton sheets.

.

Seeking the silenced voice as I unpick

lines from lips to find love among the ruins,

touch hidden words woven in tapestries

where wefts of truth cover a warp of lies.

.

When this is over

.

Nothing is ever over.

.

Events roll out of the night of the past

collide like snooker balls or Black Holes;

rebound and ricochet; altered, rumble on

to make their next encounter.

.

They leave us older, occasionally wiser.

But wisdom peels like wallpaper, otherwise

we’d all be hovering about as Archangels.

.

What we seem to learn least well is how we never learn.

For all the tears and fears, we opt to stay perpetual pupils,

truants on Double History day, wide-eyed and barefoot 

because sometimes, suffering and joy are inextricable 

and dangerous innocence is the price we pay for ecstasy. 

.

Last night, the Hubble Telescope was 30.

An aged astronaut talked us through a photograph

of Deep Time; a proto-galaxy hanging in the dark

a foetus in the womb of space, about to roll

out of the night of the past.

.

Nothing is ever

over.

.

Widow

.

When this is all over, said the widow,

I won’t sit with mandarins in my son’s fruit bowl

and chat while he counts potatoes. 

I won’t Zoom away from his kitchen

because my dandelion soup

starts pinging.

.

Nor will I tramp patterns into unmown grass

or bang drain-holes into a seized-up wheelbarrow.

I won’t clear the shed of broken umbrellas 

so I can train peas and beans 

up their spokes.

.

When this is all over, said the widow, I’ll sit down 

and scroll through Netflix. Read books about

derring-do on mountains. Tune in 

to Private Passions. 

.

I’ll live 

a vicarious life 

again.

.

Wonder Woman

.

When this is all over, she told me,

I mean to tear off

this tortuous bustier with its stiff gold shield

that squeezes my belly button inside-out.

.

I intend to stop the fortnightly bikini waxing

and grow a body beard

to rival Jason Momoa. Catch him wearing

my starry high-rise blue trunks, 

which by the way, I will shred and burn.

.

I want to wake up in the morning

in a winceyette nightie, buttoned up to my chin.

.

And when I can go out and not be recognised.

I will find a forge to mend my God-killer sword,

roll up my lasso of truth, hang them side-by-side

over the stove in my eco-home by the Black sea

.

to remind me not to try to bring

peace to bellicose men who say one thing

and mean another.

Just one more day of X,Y and Z, and then they’re all off for judging.

When this is all over: Day 13

There’s light and shade in this collection. For some reason, U and V and W have brought some darkness along. But there’s hope by the end. And speaking of the end, no more poems until next Monday. Next week will see the final two posts in the sequence. What I’ll do with my life after that heaven only knows.

The Undertaker: One Step Beyond (reprise)

.

I haven’t seen you in my 40s but by the end of my fourth decade, I thought about how busy you’d become, how you’d struggle with social distancing being an in your face type dude, how inappropriate you’d be, trying to say the right thing but failing, like you did with me back in 2001: “It looks like him, dunt it?’ And it did. A bit. I didn’t have the heart to tell you how you’d got his lips all wrong. Too straight. He was your postman. You really wanted to get this one right. I’m glad I knew that without you having to tell me.  It said a lot about you, much more than you could say on purpose. You try too hard to be normal. You’re not. It’s not your profession, how you grew up around dead bodies, high on embalming fluid. Lots of undertakers have wives and friends but you were always the kid at school who tried too hard because you had to. It took a lot of work and no one ever warmed to you. 

.

I’m sure you’re still trying to say the right thing in the chapel of rest, getting it wrong, making people smile by accident when they really need to. And when all this is over, don’t become too self aware. Stop trying to be a better man. You’ll always be the unlikeliest of heroes given your propensity to get too familiar: say hello in supermarkets, wave at us from your hearse, make us feel we should wave back. But we are not bus drivers who’ve known each other for years. You’ll always remind us of loss. You’ll always be the sum of all our fears.

.

Undertaker

.

There was only the faintest sound
of sobbing. It was cold that day,
as when Towton saw so many dead.
Soon, he hoped, when this is done,
things will return to as they were.
When he could deal with tumours, hearts
that stopped in shock. The mangled flesh
and bone, the aged
and those who chose to die.

.

They sat in separate pews, the broken
widow and the stoic son. No comfort,
no loving touch. An impotent priest.

.

This plague had come to his house,
the cross was on his door. 

.

The Veenboer: Mòine Dhubh

i.m. Andrew Weatherall

When this is over you’ll find me at the peat bog

with my cutter and spade and a gallon of beer.

