Off The Wall. A Collection Of Poems From The Mole Valley Poets For Display In Waiting Rooms, 2000.

Contents
WAITING ROOM Alison Jesson
WAITING Nikki Hopkins
READING MATTER Derek Webb
INFORMATION UNDERLOAD Nikki Hopkins
DRAGONS Alison Jesson
DEPRESSION Jane Desmond
MATERNITY LEAVE Helen M Overell
THE FENCE Hugh Timothy
PRESCRIPTION Sylvia Herbert
SMILE! Derek Webb
WAITING Michael Lane
CHECK-UP CHECK-IN Lorna Dowell
AT THE DENTIST Helen M Overell
HARBOUR Christine Newsome
RECOLLECTION Edward Newman
FATHER Jane Desmond
THE NEW MUSIC SCHOOL Sylvia G. Herbert
CANINE RIGHTS Michael Lane
CATS ARE YIN, DOGS ARE YANG Michael Lane
THE WAITING ROOM BLUES Nikki Hopkins

WAITING ROOM

Dear God, I've been waiting here for a while,
so I thought I'd just have a word
about why I've come to see the doctor.
I know I've been a bit remiss lately, and that I did
lie to Mrs Ferris to get out of doing the church flowers
last month, but please God, this time,
I think I might have something really wrong with me.
So God, could you make it just interesting enough,
for the doctor to take me seriously, for a change,
but not so serious that it has to go on and on.
Could you give me something, God, that would make
Miss Roberts in the post office, look at me with
one of those kind smiles of hers, while she asks me how
I am, in a hushed tone, and then tells me I must
be very brave. And God, if I promise to be a better person
please, do you think I could have
one of those respectable diseases,
that aren't too hard to spell ?

Alison Jesson

WAITING

Don't think. Just look at the walls.
We're all women here. No - there's a man
huddled next to that woman
who looks as if she's been crying.
Don't think. Just look at the walls.
No-one's talking, they're all sitting
reading books or mags or, like me,
not thinking. Just looking at the walls.
Notices, about this or that clinic, leaflets
telling you what you don't want to know.
How to find out if you've got it - or not.
There's that hospital smell again.
Don't think. Just look at the walls.
There's a sad print in a cheap frame -
a landscape after Seurat, unattributed.
Will there be an after me?
Don't think. Just look at the walls.
Did the receptionist call my name?

Nikki Hopkins

READING MATTER

Ignore for a moment
The Country Life, urban-sprawled across the chair
Last year's OK and Hello
With exclusive wedding photographs
Of the headline couple so recently split up.
The copy of Punch with the stuffing knocked out of it
A less than sprightly edition of Surrey Life.
Horse and Hound looking decidedly dog-eared.
An Amateur Gardener you could plant seeds in.
And all those National Geographics
That aren't going anywhere.
Instead content yourself with reading this.

Derek Webb

INFORMATION UNDERLOAD

I'm the most half-informed person I know.
And to whom do you think that I owe
my inadequate views on yesterday's news?
It's those Waiting Room journals on show.

And why am I thus ill informed,
from intelligent being transformed?
It's the shortage of time to read every line
before my appointment's been called!

Nikki Hopkins

DRAGONS

I share my life with a large green dragon.
Most days he lumbers along beside me
and suggests a variety of catastrophes
which might be waiting to befall me;
missed trains, muggings, that sort of thing.
I try to dismiss his more outlandish suggestions,
but once he has me fired up with an idea,
he sits back on his scaly haunches
with a smile of smug satisfaction,
and watches while I agitate my way
through a range of contingency plans.

Some days he doesn't bother to get up at all,
and just when I think I've got away with it,
I see a little flock of worries, pecking away
at my newly seeded self-confidence.

Today. he playfully suggested, 'What if ...
you get knifed in the neck or stabbed in the stomach
on your walk round this tranquil reservoir?'
and so I dutifully greeted each person I passed
as a potential witness to murder.
After such an energetic morning.
he now lies sleeping.
with his pink tongue lolling from his gently parted lips,
while he dreams up a new set of disasters.

