Our David’s Birthday

Twenty eight years ago the whole family sat round a huge round table at a Chinese restaurant in Leeds, celebrating our David’s 21st birthday. A few weeks later he took his own life. None of us had the first idea how troubled he was.

I’ve chosen this photo, because here he is maybe two months after we adopted him. His brother and sister were entranced by him. We all were.

The thing is, you live imagining you have all the time in the world, until you don’t, and then it’s too late. Years after he died I wrote a poem for him; I thought about how my own Dad never told me any stories about his life, about his childhood, about who he was before he married, before I was born, and about how I never really knew him.

I wanted to tell our David the stories I failed to tell him, because, after all, I thought we had all the time in the world, or we didn’t have the time for it. And then it was too late. So here it is, a belated present for his 48th birthday.

.

I made this box,

ran lead, quick, in the veins of driftwood roots,

the silver grain of bleached board and the wind-eyes

of burnished beachstones – rose quartz, granite, flint, 

bound them with silver wire to honey oak, red pine,

and clenched them tight with sea-rust iron nails.

.

I made this box for you

.

I filled it with fragments, beachcombed 

sea glass, wisps of snagged wool.

I wanted you to know

the random loveliness of being alive,

to know it in your bones and blood.

.

I put in :

.

snow, to remember draughts

and rooms with cold corners;

.

a black handled knife, sharp as silk,

in a grey-vaulted market, the scent 

of cut flowers to show that fathers 

give like the gods; a bicycle stammering

through stems of barley, willowherb,

to understand that gravity may be defied;

.

the humped glass of a brown river,

black branches snagged on the weir’s rim;

.

these bundled letters in different hands 

and inks to show how words fall short of love.

.

I put in riddles:

.

silhouettes of mountains, oiled gun barrels,

a sheriff’s badge, a dust-blown street,

a child running in a drift of grasses,

a scrubbed deal table in a pitman’s house.

.

I wondered if you’d find the answers

or if I might understand the questions.

.

I did not want to put inside my box

your cold clay mouth

this pale oak chamfered cube

and my two hands holding it, all

I wanted was you holding my box

in a high place

where you could only fly, not fall

For my Dad on Fathers’ Day

I think this may be the only photo I have of my dad as the centre of attention, proposing a toast at the wedding of his brother Alec.

Like everyone else’s dad, especially men of his generation, he could have been so many things. He could have gone to Grammar School, but my gran couldn’t afford the uniform. He won a scholarship to go to art school, but it ran out after a year, and he had to leave. He was a rambler, a birdwatcher, a singer in the chapel choir. And for fifty years he was a woollen spinner.

In his heart, I think, he never accepted it; he bore it. He just got on. It never struck me at the time, but it does now, that he had no ‘best mates’. He was sociable, he was good company, but never had any close friends. It bothers me, quite unreasonably. It never seemed to bother him.

I’ve found myself writing about, and for, him more and more recently. For this Father’s Day, I thought I’d share the first poem I ever wrote for him, and the most recent.

Maestro

His hands cross-hatched as a chopping board

from breaking yarn- a million creels.

I think he dreamed moors and opera, in the mill;

his nails were horny, blue with old dark blood,

caught by flying shuttles in the humming  sleet

of shivering threads. Miming in the din,

the racket of machinery, the deafening beat

of spinning-mules, close air thick with lanolin.

Chapel  choir –  his tenor voice came reedy-light.

Round and ringing if he thought he was alone

with Jussi Bjorling on the gramophone,

the gathering wave of ‘None shall sleep’;

a duet to bring a dreamed La Scala to its feet,

his voice like a moorland wind, and rich as night.

.

The latest one was harder to write. My dad’s father, grandfather John, by all accounts, was not an affectionate man. My dad was, but he found it hard to show it, spontaneously. He wasn’t cold, or distant. But something in him was withheld. This is just to say, ‘I love you, Dad’.

What remains

.

How do you know that this is love? Is it

the moment that draws you in, the saving stitch?

One moment out of all the moments,

out of all the wrong notes, the missteps.

.

