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.

.

.

Then 

crowdscarsbuildingsitesplaneshornslorriescrowdsbrakespiledriverscarsplaneslorriescrowdscarsthebellowofgooooooooal

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]




(Baker)

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?

When this is all over: Breaking News

When I started this small project, it was on a whim.

I thought : Everyone is locked down and frustrated at the moment. And will be for the foreseeable future. Weeks at least. And I thought Why not invite anyone who wanted to, to send me poems inspired by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin’s beautiful poem ‘Swineherd’ and its opening line : When this is all over ?

It would be appropriate, I thought, for a time when people are asking the question on a daily basis. So I put out a request for submissions throughout April, and promised that every poem I got would be published on the Cobweb. Over the days and weeks, 80 poems arrived, which kept me busy and very happy.

Then it got even more interesting. Bob Horne, the primum mobile of Calder Valley Poetry gave me a ring and said he had an idea. Which was to take the best of the poems and publish a pamphlet/chapbook. It would sit alongside poets like Peter Riley, Steve Ely, Emma Storr and many others, including Michael Marks winner, Charlotte Wetton’s I refuse to turn into a hatstand , and the following year’s shortlisted pamphlet, Ian Parks’ If possible: Cavafy Poems. Who could refuse?

The next thing was to decide who should decide which poems were ‘the best’. Obviously, it couldn’t be Bob or myself, since we knew who had written the poems, and they needed to be read ‘blind’. We needed an impartial judge. We kicked the idea around for a time, but in the end the answer was obvious. We’d ask Kim Moore.

Just in case you’re recently arrived from a distant galaxy, here’s why:

She was awarded the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize in 2010 and an Eric Gregory Award in 2011. 

Her pamphlet If We Could Speak Like Wolves was a winner in the 2012 Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition and went on to be shortlisted for the Michael Marks Award and was a runner up in the Lakeland Book of the Year. 

Her first collection The Art of Falling won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize in 2016 and was shortlisted for Lakeland Book of the Year.

Since then, her poem from The art of falling ‘In That Year’ was shortlisted for the Forward Prize, and she is currently on the judging panel for The Forward Prize 2020. 

And guess what. She said YES!

So this is how it will work. First of all, if you’d rather not be considered, just email me. You can find the address in earlier posts in this sequence.

If your poem is one of the chosen ones, we’ll ask you for a short biog, and contact details so we can send you your copy of the pamphlet ‘once this is all over’. Which will take some time, but it will happen.

In the meantime, I’ll be publishing all the poems, a few each day, five days a week, until there are no more left to print. They’ll be published in alphabetic order of trades, occupations and professions, and the authors’ names will not appear until they have all been published and the selected twenty six announced.

At this point, the selected poems will vanish from the blog, to appear later in beautiful hard copies. At the same time the names of every contributor will be published after the last poem in the sequence.

I hope every one who’s contributed, and filled my days with joy for a month, will be content with all this. If you’re not, tell me privately, and not, PLEASE on social media. All will be well.

And now, the poems. I said right at the start that I’d repost the poem that Ian Parks sent me, and which Bob and I have chosen as the Prologue to the 26 selected poems (whichever they are)

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

Artist (Pam Thompson)

I like to catch the sun first thing 

through the window of my son’s bedroom 

which is all I have for a studio

but it’s better than no space at all. 

I gesso my boards—12 x 12 birch plywood—

it calms me, a kind of meditation on these disordered

lockdown mornings when no news is good news.

While they dry, propped on the sill, 

I drink strong coffee, line a roller-tray 

with wet paper towel and greaseproof paper,

and squeeze out heavy bodied acrylics

to lose myself in one board after another,

smearing paint like butter then standing back

to see if I’ve got the values right.

I can always add more white or black.

I’d rather have a studio like Georgia’s –

pulling curtains across a morning view 

of red hills and a flat-topped mountain.

This bedroom’s not being slept in.

My son can’t stay over even though

he’s not coping in his flat. There’s paint

in my hair, on my sleeves and on my jeans.

When this is all done, I’ll go to Santa Fé –

when the sun tints the sides of the mountain

I’ll be ready with my brush.

Grounded (Stephanie Bowgett)

When all this is over, said the aviator

I will unlearn how to fly, fold 

my wings, let the sky revert 

to a blue strip crayoned by a child; 

an off-white page scribbled by birds;

 a star-chalked blackboard. I will look 

to dandelions for sun and clouds; craze

the moon in a puddle. Under my lens, 

the world will appear in a flake of skin,

a drop of blood, a gob of spittle. Wax-melt

from my wings will give candles for light, 

their sharpened feathers, quills. And I 

will write on the palm of my left hand

in small dark words, all that I have learned.


……

More poems tomorrow. See you all then.

When this is all over: May Day

The fat lady sang at midnight. The narrative now is organisation and admin.

