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 (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]

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


Physician. (Carole Bromley)


When all this over, said the physician,

I mean to pack a bag, board a train

just keep going where no-one knows

my profession


I won’t stop till I find it, that place

where I can breathe again

and lie still watching the drifting clouds,

a murmuration 


I want to close my eyes and sleep

until the sun is high in the sky

and there are no more bad dreams


I intend to learn the banjo

and play it under the stars

probably I will do this naked

watched only by night creatures


and when my hands no longer shake

I will send for my love

the one I should have married

and ask her to come to me


and we will make love slowly,

shyly, our hands relearning touch

till the mountains echo with our cries.

Prison Officer (Helen Freeman)


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 (Jan Michna)


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 





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 (Lisa Falshaw)


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 (Martin Zarrop)

 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.



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 (Alicia Fernandez)

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 (Sue Jarvis)


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 (Liz Veitch)


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 (Sarah Dixon)

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.



Orthodontist (Paul Waring)

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.

When this is all over: Day 8

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.


The King    (Kathleen Strafford)

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 

                       my heart

                                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



 Late Chain Survey              (Christopher North)

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.


  Listener (Char March)


When all this is over

my ears will have grown

been re-minted

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 this is all over :Day 7


The Horologist (Mick Jenkinson)

I’ll tell you about time

You see enough, you come to understand

how shallow the conceit

that one might influence the falling sand


The tiresome tick and tock

my patience never tested so before

The plague’s relentless mock

beat us till we in blind obeisance swore


I need to clean my hands

This work requires a sterile atmosphere

Should you wish to observe

then do the same before you enter here


Bring me your broken clock

chronometer or clepsydra to mend

This is my element

a steady eye and yet more steady hand


I’ll show you whole worlds

within the shifting gears of this chablon

but out beyond these walls 

could you be sure that life and love go on?


And though time finds its voice

from pockets, mantle pieces and bell towers

now clocks can only serve –

each timepiece striking off life’s hollow hours


When all of this is done

would you meet me by the meridian?

We’ll take a quiet turn

I’ll tell you of the great John Harrison


Ice Cream Man (Anthony Wilson)


I pass the cones across the shelf,

planting them like light bulbs

in their fists, livid blue bubble gum,

squat tubs of ripple,

coffee and walnut tasting of nothing.


Tourists, mostly, even in winter,

detouring south to the beach

we aren’t famous for

before heading to the hills 

where at least the ice is real.


Or these schoolkids and their mams

for their three-thirty rush,

tips slimmer than I used to be,

hips held in by elastic

that never sees a gym.


I wipe things down and see it shine

between indecisive anoraks.

I never pretend to smile.

I have worn this badge so long

I have forgotten my own name.




Jigsaw puzzle designer. (Di Slaney)


When this is all over, said the jigsaw puzzle designer, I’ll stop looking for identical blue bits and dark shadowed edges with the faintest hint of grey. I’ll abandon beige for the rest of my life, seek out the single bright stem, the gimlet leaf, leave overblossomed branches for someone else to fret over. I’ll take a long flight somewhere warm and as we pass over the sea, I’ll stop noticing puffs of wavecrest as differentials, and take a merlot without matching it to the headrest. When the scented woman next to me asks what I do, I’ll look at my blunt, practical hands and say “Carpet fitter”. I have transferable skills. 


Jack-of-all-trades Di Slaney)


When this is all over, said the jack-of-all-trades, 

I will focus on doing one job really well. 

No more of this fixing, mending, bending, 

up-ending, tapping, wrapping, brushing, 

rushing, slushing, plunging, de-gunging, 

wiring, re-firing, all in one day. 

I will be full fat perfection

in my niche, I won’t spread 

my margarine-self 

so thin 

the toasty burns shine through, 

I won’t be busted for my lack

of quals or certs. I will master 

my destiny, choose my path, walk the walk 

and talk – well, I’ve always been good at that

When this is all over: Day 6

Flower Grower. (Mary Matusz)

Searching for seeds online, I discover

Thompson and Morgan suspended orders,

there’s a queue to get onto Sutton’s, 25571

is my number, 6,630 people ahead of me.


I send a help message. Try Sarah Raven a friend

suggests. My brother calls, he was lucky

on eBay. I’m not snipping and bunching now

not even for the dead or dying. 


The birds seem louder than ever 

and I’ve never seen so many butterflies 

in a month. I view pictures of pendulous 

flowers of rusty foxgloves and bell–shaped


purple columbine, deep–blue cornflowers,

forget–me–nots, ragged robin, feverfew,

herebell and hemlock. I find wild flower seeds,

buy–two–get–two–free deal with free postage.