Because I thought he didn’t know the way of love,

didn’t know the tune, the words, 

they were what other people spoke,

they were borrowings, and he wasn’t one

to accept with grace, always on guard. But

.

he’d go out, not saying where, come back

and give his grandchildren each a Marathon.

He wasn’t a man to pick up a child

so a child could slip into his shape

as cats do. A silent gift of chocolate bars

was him articulating love.

.

What they remember of him, my children,

what they tell of him, is Marathons.

Remember when our granddad gave us Marathons?

What remains of us might just be love

but the story’s always Marathons.

.

The finished alphabet: Part Two

The night soil man 

.

When all this is over, said the night soil man.

I’ll have a fire, sift ashes, boil up lye and scour

the cart, holystone it white as bone. Then burn 

my working clothes, my boots, my spade and rake.

.

I’ll currycomb the old horse, I’ll braid his mane

and oil his hoofs. The cart I’ll paint with roses,

like a varda or a barge, and we’ll ride out

past Beeston, past the forcing sheds, 

.

find a quiet place where he can graze, and I’ll imagine

I can smell the grass. Scent is a language

I shall relearn, said the night soil man:

lavender, sage and cedar; woodsmoke, lemons.

.

I shall shed this skin, I shall whiten, soften,

sleep light in clean linen, with an ear for the grind

of iron-shod wheels on cobbles in the lane,

the scrape of pails, the snuffling of the horse.

.

Some afternoons, I’ll take the cart and ride

up ginnels, the backs of decent terraces.

I’ll look down into yards where men grow leeks,

pink-stemmed rhubarb, scarlet-flowered beans.

.

And I shall learn the scents of the world again.

The elusive ones:  clean sweat, petrichor. 

Air before snow, like tin. The essence of a baby,

the blue pulse in her skull I’ll be allowed to kiss. 

.

[The wild card poet]

.

The 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.

.

Adrian Salmon

.

Phrenologist

.

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.

.

Julie Mellor

.

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.

.

Jean Sheridan

.

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

.

Regina Weinert

.

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.

.

Lydia Macpherson

.

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.

Ina Anderson

.

Undertaker

.

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.

.

Mark Connors

.

The Veenboer

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

.

Jack Faricy

.

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 nighty, 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.

.

Wendy Klein

.

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.

.

Rachel Davies

.

Yachtswoman in the Doldrums

.

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.

.

Maggie Reed

.

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. 

.

Wendy Pratt

.

And there it is. I’ve realised with mild surprise that it really is over.

Apart from the published book.

Apart from any virtual book launch events.

Apart from…Oh…not all over at all then.

Thank you all the poets, thank you Kim Moore for selecting the final twenty six poems, thank you Bob Horne for deciding to make a pamphlet of it all. Above all thanks and ever thanks to the wonderful Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin for the gift of the Swineherd, and all he dreams of.

When all this is over: the finished alphabet.

I first met Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin’s “Swineherd” at a Poetry Business Writing Day. I met it  (or him) again in Anthony Wilson’s “Lifesaving poems”. It’s one of those poems that seems to memorise itself as you read it. It seems so simple, and turns out to be so multilayered, so technically beautiful. It was , I thought then, a perfect poem, and a perfect prompt poem. It has probably generated hundreds of poems since then but I thought it would be nice to invite more. So many of us were locked down, locked in, waiting for “it” all to be over. I wondered what our dreams would be like, and how it would be to imagine the dreams of imagined folk “out there”.

It was early March, I’d been in voluntary self-isolation for two weeks, I was momentarily at a loose end, and without giving it too much thought I wrote:

It would be rather nice to make an on-line/virtual anthology. 

If you want to be involved, leave a message in the reply box. Just say :Yes please, I’ll send you my When this is all over, said the X,Y orZ poem

The rules are simple:

Well, it turned out the rules might have been simpler, and in hindsight I might not have done the A-Z, but the next month saw swathes of poems dropping into my in-box, and I was very happy to read them. .

And then, with another twist, Bob Horne of Calder valley Poetry said he thought it would be nice to publish twenty-six A-Z poems in pamphlet form, and so we asked the award -winning poet Kim Moore if she’d make the selection. And now she has, and the pamphlet will be published in a couple of weeks’ time.