Because I have little confidence in my management of folders and files, I’m going to ask you to check that your name is on the list that follows. If you sent me a poem and your name isn’t here, mea maxima culpa and so on. But just resend the poem, making sure that the email address is all in lower case. I know that autocorrect has a habit of capitalising the ‘J’, and sometimes your mail won’t be delivered. To be definitive. The email address is

john.foggin@outlook.com

Here’s the list as it appears in my records:

Ina Anderson,

Andy Blackford, Val Bowen, Carole Bromley, Jane Burn, Stephanie Bowgett, Bob Beagrie, Robbie Burton, Ama Bolton

Mark Connors, Bernie Cullen, Anne Caldwell, Lou Crosby

Paul Dyson, Sarah Dixon, Tracy Dawson, Rachel Davies

Hilary Elfick

Mike Farren, Alicia Fernandez, Helen Freeman,, Lisa Falshaw, Jack Faricy, Tim Fellows

Linda Goulden, Anthea Fraser Gupta, Moira Garland, Niamh Griffin-Shaw

Bob Horne, Gaia Holmes

Paul Iwanyckyj

Sue Jarvis, Mick Jenkinson

Nigel King, Wendy Klein, Lydia Kennaway

Jill Munro, Julie Mellor, Mary Matusz, Sarah Miles, Jan Michna, Lydia Macpherson, Maggie Mackay, Char March

Christopher North, Steve Nash

Matthew Paul, Laura Potts, Wendy Pratt, Ian Parks

Su Ryder, Sue Riley, Maggie Reed, Hilary Robinson

Emma Storr, Claire Shaw, Richard Stephenson, Di Slaney, Copland Smith, Adrian Salmon, Jean Sheridan, Lydia Streit Machell

Pam Thompson, Grainne Tobin, Maria Taylor

Ruth Valentine, Liz Veitch

Zoe Walkington, Paul Waring, David White, Stella Wulf, Regina Weinert, Anthony Wilson

Martin Zarrop

If you’ve been missed off, then tell me. It’s inadvertent, truly.

Let’s finish with a sort of May Day poem, dedicated to Jim Connell, who wrote The Red Flag, and to Alicia Fernandez and her grandfather.

………

Ca Pinet

Morning:  Pla de Petracos; white, dry;

airless, bakehouse hot;  a cave

high under a limestone overhang

scoured out by an unthinkable river.

Cave paintings in pale scoops of rock.

Shapes like mantises, creatures with arms

like double-handed saws, and things

that might be eyes. Undecipherable.

The vanished ones meant something by it.

……………

Alicia  Fernandez  Gallego, today

I thought of you, I remembered  I owe you

a story; remembering your grandfather

who, in the middle of a battle, swopped sides,

legged it, ditched his pack, joined Franco.

Maybe he hoped for better boots, or bread,

oe maybe he’d had his fill of Anarchists

who hated Socialists, or Communists

who hated both. Just up to here with dialectic.

……………….

Early afternoon: Ca Pinet. We are pilgrims,

ardent atheists, here to eat paella

under the gaze – benign, stern, disapproving –

of Allende, Che Guevara, La Passionaria;

under the bloody banners of the Red Brigades,

the Republic’s blood and gold and purple.

¡Solidaridad  con el Partido  

Obrero de Unificacion Marxista!

¡NO PASERAN! They meant something by it.

……………….

The P.A. plays the Internationale.

The olives in the salad are peppery and sharp.

We’re offered wine from a greasy porron.

Someone who’s read Hemingway says:

it tastes of herbs. Another says: of goat, of resin.

Someone says: the paella’s on the dry side.

The Internationale unites the human race.

Rosa Luxembourg looks as though she means it.

A Russian folk song starts up. The day gets hotter.

When it comes to pay the bill, no one’s sure

what to do about a tip. We’ve read our Orwell.

No one complains about the food burned dry.

We leave a tip. Not obviously. We leave.

……………

Alicia  Fernandez  Gallego, I’m thinking of you,

of your grandfather, and also of Jim Connell,

the Belfast boy in Donovan’s who wrote 

The Red Flag. 1898. Who sang it

in the pubs of the Shankhill and the Falls.

Jim Connell, who tried to teach the Taigs

and Prods there was just the People’s flag.

      Forget the Union Jack, the tricolour.

Ach, he united them alright. Papes and Proddies

as one man gave  Jim a kicking , kicked him

out of Ulster. One side kicked him for the Pope,

the other for King Billy and the Queen –

the wee gobshite, godless Bolshevik.

No Surrender. Nothing changes. No Paseran. 

They think it’s all over. It nearly is.

An apology in advance. WordPress has me tearing out what remains of my hair. It steadfastly overwrites all my paragraph breaks . But not consistently. When this is all over I’ll find a way to outsmart it and bend to my will. Imagine ‘Cold hands’ and ‘Brickies’with stanza breaks. You could even guess where they go, I suppose.