Alison Jesson

DEPRESSION

Sometimes desperate
I try to reach into that place
where you are
I try to visualise
what it's like to be you

in your mind where all is dark
and there's no quiet
your thoughts race and gallop
like an unbroken mare

at times like that
I try to meet you there
and gently lead you back

but sometimes even I
can't touch you

tonight I watched your back
heave with heavy sighs
I almost rubbed your shoulders
to ease the pain

instead
I went upstairs and cried.

Jane Desmond

MATERNITY LEAVE
for HF

Gravid now, short breathed, weary
of the waiting, in need of retreat
until the new life in you
fully forms from foetal
promise to infant certainty
with fingers tight curled petals,
toes in miniature, hair softer
than feathers, breath meadow-sweet,
eyes still focussed on the stars -
human loving in heavens' mould
enfolded in the mantle
of your soul - nourished with
all the love you can bear to give.

Helen M Overell

THE FENCE

"It's a long way down," he said
As he sat on the fence.

"What's more it's a long way down
On both sides," he worried.

"I can't think how I got here
So which side's home?"

"And what's on the other side
Whichever that is?"

"If I do decide to get off
Will I get down in one piece?"

"If I do get down in one piece
Will it be the right side?"

"If I should get down on the wrong side
How shall I know?"

"I may think I'm down on the right side
And then find I'm wrong."

"I may think I'm down on the wrong side
And be wrong 'cos I'm right."

"I think I'll stay on the fence till something turns up
It's a long way down."

The wind turned up and blew him off
Much to his surprise.

It was then he found that the fence
Was just his imagination.

Hugh Timothy

PRESCRIPTION

If I could condense your smile
Into a small, exquisite phial,
To keep forever by my side,
And cherish with much loving pride,
I'd find that just a drop or two
Would yield the quintessential you.

Your gentle lips would let me see
The way you are, your love for me,
Your eyes continue to impart
The joy that overflows your heart,
And brings to mine that timeless grace
Enlivening your happy face.
The distillation of your smile
Would give me solace all the while.

Sylvia Herbert

SMILE!

Go on,
What are you waiting for?
Are you looking to see
If anyone else is reading this?
Are you wondering if
Their lips might just curl
Up slightly?
Are you looking for the merest
Sign of an eye-twinkle?
Are you bemused
Amused or confused?
Does it matter?
A smile costs nothing
But it's priceless.

Derek Webb

WAITING

Waiting for my haircut. No time for magazines,
I have to rehearse a passable conversation.
(Just to avoid a total silence.)
The tone must be light, subject matter's a bit restricted.
Can I say something wittily cynical, man-to-man,
About the weather?

Sport might show my ignorance. although it would be safe
(If this were summer) to express pessimism about English cricket.
Current affairs are best avoided - unless it's something local
Like that new phone mast in the village -
We can all be against that.

That's better. I'm prepared. Now it's my turn.
I hope he doesn't ask me what I did for Christmas.

Michael Lane

CHECK-UP CHECK-IN

Kitted out in white - a tunic from the Starship Enterprise -
she welcomes me on board. I lie back and levitate.
Beamed up, face to faceguard. the disc of lights descends -
a flying saucer in my eyes. Mouth open wide

our close encounter now begins:
molar explorations - prodding with a pick, as if on ice,
digging crevices. blasting holes with shots of rocket air.
She scales my teeth - Mercurian peaks.
A skeletal grin, I cling to my seat
listening to a foreign commentary on my oral geology -
scientific observations from the lunar surface

back to base. Lights in retreat
I sink with relief. Words of advice:
a quick slosh with day-glow pink wash
to rinse the unspeakable out of my mouth.
I leave with a sheet I must sign and check out
the bill for the flight. I hope
it won't be astronomical.