I order four packets for £6.45, calculate

100 grams will do 20 square metres.

When this is all over, my colourful

heads will thrive there, undisturbed. 


Forger (Steve Nash)


When this is all over, said the forger,
I will lay my brush aside
and drown the bristles in unglassed water
for there have been too many purple skies.
My first had to be signed ‘necessity’
and it was the hardest I had worked,
to catch the lie from another’s teeth
in a painting that wouldn’t hang crooked.
The orders fell like words after the first
and always a new trick to hide
myself in the gilt frame’s tryst.
I mixed tears to star my nights,
crushed toenails into a dull pearl,
yes, blood in a scarlet Hannibal glow,
every one with my back to a world
that tallowed my spine through the window.
It takes closed eyes, bathed in linseed and lime
to peel rhyme from an orange,
and what canvases I would unprime
for a single skin of my own paint.
To colour my lost moon of Etta
I would lay my lies aside.
When all of this is over
I will find a new line.


 A Gardener in Lockdown (MariaTaylor)

Life has become verbs,

suffer    isolate    survive.

Out here verbs are kinder,

dig    plant    clear.

There is optimism in a seed.

A present of green space,

cherry blossom, herb 

and rosebud. I look at peonies

beginning to grow

and think about the summer

into which the petals

will blossom.

Even the weeds glow,

and the work is good and slow

and a piece of sky is mine 

whenever I look up 

from the soil. 


The Gardener (Paul Iwanyckyj)

I lie down on the cool grass

and feel each stalk push gently

against me, trying to raise me.

I hear the sound of the bulbs 

pushing through the loam 

and pinecones cracking in the trees.


The garden, the only sane 

place to be, now or ever;

close to nature, your hands

feeling the essence of the earth,

your mind freewheeling

as you hear the bees breathe.


The sun is warm upon my face,

and birds call, oblivious to chaos

coursing through man’s world.

Dates unpicked from diaries,

appointments erased or virtualised,

liberation amongst confinement.


And as we emerge the other side

and look into each other’s eyes,

neighbour, kinsfolk, countryman,

any citizen of the world, we will know.

Know what they have seen,

know what we have all seen,

and felt, together.



More tomorrow. Jobs starting with H.

When this is all over: Day 5


Embroiderer (Hilary Robinson)

after Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin


When all this is over and Covid-Bayeux 2020/21 declared complete

I shall leave my confined space with its fine stretchered linen

and woollen threads in every shade; I shall stop working spheres 

with stem stitch and couching — spheres I have observed 

with their particular hues, their colour variations captured

in my sketchbook along with samples worked with crewels —

I shall leave off embellishing those beautifully terrifying spheres

with their perfectly contrasting peplomers in French knots,

bullions, beading; with sequins and metallic threads; yes,

I shall stop all of this and go to where my machine’s

been waiting this long time and thread it up with best polyester;

I’ll lower the feed dogs, set tension to five and place a hoop 

of taut poplin under the 90/14 needle; press my foot

to the pedal and free motion my way out of all this.


The Fashionista. (Anthea Fraser-Gupta)

when all this is over

said the fashionista

I will flare again


I will zoom to Milan

and work the crowd

if I live

my style will be viral

until I pass on

if I live

if I can

crowned queen of trend

myself forever

if I live

if I can

if I want


but why wait at all

said the fashionista

my mask is so now


I hope you’re all enjoying this as much as I am. More tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow…

When this is all over: Day 4

I’m utterly delighted to start this Monday’s post off with the ultimate tradesman:


The Creator (Paul Stephenson)

When this is all over,

I’m no longer needed, and

I can finally put my feet

Up (so to speak),

For a moment I’ll take the 

Spectacle in – 

The morse code of stars,

Fields buttered with spring.

If I had a last wish I might let

Rain do what it wanted 

To do if I hadn’t invented gravity,

Or, bring the clouds down to

Flow in the river bed.

Even absolve the sins 

Of the haunted dead!

But really, these powers are

Beyond me.

No, when this is all over

I’ll take my time, carefully pack

My pillowed robes.

I will dip myself into the 

Universal sea, dissolve –

Slip between the trees –

And become unknowable


The Curator (Nigel King)

I will rise before the sun

make my way through streets

still claimed by foxes, feral cats.

I’ll catch the first train,

sit, as before, in the middle carriage,

watch it fill.