We are utterly delighted that Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, and her publisher, The Gallery Press, have given their permission for us to use “Swineherd” as part of the pamphlet. Everything has come together in a big breathless rush.

The selected poets have all been informed, but until this post goes out, they’re not allowed to tell their friends or Facebook friends. So I’d better get on with it.

Ladies and gentlemen, please raise your glasses and put your hands together (not simultaneously, of course) for the creators of the imagined dreams of twenty-six imagined folk. Congratulations!

Selected poems and poets

Prologue: 

When this is all over: Ian Parks

.

Actuary:                                   Lydia Kennaway  

Bookbinder:                             Anne Caldwell   

CatsMeat Man:                        Sue Riley            

Dental Hygienist:                    Ama Bolton.  

Explorer:                                 Emma Storr         

Firework Maker.                     Moira Garland.  

Graphic Designer.                   Sarah Miles.    

Hop Picker.                             Ruth Valentine.    

Ice Cream Man.                      Jill Munro          

Jones y Cig.                              Copland Smith.      

Kitman                                    Matthew Paul          

Lorry Drive.                            Clare Shaw              

Magician.                                Zoe Walkington. 

Night-soil Man                        Wild card poet      

Organist.                                 Adrian Salmon          

Phrenologist                            Julie Mellor          

Quizmaster.                             Jean Sheridan            

Restoration Man                      Regina Weinert.  

Sexton.                                     Lydia Macpherson.        

Trapeze.                                   Ina Anderson                 

Undertaker                               Mark Connors.          

Voenboer.                                Jack Faricy.                

WonderWoman                       Wendy Klein       

Xylophonist                             Rachel Davies         

Yachtswoman                          Maggie Reed.          

ZincPlater.                               Wendy Pratt 

.               

.

It would be a really crowded post if I posted all twenty six poems at once. So here are the first thirteen, with the Prologue. The remaining thirteen and the Epilogue will appear tomorrow. All the selected poems will stay public fo two weeks, and then will vanish from the ether to be replaced by the physical pamphlet. The creators of all the other 50+ poems will have their names appended to their poems on the blog. And they won’t disappear. Enjoy.

Prologue

When This is All Over

.

While we were sleeping they were still awake.
While we were hiding they were in the light.
The cold dark angel passing over us
left nothing but the flutter of its wings.
We huddled in our places, locked from sight
each waiting for the hush that daylight brings.
So empty out the squares and thoroughfares,
make criminal the handshake and embrace.
There is no other future except this:
the bolted door, the window and the face;
all of our journeys cancelled or delayed –
and if we meet we cough instead of kiss.
When all of this is over we’ll creep out
astonished by the new world they have made.

Ian Parks

.

The Actuary

When all this is over, said the actuary,

I mean to retire to a country where I will calculate

only the probability of a fly landing on the back of my hand, 

where the three old shrews are old news, 

and nobody gives a damn.

.

I intend to inspect cause and effect

in the spreading of yawns, and learn divination 

by the casting of beer bottle tops. I will make tables 

but lay no places for flood, fire, 

unemployment, accident,

.

death. I will dream of a giant abacus 

strung with plums and when I wake my tongue 

will be purple. I want to lie on my back in a field 

of black clover under a scarlet sky 

and count clouds as they slip by:

.

yan, tan, tether, mether, pip…

Lydia Kennaway

The Bookbinder

.

When I retire, I’ll shimmy 

from my dusty workshop

and the smell of fish glue

will be laundered from my skin forever. 

.

I’ll give my scapel, 

Stanley Knife, 

and cutting mat 

to my red-haired daughter. 

.

I’ll show her the secrets

of the trade: the lock stitch 

and kettle stitch, 

the flat back and fly-leaf. 

.

For I’m weary of straight lines,

embossed leather, the weight 

of volumes on bookshelves

like Vatican crowds demanding communion. 

.

I long for an open road, a mandolin 

and an apple, snug in my pocket, 

evening sun catching the light of

that curved square in Sienna. 

.

