After the Flood - Valerie Mendes
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After the Flood

After the Flood

For Debi Alper: 22 January 2022

I’m flexing my muscles and raking the earth
Preparing my garden in spite of the dearth
Of smiles and bright eyes, of those who can laugh
At the coldness of strangers. I run a hot bath
To soak in a Radox of comfort. I ache
After sweeping the hearth rug. I stretch when I wake
Like my Cat who now sleeps in his box far away
After years of my company. Well, what a day!

The PM’s in pieces, Ukraine’s not a joke
But a land full of people like me. Divine soak!
I scrub and I polish. How clean are my nails
How foggy the sky. I shall now hoist those sails
While flexing my muscles again. I should be
Standing in queues with a list, or at sea
In my faithful old coracle, filled with supplies –
Oaty biscuits and teabags, my characters’ lives –
Not lolling in towelling, drying my hair
Flinging open the window to savour fresh air …

I’m flexing my muscles. Deep breath, straighten up
I’m digging for energy, warming the cup
Pushing back shoulders and posturing spine
Clutching that coracle while it’s still mine.
Where was I now? On page ninety or two?
Shouting I’m Captain or Slave? And just who
Will be waiting to read me, or even to know
The effort it takes to continue to crow?

I’m flexing my muscles, I promise. It’s been
A while since I sent you my heart which has seen
A pile of rejections, several thousand old snubs,
Horizons of silence. I’m out of that tub
I’m raking new earth now, recharged! So stay mine
I’m back in that coracle – and, always, thine.

With very special gratitude to Helen, Rob & Ryan Stocks
and to Mark Nightingale & the Belmark Nightingale Team
for their superb and dignified Mendes Rescue