I’ll listen to every word

of the litany of announcements:

a selection of drinks and light refreshments…

if you see anything suspicious…

the next station stop is…


When this is all over

I’ll slip in by the museum’s side door,

walk down the echoing halls

lighting each cabinet as I pass –

ridged spirals of ammonites,

a hail of belemnites,

the great grinding teeth of mammoths.


I will run a soft cloth 

over dusty jawbones, femurs, 

pause a while 

by the protoceratops hatchlings,

breaking out to their Cretaceous dawn.


When this is all over

I will fetch the step-ladders

from the caretaker’s cupboard,

set them up beside my dear diplodocus,

I’ll climb to the top,

lean in, rest my head against 

the coolness of her cheek.



Dustman in the days of the plague (Hilary Elfick)


I work at the dustmen’s depot

Right from seven in the morning till three

Scrubbing floors and wiping the tables,

Boiling water and brewing ‘ot tea.


I’m alone in the canteen all morning

Now the rest have all fallen away

But I cheer myself up by elevenses

When we all have a nice cup of tea.


I’ve sorrows and joys just as you have

And my feelings get just as welled up.

I have laughed with me friend the night porter.

I have mourned with the crack in a cup.


I know you think I am dispensable

But I’m only apprentice till June

And I hold the key to the cupboard

And I know where I keep the spoon.


So I know that you’ll see that I can’t die

Cos they don’t know where I keep the key

And besides just you think of the dustmen,

How they’d feel without cups of ‘ot tea.


I appeal to all kindly ‘and washers

To preserve me from ‘orrible doom.

Keep your distance and leave tables tidy.

Don’t anyone finger my broom.


The Drystone Waller (Bob Horne)


When all this is over, said the drystone waller,

after the long silences of millstone grit,

I shall turn to verse,

pass my days gathering myths, gathering words,

eyes adjusting to distances, looking up

to gaze at hills and seas and clouds.


I shall watch county cricket at the old Park Avenue,

sit on a wooden bench at the pavilion end

between Brigitte Bardot and Julie Christie,

Trueman bowling to Cowdrey. 

In the luncheon interval

Brigitte will go and buy the pies

while Julie and I discuss field-placing

and Ovid’s Amores.

A day they will remember always.


Or we’ll wander barefoot through meadows

fresh with the flourish of early summer,

rest beneath glad green leaves by a clear stream,

its banks dense with the scent of wild garlic.

They will listen, eyes closed, 

as I recite from memory, wishing only

for more such afternoons as this.


And I shall build lyrics, course upon course,

shaping syllables to the memories that followed;

trade hammer and chisel for a fountain pen,

when snows are gone and warm winds blow again.


What a lovely last line to sign off on. Ironically, since I’m writing this in advance,the weatherman tells me that temperatures will plummet tonight. Apparently it’s all due to the Arctic Vortex. Snow forecast for the NE USA. Get your bobble hats out.

When this is all over. Day 3

Cats’ Meat Man (Sue Riley)

after Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin


When all this is over, said the Cats’ Meat Man,

I’ll become a nomad and travel

where everyone goes wild about birdsong.


I’ll listen to the street cries of the sellers of birdseed,

where bluetits have remembered 

how to pierce the tops of milk cartons.


I’ll learn to cook and savour the aroma

of a rich lentil stew, with never a whiff of horsemeat,

the gnarled leavings of a slaughterhouse.


I’ll lie in long grass, hear bees counting as they forage.

At the top of Look-out Hill, I’ll reach up 

and feel like I’m touching heaven.


I’ll watch the breeze stroke the surface of a pond, 

ruffle the wild thyme, 

and I’ll think of waves travelling through air.


At night I’ll feel the breath of the Sphinx moth 

as it flies by moon-light, sips nectar from evening primroses

that glow like yellow lamps.


I’ll lie in my tent, listen to the crooning turtledoves, 

and there’ll be no unearthly calls of tom-cats, 

no secretive scratchings in the garden.


Celebrity (Stephanie Bowgett)

After all this is over, said the X Factor winner,

after my winner’s single gets to number 3 

in the Christmas charts; after that Sun exposé

those teenage beefcake shots, my gay friend; 

after the glamour model I’m papped with

in Ibiza is married with twins; after I choke 

on kangaroo penis on I’m a Celebrity; score 7

on Celebrity Mastermind, nothing on Celebrity 

Chase and bomb on Pointless Celebrities; after 

no one turns for me on the Voice; after the scandal 

of Celebrity Big Brother; after my book is reduced 

to £2.99; after all this, I’ll never be able to shop 

in Tesco’s again. At least, not without my shades.


