I can hear her fingers dancing, dancing, Over the keyboard, rat-a-tat-tat. The tempo always five-to-a-heartbeat – I can tell her typing, wherever she’s sat. Her fingernails, a little too long, A tambourine of bracelets, an octave higher, Grounded by the bass of the spacebar, And the leak of her headphones bringing the choir.
I can hear our fingers dancing, dancing, Stretching for shift, then back to home – The double-letter quavers, the patter of delete, And the rhythm of return as a metronome. But not all keyboards are tuned the same, Staccato or reverb in stroke-length and gauge. I like it the most when we harmonise together – An orchestra of typists, filling up the page.
Ev’ry keystroke, ev’ry mouse click, Somewhere, thousands of others are typing – Sitting at our desks or staring at our phones, And altogether tapping and swiping. We’re part of a synchronised dance of the fingertips, Pressing on the A and the N and the D, And every typo is a dozen typos, All made in perfect harmony.
Rumour, gossip, and have-you-heard Are back with a careless, venomous word. Scurrilous whispers have their way – They’re good enough for Salem and good enough today. So who needs doubt or burden of proof, When the tales are better than the boring truth ? When even liberals are mongering fears, With two-faced lattes and schadenfreud beers, And even the press has dropped its mask Of public int’rest, and sunk to the task. Rumour, gossip, and feathers-and-tar Has shown us all for the shits we are. That’s you. Yes, you. With your bleeding heart, You’re ev’ry bit the hypocrite as any old fart, You Guardian readers, as catty as The Sun – A few lives ruined, but you’ve had your fun.
I long since came to a weary pact With my ambition and self-esteem – I gave them both the sack, And they in turn have promised not to dream.
And with that, I put on my tie, Polished my shoes, and buttoned my coat, And dived headlong with barely a cry Into the passion-snuffer’s throat.
I take-on full responsibility – I knowingly rejected thrills For mind-numbing futility To let me eat and pay the bills –
I do the work with competence, And nothing else – not even gripes. It’s dangerous to drop your fence – Don’t fall for pride, just sit and type…
I know I’m being used, each day, I have to shrug, it’s just the norm. There’s plenty far worse off, they say, Be thankful that you’re in the warm.
And yet…can it be…? That out there, somewhere, running free, Some folks have a job they love ? A job that’s always something new And makes a diff’rence what they do, And pays them more-than-well enough – But ah, those kinds of job are precious few, Not for the likes of me.
There are only so many fun jobs to go round, They’re thin on the ground, They’ve all been filled, or handed-down, Father-to-son, the lucky tykes – And none of them have a clue. Most of the jobs are the sort that nobody likes, But most of us do.
I have my hobbies, have my friends, I make the best of tedium, And live for the moment, live for the weekends – And tell myself that something else will come…
But what must it be like, though, To wake up with a smile ? To do a job that’s worth-the-while ? I guess I’ll never know…
I considered titling this poem 9 – ∞, but the two figures don’t look like they belongs in the same font.
Vasily and Stanislav, Though really their names don’t matter to us, And how many others we’ll never hear of – Remember their actions, but don’t make a fuss. No statues raised, and that’s how it should be, They aren’t special, they’re just good men Who held their nerve and held their breath Until it was safe to breathe agen. They did their jobs, and did them well, And gently reinserted the pin. They passed the test and lived to tell, And took their reprimands on the chin.
Stella Starbuck steps out from her capsule Onto the surface of the dry, cold Moon, Or even Europa, or Mercury, perhaps, But definitely on a Sunday afternoon. If she can only focus on her giant leap, She might ignore the droning of the cars – If she can make a rocketship out of her tepee, She knows she can bravely conquer Mars. It’s not, she notes, as red as she expected, But rather a barren desert lawn of green. With her life-support given one last check, It’s time to boldly go where no man has been. But what’s that ? Over there ! An alien ! Quickly ! Should she hide, or should she hail ? Too late ! She’d under attack, yet agen, As lasers shoot from its wagging Martian tail. Luckily, her pure-wool spacesuit is armoured. She picks up a ball from the regolith And throws it up – so high, so far ! – But then, her gravity is only a fifth. All alone now, that’s when the voice comes Comes over the comms-link, into her thoughts – “Looks like you made it – isn’t that something ? The onward footprints of astronauts. But then that’s humans – always climbing, Striding and striving, proving your steel. You know, this doesn’t have to end at tea-time – One day, you could be standing here for real…” After a moment, another voice calls her – Ground Control, to bring her back home. But just before she blasts off, she stalls To admire the view from the cosmic dome.
My neighbour disliked her cherry laurel And asked to borrow my saw. She offered me all the wood for my fire In exchange for my muscle and jaw. And so we chopped and chatted all morning On what we joked was her ‘ranch’. She called it an invasive species As we tackled its largest branch – She certainly didn’t remember planting the thing, So out it went (Though she waited till all its blossom had dropped Which had lasted all through lent.) I’ve heard when burned it smells of cherries, But we scented almonds that day – She said, well that’s the cyanide, Remember, this laurel’s no bay. We made fair work of its lily-white wood Till we left its stump for bare, But we still got a slight furriness in our mouths, Despite our gloves and care. I offered her a seat by my fireside Watching her tree disappear, But she said I needed to season it first, So call her up in a year.
Once I was a student, And a dreamy kid who wanted to know more. I went to find out what it meant, To study art and life and metaphor. And though I had a cocky gob, I’m not sure I was quite the nation’s cream. It didn’t lead me to a job – But oh, it surely taught me how to dream.
I was pretty broke back then, But I received a grant to help me through – And when I passed, and stowed my pen, I looked upon the world as somewhere new. I found some work, I found some mates, And neither needed much of what I’d learned – But still it opened up the gates, And gave me confidence that I had earned.
So now I gladly pay my taxes, Pay my way, and never ride for free – So when I hear of fiscal axes, Spare a thought for who we used to be – For loans and debt will only scare The very ones you think superfluous – So tax me more ! It’s only fair, To help out all the dreamy kids like us.