Anne Caldwell 

The Cats’ Meat Man

.

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.

.

Sue Riley

.

The Dental Hygienist

when all this is over, said the dental hygienist

when I’m done with full protective gear

with trolleys and body-bags

and the long slog in sticky heat


from Intensive Care to the refrigerated 

trucks lined up on the far side


of the overflow car-park



.

when I’m done with the stink of death



.

I’ll be glad to get back to the office


the tropical fish flickering in their little sea


the dolphin poster blu-tacked to the ceiling 


the tinies eager for their reward stickers


and the old ones with their bleeding gums


and their knock-you-out-from-two-yards breath

.

Ama Bolton

.

Explorer

.

When all this is over, said the explorer,

I’ll find my kaftan and open-toed sandals,

twist my tagelmust onto my head, pack

water, factor 50, dark glasses.

.

I’ll hail a camel, climb up between its humps,

pray I’m not seasick on our voyage into the desert.

We’ll follow corrugated tracks over the stony plateau,

turn our backs on dust storms and tourists.

.

The days will shimmer and I’ll chew figs,

drink mint tea brewed in a pot on a stove

at the edge of our path. Three green glasses 

at one sitting. We must move on. 

.

At night, I’ll shake out my clothes, my stiff legs,

lie in a scoop of sand under constellations

I can’t name, a nomad at sea in heatwaves, salt.

I will trust only the camel and go on.

.

Emma Storr

Firework maker 

.

When all this is over said the firework maker 

they will be calling me back

to load the gunpowder spaces in grey tubes

in a coat of carnival names.

.

There will be an explosion far from my home.

Both my ears will have turned deaf

to anything but the softer sounds

of You are my sunshine, breath

.

in a penny whistle promenade.

I will lie on the beach learning the language

of plane trails in a silent sky.

We will talk only of lining and piping. 

.

In the forest I will pick up a crab like a china cup and saucer.

Pink wafers will crumble between my teeth.

Under my fingernails forbidden warm tar 

will paint petrol perfume on the skipping rope handles.

.

I’ll follow the flanks of the great brown horse 

leading the canopied red milkcart 

as it disappears round the corner. 

Listen — the wren’s tremolo fills the wych-elm. 

.

Moira Garland

The Graphic Designer

.

When this is all over, said the graphic designer, 

I will remove my Pantone® tinted glasses,

allow the sky to be a colour, not a number, 

lose focus as I Instagram photos without filters, 

that ignore the rule of thirds.

.

I will take a blunted pencil and sketch

bowls of fruit, half-imbibed goblets of wine,

and I will hang them in my hallway,

on nails hammered without measure,

ignore the fact that the picture on the left 

tilts with a 4° lean to the right.

.

I will default to Comic Sans, 

use emojis with wanton abandon,

crease the corner of the page

learn to colour outside the lines.

.

Sarah Miles

.

Hop picker

.

When all this is over, said the hop-picker,

I’m going back to the time before the war

when there was morris dancing and singalongs

and blokes called Len who looked after their own

.

unless they were in the Scrubs. Before my time,

of course, same as the hop-picking.

But I almost remember the caravans

where you used to sleep, and being poor but happy,

hungry but happy, maybe, or just plain hungry.  

I’ll flog the telly,

cancel the direct debit on my phone,

.

and set off on foot to Kent, to sell my skills

to whoever needs them: people with polytunnels

who’ll show me a bed in a shed with nine other men

and no running water, and take the bed-and-board

out of my pay, so I end up owing them.

.

Ruth Valentine

.

Ice-cream Man

.

When all this is over, said the Ice-cream Man,

I will not hum along to any blasted tinny chimes –

Greensleeves and O Sole Mio will be put on ice.

.

My puppies will never be slushy or mushy

or outrageous blue – they will be fawn and warm,

with abrasive tongues like Wet and Dry.

.

I will not spell Kool Ices with a ‘K’ or have rivers  

run in ripples across my tongue. I will mow down 

the ninety-nine waffled police cones outside my house

.

and not Watch that child! I will eat scoopfuls 

of burning chilli flakes and peri-peri chicken, 

drink huge mugs of steaming chocolate, 

.

raise tropical twirling flowers of peach and tangerine

in my roasting greenhouse. My thermometer

will rise at night to twenty-five degrees −

.