Centaur (Mike Farren)


When all this is over, said the centaur, 
they’ll expect me to be one thing 
or another. They’ll corral me
into their taxonomies, 
as malformed human or – 
to them – an enhanced horse.

They’ll make me choose between the headlong 
gallop down the slopes of Taygetus 
for the hell of the wind in my face 
and the scent of crushed thyme 
beneath my hooves – or lyre,
lust for nymphs and drinking dish, 

and in either case, they’ll judge me 
by standards that have nothing to do 
with the foster-child of Apollo, 
with the teacher of Achilles: 
they’ll foist their human morality 
on my mythic appetites 

or track me with RFID on Google
Earth, up Olympus, as I search, 
forlornly, for the gods.


Chauffeur (Mike Farren)


When all this is over, said the chauffeur, 
I shall live on a lane, where 
the unadopted tarmac thins to cart-track 
and the neighbour hides his secrets
under tarpaulin, peacock-tail-eyed with tyres.


I shall show my profile at every opportunity,
learn how faces look the right way around
and what words sound like when they are not 
addressed to the back of my head.


I mean to learn how to start a conversation,
disagree with someone who can see and hear me 
and listen to the radio news 
no more than five times a day.


I want to cultivate a garden 
of every flower and weed in the median strip
and when I dream, dream of a motorway of headlights 
turning into the Milky Way.


the Cleaner. (Ruth Valentine)


When all this is over, said the cleaner,

I’m going to be a round-the-world yachtswoman

in a boat called Cleopatra: scarlet sails,

a wind-up radio and a back-up crew


ten nautical miles away.

I’ll get an all-over tan and bleached-blonde hair

and sing along to Adele and Maria Callas

while studying charts and judging wind directions.


I’ll polish all the surfaces with saliva,

and throw the washing-up overboard, and shit

over the side, to save scouring the chamber-pot.

I’ll pretend I can’t receive the messages


from the sponsors and the film crew.  I’ll sling my phone

into the vortex of plastic that circulates

somewhere off Hawaii.  If I end up capsizing

in the doldrums or around Cape Horn, at least 

it won’t be because somebody made the mistake of breathing.


The Clockwinder (LisaFalshaw)


When this is all over, said the clockwinder, 

I wish to stop time

With the hands always set to twelve.


And when this time comes

I intend to be always early………

or fashionably late, whichever takes my fancy.

I will sleep during the day and

breakfast when the sun sets

and washes the trees with golden fire.


Later, when the time is right,

I will learn the photographer’s art;

to freeze time in an instant.

I will look out from the confines 

of a gilt-edged frame,

my face knowing and certain

as I stare inwards to the centre of a room.


Never more will time be entrusted to me.

Never again will I hold it in my hands.

Because I will let time escape;

release it and see it fly with

wings of gauze and glinting moonbeams,

and watch it whirl and spin

like a sycamore seed,

until it twists and cartwheels away

through the indigo of the sky.


More on Monday. 

cooks, chefs, chimneysweeps, clockmakers,chiromancers……….DJs, dentists, dieticians, drystone wallers, dancers, deckhands, dustmen…….who knows?

PS. You’ll doubtless notice that stanzas (and not just stanzas) are separated by dots/ellipses. Sorry, but it’s the quickest way I’ve found of defeating WordPress’ insatiable desire to get rid of stanza breaks and other breaks too.

Four more poems [in the the Key of B]


In which he was able to stop  (Gill Lambert)

When all this is over, said the baker,

I will write a note in flour dust,

poke my name and back in 5 minutes.

I will pull up the blinds to the afternoon;

let the sun melt macaroons and French fancies.


I will put down a carpet, I’m tired 

of hardness, I want something with more – give.

I’ll run a bath and sink to the chin,

lie for hours, let the cold out, more hot in.

I’ll go to bed late, wake at dinner.

When all this is over I’ll buy cheap white

from the corner shop, take out two slices,

slather on butter, fill them with crisps.

I’ll press them, thin as paper between my palms,

just so I know what I might have missed.


Balloonist (Su Ryder)

When this is all over, said the balloonist,

I will bring my basket back over Burnsall Bridge,

causing a raucous scatter of rooks and mallards,

ducking through ancient trees and modern hazards.

Runners will chase my shadow, my full-bellied ghost,

as it wheezes and roars overhead, buffering through

fleeced flocks of scattering clouds in pastures of blue,

their shadows racing the sunlight roaming the fell.