Lorna Dowell

AT THE DENTIST

at the dentist, my teeth are not my own
they stand stiffly to attention, shoulder
to shoulder, seeking anonymity,
shrinking from scrutiny, braced for the shock
of steel on threadbare armour worn too thin
to withstand ice cold onslaughts, they are probed
and prodded, they are looked at from the wrong
angle, they are numbered in gloved tones (names
are denied them - incisors and molars
are given equal weight, wisdoms are veiled
in obscurity) then duly charted
with overtones of the sombre reading
of weather forecasts (occluded fronts, storms,
gale force winds, light showers all delivered
with solemn voice), they await their sentence
with a stoicism born of long years
of hard labour and after the drilling.
the filling and polishing. they drop their
guard, feel cleaner than they have for ages
and we go home where at last they ease up,
shuffle on their slippers and settle down

Helen M Overell

HARBOUR

I stand at the tiny harbour
interfering with the wind   with my face
hair impairing my vision
so I have to fight to see
no boat can I make out, no boat coming
I am stranded in this island den
but then I look again
to see which way the wind is blowing
and a large boat comes to my eye
and I cry a tear for the dying gale
today the boat is running
and it will take me home
and where do I belong?
anywhere where my tears run dry

Christine Newsome

RECOLLECTION

Your voice floats
through Edwardian windows
on wings of estuary birds.
Soft sighs and whispers at midnight
trail breath of night-scented stock.
Moments of time together
wait for the tide to turn.

In the morning,
the pain of parting eases.
Mist gathered in from sea roar
obscures hopes of a swift return.

Edward Newman

FATHER

I wish you could come back now
It's cherry - blossom time -
everywhere looks so beautiful

I would love to take long walks with you
and have the time to really talk

no matter that you never said you loved me
that wasn't your way
but your love was there and constant
all the time I was growing up

watch out soon
wherever you are -
I'll be blowing dandelion clocks
up to the fairies with my secret wishes

and as the wind gets up
be ready
I'll be blowing you my kisses

Jane Desmond

THE NEW MUSIC SCHOOL

Best-suited, four-deep, they waited,
Bordering the path like dark saplings,
Swaying slightly in the chill wind of February.

Six hundred, there must have been,
Standing quietly, murmuring to each other
As I have seen birds ready to migrate:

Expectant, hopeful, checking their clean hands,
Each wondering if he would be the one
To whom His Royal Highness deigned to speak.

And then, a ripple through the crowd. "He's here!"
A chosen few outside the Music School
Sent up a shrill fanfare of silver notes.

The Prince progressed. with duffel-coated press,
Their cameras poised, backing along the route,
Supported by a flash of Mayoral chains and formal bows.

And then into the new School's welcoming warmth,
Accompanied by the most harmonious sounds
Of well-tuned instruments adeptly played.

At length, breaking the hush of aftermath,
And sweet upon the thin, cold winter air,
Haydn's 'cello concerto cast its spell

To us, outside. the ceremony relayed,
There came applause like clouds of birds in flight,
The plaque unveiled, the dedication made.

Sylvia G. Herbert

CANINE RIGHTS

What is this life - a dog's life - if
We have no time to stop and sniff

No time when hauled along on leads
To gratify our urgent needs.

No time to bound about on grass
And greet whatever dogs may pass,

No time to stand with waving stern
Sniff and be sniffed at in one's turn

A poor life for a canine if
There is no time to stop and sniff.

Michael Lane

CATS ARE YIN, DOGS ARE YANG

My dog wakes me up asking
"Where shall we go today?"
He knows the proper times
Of meals and outings, and in between
He watches me, waiting for something to happen.

My cat closes her eyes and meditates.
When she takes
Her slow stroll round the garden she conveys
A calm authority, like royalty.
When she hunts,
She sits quite still in the field and waits
Till the mice run over her paws.

Michael Lane

THE WAITING ROOM BLUES

Woke up this morning,
staggered out of my bed,
I'd a pain in my back,
such an ache in my head.

Crawled down to the kitchen,
groped for the telephone;
called up the surgery,
got through. With a groan,

said, 'Got to see a doctor,'
said, 'Need to see him real quick,'
said, 'I'm dying here, lady.
Of course I'm real sick!'

I got an appointment -
not 'til quarter past ten.
I phoned up the job. Said,
'I'm real sick. Yes, again!'

I've sat here an hour
and I don't know when
I'll get to that doctor,
or see daylight again.

I've read all the leaflets
and the notes on the wall.
I've looked at the journals,
(and ain't the choice small!).

And all I can say -
as I look round the view
of the crowd sitting here -
we got the Waiting Room Blues.

Oh yeh!

Nikki Hopkins