I’ll have made short work of flaying the turf 

and raising a stack of slabs to be gathered.

You’ll want to hang back for the good stuff,

which means digging deeper into the moor

than has been dug before, but on my word,

though my back be breaking, I’ll not slacken

till I’ve extracted the richest, darkest nugget

you can imagine, and when it’s dried enough

I’ll tease out the fibres, pack them in my pipe,

pour us each a draught of sun-warmed beer

and you and I will partake of the mòine dhubh.

.

mòine dhubh – heavier and darker peats which lie deeper into the moor

.

Vulnerable Person

When all this is over I won’t be a vulnerable person

but, I’ll no longer sit in my she shed watching the robins feed

and begin to build their nest

or see the flash of the blue tit

flying into the hedges making way for the robin on the bird table.

.

When all this is over I won’t sit in my she shed in the evening

with a chilled glass of rose listening to the radio 

spilling jazz or classical music

feeling tranquil and serene, with the fairy lights

flickering on the lawn

making weird patterns with the shadows they create.

.

When this is all over, I won’t sit in my shed

and imagine I’ve been summoned 

by Gertrude to one of her soirees

along with Hemingway and Ezra To the Salon of Des Arts, 

and dream about the conversations we would have.

.

When all this is over I won’t get video calls 

from my grandchildren using silly apps to make me laugh

Or daily limericks which shows someone cares

.

When this is all over I might feel more vulnerable  

.

than I did before this lockdown.

.

Watchman

After Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin

.

When all this is over, thought the watchman,

I shall take to my garden, where 

the light will be long as tomorrow

.

and the larks will not depart from me. 

I shall lay on my lawn, lord of the morning,

and shed my black self, my shadow.

.

My watchlights will fill with the glisten of wings, 

the tinkle of wrens on the terrace. 

My whiskers will lift on the lip of the wind

.

and I’ll swing to the stars from the trellis.

When all this is done, thought the watchman,

and I stand at the gate of the day, 

.

my garden will never know absence. 

The swallows and sparrows will stay. 

.

.

May your gardens never know absence. Have a lovely weekend. Stay safe, be well, go well xx

When this is all over: Day 12. Crossing the T’s.

Stallholder

.

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,

he’ll expect

to be let out, let off,

to strut his stuff

on summer lawns,

a peacock patterned

tale of no’s and ayes

stretched seamlessly

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.)

There’s more

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.

.

Taxidermist

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.

.

Trapeze

.

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.

When this is all over. Day 11

[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

.

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.

.

Restoration Man

.                       

no more crimes

no gutting

.

being sympathetic 

to the original

.

stripping or rendering walls

encouraging or blocking air flow

admitting frost

.

ignoring load-bearing 

removing internal spine          

neglecting joints 

.

botching 

using short-life materials 

weakening with excessive cutting and runs               

.

showing-off styles 

such as weatherstruck pointing

.

Schoolkid 

.

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

.

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.

.

Sexton

.

When this is all over, said the sexton,

I will miss the nightjars.  I will recall

.

the many doorways to the earth,

edged with the work of beetles,

.

praise the toil of smaller lives.

All this time, I have been solitary

.

among the many.  I have borne

witness to the grass as shadows

.

lengthened.  I have persevered

in my beliefs.  One day,

.

                                       at the end

.

of this, I will plant myself 

in a warm tilth. My feet will root, 

.

my fingers furl to leaf.

I shall have spring throughout

myself.  I have been loved

and loving in the half-light.

.

I will raise my face to the sun.

.

[I can’t think of a better place to rest. Let’s all turn our faces to the sun]

When this is all over: Day 10…from Phrenologist to Quizmaster

Phrenologist

after Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin

.

When all this is over, said the phrenologist,

I shall spend my days at Walden Pond

where white rocks line the far shore

like so many discarded skulls.

.

I will hoe the yellow loam and plant rows of beans, 

walk to Concord in my own company

to buy a bag of rye or Indian meal, forget 

the rag-stoppered bottle of yeast 

spilling in my pocket.

.

I intend to live on pine nuts, huckleberries,

test my constitution 

in the daily chopping of firewood, 

wield my borrowed axe with tenderness,

free from the troubling cartographies

of other people’s minds.

.

As for neighbours, I  shall visit only the Irishman

in his turf hut, stand for want of a chair

listening to the fishhawk’s cry,

the distant laughter of the loon.

.