I’ll tie a hot water bottle to my waist, 

look up to the stars through misted glass 

and know my eyes will not waver,

they will not be fogged; they will be dry.

.

Jill Munro

.

Jones y Cig

Pan fydd hyn i gyd gorffen, meddai Jones y Cig…

                                Bryntir ap Gof, Glyndyfrdwy

.

When this is all over, said Jones the Meat,

I’ll sell the blydi siop.

For years, I haven’t eaten flesh and blood.

I hope I haven’t left it all too late,

but Jones the Bread might buy it, double up.

When this is done, I’ll tell him that he should.

.

I’ll move up to the Hafod on the hill.

It’s rented now, I know,

but soon the shepherd’s lease will run its course —

they’ll take away the bleats and passing bells.

I’ll dig the garden up and try to grow

my sort of food. I’ll buy a working horse,

.

and call it Patch, like Dafydd’s used to be.

I’ll turn the tractor shed

into a stable, plough the upper field for wheat.

Or maybe leave it growing wild. I’ll see.

When all of this is over, if I’m not dead,

I’ll close the blydi siop! said Jones the Meat.

Copland Smith 

.

Kitman
.
When all this is over, said the kitman,
I will hang up the whole squad’s boots & never marry 
up a shin pad with its partner again. 
.
I’ll visit properly all those cities we played in 
that season we reached the UEFA Cup quarter-finals, 
back when we were decent:
.
Split, whose crowd would’ve killed us just for opposing; 
Istanbul, where the warm-up climaxed 
in goat sacrifice; Vigo, the Grimsby of Spain; 
.
& Parma, home of the winners, who spanked 
our arses. A solo Grand Tour. In each, 
I’ll seek the pleasures I had no time for then: 
.
hire a Vespa, shoot up Roman roads & stop for limoncello 
poured by somebody luscious, 
who’ll ask me if I’m free; 
.
& like the silver fox I am, I’ll take off my shades, 
flash my new gnashers & answer 
in smoothest ‘Schteve’ McClaren Dutch.
.
Note: When he managed FC Twente in the Netherlands, former 

England manager Steve McClaren notoriously answered interviewers’ 

questions in a peculiar, ‘Dutch’-inflected accent.

.

Matthew Paul

.

Lorry Driver

.

When all this is over, I will take to the road 

where day starts at 3am
and conversation is largely a matter
of country on late-night stations.

.

I want to learn a new language: 

to blow my doors off, to be south bound 

and hammer down through Europe, 

to drive through centuries of forest,
the memories of trees in the dark.

.

I intend to travel in straight lines,
to be shocked by the colour each morning
and stop only where the services are worth it.
I want to be stalked by wolves, to be prepared

to drive on bridges that might not hold.

.
I won’t hurry. On the high tracks over La Paz
I will take it steady
where dusty plastic flowers mark the graves.

I will be adept with a mallet and hammer
and the weather will be my story.

.

The world will shrink in my mirror, 

storms will approach me.
I want life to drive towards me all lit up. 

I want to be awake through the night
with hundreds of miles still to go.

.

Clare Shaw

.

Magician

.

When all this is over

I will wear cardigans, not cloaks.

I’ll enjoy the firm oak floor, 

solid beneath my feet.

See a cat flap for what it is,

rather than an opportunity.

I will use a handkerchief to sneeze into.

The rabbits will grow un-tame

in the back garden.

Their pink noses soft and twitching

see-sawing dandelion leaves

late into the evening gloom.

When I enter or leave a room

I will utilise the traditional means.

Nobody will gasp

excepting Mrs Suprendo

who, on a Sunday night

will challenge me to poker

and make me deal,

do a swing cut, a riffle shuffle

the cards purring through my hands.

.

Zoe Walkington

A grating roar

“Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.”

From : Dover Beach. Matthew Arnold

.

