Once I was stuck in the moment.
It was like being stuck in a lift.
I was going nowhere.
Not even up and down.
There was no way out.
No alarm button to press.
I tried not to panic.
Tried smoking a cig.
Humming a tune
Studying a fly on the wall
Reciting my nine times tables
And then suddenly SNAP
I was out of it.
I don’t know how long I was in it.
It did have its moments
I must admit.
But you wondered if you’d ever
Get out and join
The flow of life again.
What seems to be the trouble , he asks .
I cough and splutter all over the place .
He gets the message .
Sits down to write the certificate .
There , he says , handing the form to me . This should do the trick .
I peruse it quickly .
There’s something missing, I say, why I had time off .
That’s right . If you had Alzheimers or a social disease would you want
people to know ?
Certainly not .
My point exactly .
But I thought you had to put something down .
No , he says . And if they ask , tell them to take a running jump . Better still , tell them to phone me and I’ll tell them to take a running jump . Only in stronger terms .
He stands up . Shakes my hand .
The next day at work I hand in the certificate .
He’s right .
They see the blank space but no one says a word .
I push it a bit further .
On the official form , the one you fill out yourself , where it says Illness I put down ‘See Certificate’ .
It feels good . It really does .
I’ve found a new way to treat with the world .
Please Wait to be Called,
The sign said
So I did.
I waited and waited
At the head of the queue
outside the pearly gates
And when, growing impatient,
I stepped forward,
St. Peter held up his hand:
“There seems to be some problem,”
“You’ll have to wait a little longer,”
I stamped my feet a little
When a light flashed overhead
& a door opened behind
& I was whooshed back
To the operating theatre where the surgeons
Had revived me
One step from paradise.
I’ve got a poem for you, a very short one, he promised with a garrulous grin, and then, in a long-winded introduction in which all the masters of brevity were cited, he proceeded to demolish the very notion of shortness. The poem took ten seconds, the intro five minutes.
There was this kid who stood at the back of the class
When I came to read my poems
And whenever I got boring he’d rotate
His arms like the blades of a helicopter
& the more I banged on the faster
His arms would whir
Until it looked like he’d take off
His teacher and the other kids paid him
In the pause between poems he’d say,
You done yet?
And I’d say,
And he’d say, Good and slow down.
And when I stopped, he’d stop.
The eagle had landed.
Whenever I do a reading I see
That kid at the back
His arms set to rotate.
It keeps me honest.
I thought of the times I had fallen short.
Let the side down.
Not been up to scratch
Been urged to pull my socks up,
My finger out
To take a good hard look at myself.
But I was always a few kangaroos short
Of a top paddock
So it didn’t get to me like it could have.
And anyway you can lead a horse to water
But you can’t make it drink.
For too long they have lead a solitary existence,
Moping in corners of the internet, blushing wallflowers
Stuttering if someone even comes to speak to them.
Now all this is changing.
I am introducing my poems to each other,
a matchmaker, if you like, partnering one poem
with another of similar makeup, all in
A single manuscript, a mass marriage of poems,
With the publisher’s blessing.
Together they will lie next to each other
for the ages. All will be invited. Now all
I have to do is pair up like poems,
Nervous Nellies unused to company
* apologies & thanks to Skyhooks