Then rusty weekend campers from Appletreewick,

and hikers, booted in blisters, too long off their feet,

will cluster outside the Red Lion, that first siren thrill

of real ale loosening anecdotes too long left dry.


And I’ll bump my basket down through bracken and gorse,

the tang of horse and Friesian, and Swaledale sheep,

my envelope like a stray rainbow settling to earth,

buoyed by belief and helium-high on hope.

The next poem broke all the rules, or simply ignored them. But it made me laugh, which more than you can say for the daily news..


Bingo Caller Blues (Val Bowen)

Rise and shine, a cup of tea

For you and me at Torquay in Heaven

Berlington Bertie and Dirty Gertie

Nearing the top of the shop

We’re staying in……….. distancing 

on Doctor’s Orders , staying alive, 

out of Boris’s Den, almost retired 

should be feeling Zen.


But me? I’m only halfway there

I got the bingo caller blues

Can’t call it out.  

My numbers not up 

and there’s no full house.

Can’t exercise my right

to rhyme every night

I got the bingo caller A-Z

1 to 90 blues

My Queen Bee, she loves to stay indoors

counts 39 more steps In her droopy drawers.

Then makes another Christmas cake

She’s tickety boo, not  in a state

baking brownies in the oven by the triple dozen


But me ? I’m only halfway there

I got the bingo caller blues

Can’t call it out

My numbers not up 

and there’s no full house

Can’t exercise my right

To rhyme every night

I got the bingo caller A-Z

1 to 90 blues


Every now and then we hear the garden gate

We’re not suffering a Ghandi’s Breakfast fate

A knock at the door bringing Chicken Vindaloo.,

It’s time for tea, anyway up, 

meal for Two, a favourite of mine, 

Grandma’s getting frisky, she’s so damn fine


But me? I’m only halfway there

 I got the bingo caller blues

Can’t call it out

My numbers not up 

and there’s no full house.

Can’t exercise my right

to rhyme every night

I got the bingo caller A-Z

1 to 90 blues


I’m feeling two and six

need to get up to tricks

take the key of the door

think young and keen.

There’s one score in me yet

I’m not a has been  

and it’s a bull’s eye!

I’ve still got it @Danny La Rue. 

I’ll use my legs eleven 

on the stairway to Heaven

To buckle my shoe

to get up and run

have some duck and dive fun


Jogging along, this Kelly’s Eye

Shouting out my numbers at passers by

On the sunset strip along the Brighton Line

It soothes my soul, don’t ask me why

Then unlucky for some just as I’m feeling fine

Here comes Herbie with his sirens on

I get arrested waiting in the queue 

For Fish Chips and peas

–           For shouting “ TWO FAT LADIES

–           HIT THE FLOOR,

–           DOWN ON YOU KNEES

That’s why, I got the bingo caller blues

Can’t call it out

My numbers not up 

and there’s no full house

Can’t exercise my right

To rhyme every night

I got the binger caller A-Z

1 to 90 blues.



The Boulangére (Stella Wulf)

When the last embers die in the four, 

and the door scrapes its final crescent over the floor, 

I’ll watch the moon scythe through night’s prairie, 

track the Milky Way’s dusted trail to the doorstep of morning.


I will spoon with my man, shape his flesh until he yields to my need. 

We will not rise until the sun sinks into earth’s golden crust.

Day and night will roll into one like a heavenly pain au raisin.

I will grow fat on the sweetness of it.


There are those who like to bake on a beach in the Med.

A run-of-the-mill type, I have little appetite for the exotic,

I’ll bare my head to a fall of snow, let it lie on my shoulders 

like grist, or the dander of my dead self.


I will dress in red, take up calligraphy, dip my pen in the blackest ink, 

swash through the bleached white space with a new vocabulary.

When I tire of that, I’ll sling a hammock between trees, 

sway like a pale baguette, naked and wanton.


On weekdays I’ll lie on my back in a cornfield, hear 

through its ears the scutter of mouse, feel in my bones the creation 

of mole’s orogenies, until the sky breaks its monotony 

with a brazen streak.


I’ll go home to the warmth of a rekindled fire, 

the homespun house toasty as a new baked loaf, 

wine breathing soft in the carafe; proof of a man’s good love.

When the last embers die in the four, may it give us this day.


More tomorrow. With all sorts of possibilities…like carpenters, chauffeurs, chiropractors, cabinet makers, chemists, cleaners, cooks, chefs, chimneysweeps, clockmakers, chiromancers……….Who can say?