On April 16th you’d sent in an Actuary, an Aviator, a Balloonist, a Bookbinder, a Centaur, a Chauffer, a Cleaner, a Clockwinder, a Dental Hygienist, an Explorer, a Gardener, a Graphic Designer , an Ice-cream Man, Jones the Meat (a Butcher), a King, a Kitman, a Mime, a Nurse, a Quahogger (beat that!), a Stallholder, a Taxidermist, a Turfcutter, an Undertaker, the Vulnerable, Wonder Woman, an X-Ray Technician and a Zoo Keeper.

The arrivals by April 25 were: an Artist, a Baker, a Bingo Caller, a Butcher, the CatsMeat Man, a Curator, a Chain Surveyor, a Fashionista, a Jigsaw Puzzle Designer, a Jack of All Trades (I liked the chutzpah of that!), an Orthodontist, an Organist, a Phrenologist, a Probation Officer and a Prison Officer; a Questioner, a Tailor, Tommy, a Trapeze Artist, a Yachtswoman, a Zinc Plater and a Zaminder.

In the last two days, you’ve sent eight more including: A Long Distance Lorry Driver, a Musician, a Flower Grower, and a Dustman’s Apprentice Tea Maker.

And here’s the thing: there’s about thirty hours to the deadline, when the gates will swing to with a final hefty thud. And that means twenty of you need to get your skates on. No pressure. But think of the Nike slogan. Just do it. Stick to the plan.

In the meantime here’s a couple of poems to pass the time, or even kickstart a different way of thinking. I like poems that celebrate trades and crafts…like Heaney’s lovely elegy to his dad cutting turf on Toner’s bog. 

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft   

Against the inside knee was levered firmly.

He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep

To scatter new potatoes that we picked,

Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.   

Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day

Than any other man on Toner’s bog.

It’s the business of recognising the overlooked, taken-for-granted, apparently workaday jobs. I think of my mother, the simple ease with which she made pastry.

Cold hands

She had a touch for pastry.

A gift. She hung on to it.

Never passed it on to me

who watched her pinching

pastry: butter, sugar, flour;

how it fell from her fingers,

how it fell through the air.

She tried. She did. But grew impatient

with the way the mix would clump

and stick. O, give it here she’d say.

The pastry would flake, and fall.

You need cold hands she’d say.                    

She’d not let go of life. 

Could not, would not

pass it on. Until her hands

grew cold enough to let it fall,

and leave them clean.

Or building workers, bricklayers especially; I can watch them for hours, envying the way they point the joints. It looks so easy; me, I get more mortar on the ground than in the joints.

Brickies

have a way with a trowel their wrists

are right the way they work cement 

from a board or a barrow like butter on a knife

the way they wedge it on a brick how

it never falls how they lay a brick

and tap it down with the trowel’s heel

how they trim off what squeezes out 

that they flick in the barrow

how they tidy up the way they point

how they keep a line and a level brick

after brick course after course for ever.

And this was Babylon and Florence,

Milan, Bologna, Lubeck, Munich, Vilnius,

this was Manchester and London, this

was everywhere with wood for kilns,

with clay to be dug and slapped

in moulds and fired. This was viaducts

this was great cathedrals and stations, 

mills and palaces. This was men 

who mix cement and barrow it,

who see things straight. 

I’m indulging myself, I know. But I spent this morning starting to repair water damage on part of the kitchen wall wher the rains came in a couple of months ago. A mucky job, chopping out plaster, scraping, chiselling. And then clearing up, which always takes longer than the actual job. And now I’ll leave it to properly dry out for several days, and see that accusing map of old paint, plaster and brick every morning till I finally start to demonstrate just how inept I am with a hawk and trowel. So forgive me.

I’ll finish off with one that that’s not the viewpoint of the worker/craftsman/tradesman, but his partner. I’d not considered this when I set off on this project. But what about someone who thinks of how it will be when a relationship with him is over?

The end of the affair

He was deft and dapper, Mr Pierrepoint. 

Self-effacing, self contained. Quiet and considerate.

I like that in a man. You don’t see enough of it

these days. Old fashioned you could call it.

There was something reassuring

in his neatly parted hair, his clean collars, 

and his nicely knotted tie. And his fingernails

were clean. He was prompt to open doors

for me, to hand me up a stair. He was tidy,

good at cleaning things away. But in the end,

when it came to intimacy, he’d lift me up

and it seemed that he was estimating

just how much I weighed. And he had a trick

with his white hands of gathering up my hair,

and I’d feel the light scratch of his breath on my neck.

Equally, at my back 

I always hear/Time’s wingéd chariot hurrying near

What on earth are you doing, reading this? You’ve a poem to send in, and not long to do it .

[A note on the banner picture. I came across it searching Google image. It’s the work of a street artist in Sheffield. His workname is KidAcne. I’d like to get his permission to use his work. You can see his work on his own blog. Here’s the link]

Cold Hands: first published in Gap Year. SPM Publications 2017

Brickies : first published in Magma 74 . 2019