Come winter, I will lift the largest rock

and hurl it to break the lake’s glassy surface, 

gather ice and retreat to my cabin,

wet my razor in thawed water, 

find my face in the broken mirror.

.

Prison Officer

.

When all this is over, said the officer of the prison,    

I’ll don my sunflower cocktail dress with heels and a cashmere shawl,   

wear bright red lipstick, diamond bracelets and earrings that glisten,  

.

I’ll step out – unescorted, hair loose – with wild racing frisson  

into a boundless garden of freesias, daisies and windfall.

When all this is over, said the officer of the prison,

.

I mean to invest in a velvet chaise longue and envision

installing a large freestanding Verona bath where I’ll loll

wearing nothing but a bright red shimmer and skin that glistens 

.

till it turns to cream. I’m going to keep roosters and chickens

to chuckle with, live open-plan and knock down most of my walls                      

when all this is over, said the officer of the prison.

.

I want to forget my surname and the sounds of derision,

inhale Chanel, dine on filet mignon and dawdle in malls 

where warm lights purge as I sip chai from my china mug. Listen

.

to the summons of the wind. I will stand beside the mizzen,

sail across oceans, along rivers, past plunging waterfalls –

when all this is over, said the officer of the prison,

wearing a blood-slick from a tanked inmate whose mouth-froth glistens.

.

Probation Officer

.

No, I never took my work home with me.

At the end of the day it was always 

lock away files

shut down the computer

go home. 

Leave behind the secrets and nightmares stored in tattered files and rows of hard drives.  

No ‘how’s your day been?’ chats and pray no work related dreams.

.

No I didn’t let the job get to me. 

Twenty years of there but for the grace of god

and trying to find the good in folks

and empathy

and help

and fear.

It was years ago, I’ve forgotten most of it.

.

Except for

the abused woman who finally retaliated 

and the unrepentant grandfather who was only showing his love 

and the lads who loaded the wheelie bin with its gruesome cargo 

and

.

and

.

there were more.  So many more.  

They sit on my shoulder and whisper you could have done better. 

.

But no, it never bothered me, the job.

.

Quahogger

.

When this is all over, said the quahogger,

I will stand, steady and solid

On hardened sun-heated tarmac

Glinting liquorice-black at dusk.

I will walk, feeling the solid slip

Of boot on stone.

.

When the unyielding earth settles,

And the paint-red dust has finished 

Exploding around my feet

In petulant clouds

I will reach upwards to the heavens,

Feel the depths slipping away

From my too light arms.

.

Every day, I will savour an unsalted hunk of beef,

Resplendent with scarlet blood.

I will taste its earthiness.

My home I will make far inland,

Deep in a forest where the horizon

Hides like a fugitive.

My song will be the razor-sharp chittering of raccoons,

Slicing the velvet shadows.

.

I will summon the moon

To relinquish its hold

And I’ll watch the stillness

settle like a mantle.

.

Questioner

 after Eiléan Ni Chuilleanáin

.

When all this is over, said the questioner,

I will put aside my face

and smile at children in the park

holding the hands of young mothers

who have all the answers.

.

I intend to take up still life drawing

and write a history of serious words.

I want to sleep in a dreamless room

with no crimson wallpaper or corners

no heavy chairs from dead offices.

.

I want to see the sun rise without a soundtrack

and hear throats singing only hymns.

One drink will be enough.

You know why I’m telling you this, 

don’t you.

.

The Quizmaster

When this is all over, I’m not answering any more questions.

I’m not going to choose between the six wives of Henry VIII

or explain the meaning of onomatopoeia.

I won’t care which is the longest river or the highest mountain.

Famous footballers can dribble through my fingers, and

celebrities and pop stars can f-fade away.

I won’t recall who signed the Magna Carta or who

discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun.

As for Agincourt, Trafalgar and Waterloo, they’ll be

dates for others to fight over.

Wembley Finals, Wimbledon Finals, Olympic Finals,

will finally have no hold on me.  Mozart and da Vinci needn’t

darken my door again, and there’ll be no capital in knowing

how to spell Reykjavik.  I no longer want to be

the one people turn to for all the answers,

but grant me instead the bliss of ignorance.  I will fill it

with thoughts and meanings of my own.

Who was it said the pen is mightier than

the sword?  I will not know and would not tell you if I did.

…….

And if you’re wondering what treats are in store for tomorrow, I’m not telling . And I’m not telling you what a Quahogger does for a living x

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.


Mime


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.

.

Nurse

.

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.

.

Organist

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.

.

Orthodontist

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.