I seem to have come to a point where I cannot watch any television news programmes, I switch off most radio news programmes, and fear for my spiritual well-being every time I visit Facebook. I am angry to the point when I am lashing out at friends who I cannot see or meet. As a ‘shielded’ person during the English catastrophe of a ‘lockdown’, I have only left our house twice in just short of three months. There is no action I can take against the people responsible, or to help those who they harm. Rage against the machine.

More reason, then, to remember as I try to do every year, one of those who would not be content with shouting into the void.

When people murmur in a mildly moralising way about peaceful protest, maybe they should stop and think about Emily Wilding Davison.

A militant suffragette, she was repeatedly arrested and imprisoned for breaking windows, setting fire to mail boxes, and on one occasion for attempting to horsewhip a clergyman who she mistook for Lloyd George.

She undertook repeated hunger strikes in prison, was forcibly fed 49 times, and attempted to kill herself in Holloway by leaping off a landing. She said after that she thought that her death might cause people to pay attention to the cause of women’s suffrage. On June 4 2013, Emily Wilding Davison travelled to Epsom, went to the racecourse on Derby Day, waited behind the railings at the bend to the final straight, and as the horses came round the bend, ducked under the rail, and walked in front of the king’s horse. On and off for 30 years I tried to find a way to write about it.

I think about images that have, one way or another, changed how we see the world, and maybe changed the world itself. The terrified villagers of My Lai in Vietnam, and the small girl stripped naked by napalm, her mouth a silent scream; a Buddhist monk in flames; a student holding up his arm against a tank. A white policeman kneeling on the neck of a black man until he dies.

I was staggered when I learned that the death of Emily Davison was filmed live by a Pathe news camera, and duly appeared in British cinemas. I had thought the stills I had seen were remarkably in-focus single camera shots. I could not understand their clarity. How could you do that with a plate camera? I wondered.

Camera obscura               

(Emily Wilding Davison. June 1913)

The reason for your being here

is out of sight. They can’t be seen –

your Cause’s colours sewn inside

your decent coat: white, violet, green.

.

The cameras sees the moment 

you began to die:

the jockey,  trim in silks, is doll-like

on the grass and seems asleep;

his mount is spraddled on its back;

its useless hooves flail at the sky.

.

Your spinning, flower-trimmed hat 

is stopped, distinct, mid-flight;

your hair’s still not come down;

you’re frozen, inches from the ground;

your boots are neatly buttoned,

take small steps on the  arrested air.

.

You’re stopped in time. No sound,

no texture, no sour odour

of bruised grass and earth. Just

silence and the alchemy of light.

.

How did you comprehend

the shock of heat, huge muscle, hair,

in that white moment

when the dark came down?

.

The camera cannot tell;.

it’s business neither truth nor lies.

It shows a fallen horse. A woman falling. A crowd

in hats and blazers staring down a long perspective;

the field intent upon the distant fairy icing 

grandstand. The waving flags. The finish line.

.

Until the image blurs, dissolves in silver flowers,

it’s there on celluloid in shades of grey;

the camera only says that in that instant     

you are dying, and everyone has looked away.

.

[Camera Obscura. first publ. in Larach . WardWoodPublishing 2014, and subsequently in The Forward Book of Poetry 2015]

.

Day after day we are bombarded by images that tell us about the ugliness that the world is capable of, and the arrogant ignorance of those who perpetrate it. We are all getting too good at looking away.

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   (David White)

(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 (Rachel Davies)

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 (Maggie Reed)

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 (Ruth Valentine)

.

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 (Wendy Pratt)

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 (Maggie Reed)

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 over : (Andy Blackford)

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.


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: (Mark Connors)

.

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 (Tim Fellows)

.

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: (Jack Faricy)

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 (Lesley Merrin)

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 (Laura Potts)

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 ( Gráinne Tobin )

.

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. (Lou Crosby)

.

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 (Lydia Streit Machell)

.

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. (Bob Beagrie)

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 (Maggie Mackay)

.

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 (Ina Anderson)

.

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 (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.

.

Restoration Man (Regina Weinert)

.                       

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  (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.

.

Sexton (Lydia Macpherson)

.

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]