Neil Elder’s The Space Between Us won the Cinnamon Press Debut Poetry Collection Prize in 2016. Prior to this win, Neil published Codes of Conduct (Cinnamon Press, 2015) and Being Present (The Black Light Engine Room, 2017). His latest collection, And The House Watches On, will be published in 2020. Neil lives and teaches in North-West London.
Ministry of Waiting
Of course there are no clocks, or windows,
that might allow guests to track time.
And these days only people over forty
wear a watch, and we’re less concerned
about them. Mobile devices?
We block network signals so that guests
can go unbothered by distractions.
The décor is always neutral;
if anyone asks, which they don’t,
we tell them the colour is August Wheat,
but you and I can see it’s beige.
A pastel shade here or there,
a couple of abstract pictures,
nothing too involving, nothing too fussy.
New arrivals are the most tricky to placate,
a lot of pacing often occurs,
they fret about why they are here,
and for how long; adjustment can take time,
but every guest comes round at some point:
notice how their bodies mould themselves
to the shape of the furniture.
Now, let’s leave this Department
to look at another Ministry;
Suffering is near-by, or perhaps
you’re interested in Broken Promises?
Truth be told it could be some time
before anyone is called from Waiting.
I am writing this letter of resignation,
the one I’ve written every Monday
for the last eighteen months,
to make myself believe
that I might take a risk some time;
just pack the basics and head off
to South America.
I’ll swim Amazonian tributaries,
live without Wi-Fi, marry a Yanomami lady
and paint myself in clay.
Or I might change my name
and slip away, to drive a taxi
on the graveyard shift
in some place where no one lives.
But on my desk stands that picture of my kids,
and there behind them looms the ocean liner
I am chained to – iceberg just out of shot.
Like My Daughter Says
If, like my daughter says,
you are now a million particles
orbiting in space,
may you keep on spinning.
Or else as I look out tonight,
I hope you fall like snow
and settle for a while.
Ministry of Waiting: Like This (4Word)
Writing: Being Present (Black Light Engine Room)
Like My Daughter Says:The Space Between Us