Keeping the Moon Clean

All week I have painted and drawn. I take breaks, I go for walks, but I am tied by an invisible umbilical cord to my desk, steadily ploughing through dozens of illustrations, trying to crack the short deadline I have. Sleep is elusive and when I wake, my wrist feels bruised and weary. This is the difference between painting for yourself and painting for 'The Man.' And it involves no toys, no fairy tales, no Arthur Rackham sepias or wistful pencil shading. But it does bring in that most elusive (to me) of things, money. And it will be pretty, in its bright, cheerful, mass market way.

Once upon a time, I wrote poetry - well didn't we all? After my parents died, and I moved to the housing estate, I started keeping an exercise book full of clumsy, if enthusiastic, adolescent scribblings. On the way to school I would be overtaken by 'inspiration' and arrive late after stopping in the street to hurry my thoughts onto blue lined paper. (At least I had the instinctive sense to write the ubiquitous poem about the four seasons when I was thirteen: Spring being a fair, blushing young maiden and all that). It was not the kind of school where you would ever admit to writing poetry for pleasure - as it was, I was commonly regarded as a freak because I was always seen with a reading book in my hands. But blessing came in the guise of an understanding English teacher, who took a ruthless red pen to my efforts, and tried to corrall them into something more than youthful gushing.

I carried on, sporadically. Sometimes I would go for a few years without writing, then 'it' would happen and I would find myself scribbling again. I sent them off to publishers. Many rejection letters later, the habit died; I have to make my own way in this world, and if something does not bring in cold, hard cash, then I am afraid it must be sacrificed. But as nothing much is happening except the long trek to the golden horizon of Deadline, I am lazily posting an old jingle of mine, from a long way back when I was younger, slimmer and sillier and thought I had all the time in the world...

Keeping the Moon Clean

When they advertised the job,
Why, I jumped at the chance -
I mean, it's not every day you
Get a chance to work on the Moon
And I reckoned after all this time
It'd need a good going over:
All that space dust,
Not to mention the mess
Those astronauts leave behind them.

There were plenty of applicants,

But none of them could clean like me.
They do say it's a dying art
And I may not have a
Science degree but
I know the business end of a broom.

They thought I might be lonely at first,
But after all these years

Of cleaning big, empty houses
I'm quite happy with my own company
Thank you.
Just so long as I can have a little radio,
To break the silence.

Of course, you can't clean the Moon
With any old equipment.
I was a bit surprised at first -
I though moonshine was
Something that cowboys drank -

and every third month I
Sprinkle with
Powdered moths wings
(That's why sometimes it looks
A funny red colour).
The rocks I polish with
Evening primrose oil,
Just to give them a bit of a shine,

Then finish off with an old duster.

We don't have hoover up here -
Well, obviously,
There's no power point.
but I do have an excellent broom
Made with the hair of
Cancerian children
Born on Midsummer's night
And of course,
My mop.

It's a very special mop;
I couldn't be doing without it.
It picks up every speck of dirt.
See, if you look closely
There are a million wriggling snakes
In its head.

Oh, I wouldn't be without
My Medusa mop
For all the world.

I don't have a special suit for cleaning,
Just my normal overall
And the flowers do cheer me up
Once in a blue moon.

When I'm having a bit of a break,
I like to watch the world go by.
I can't say as I miss it
And I wouldn't like the job
Of having to keep it clean
(Although I've heard they're on the lookout
For a hard worker for

That particular little job).

Mind you, I've certainly got
My work cut out here,
Once a month when the Moon is full -
Although it gets a little easier
After that and some nights

I can whisk round in no time.
I like a nice sickle Moon myself:
They're easier on the feet,
And that shadow you can see
On the inside curve
Is me having a sit down
With a cup of tea

And staring at you lot down below.

There did used to be
A Man in the Moon,
But they sent him to the dark side
To stop children getting fanciful ideas.
I don't like the dark side,

But sometimes
I take him a slice of cake
And we talk about this, that
And the weather;
It's nice to have a bit of company
Now and then.

And when on dripping moonlit nights
You glance up and say
"How bright it shines tonight!"

Give a little thought to me
And my Medusa mop,
Keeping the Moon clean.

At the time I was working as a cleaner in private houses, trying to take my first steps into a much yearned for illustration/writing career. It was written long, long ago - pre-computers - and has been transcribed from type written sheets. But it's funny how it is still a heart trembling thing to reveal a poem, even when it is yellowed at the edges and covered in dust. Old moony pictures, old moony poem and a dollop of self pity. Well, I am a Cancerian after all.


Acornmoon said...

Well, I think you should carry on writing for sure. I enjoyed the poem very much, there was lots of nice imagery for you to illustrate. I was interested to hear about your English teacher, (my husband is an English teacher), encouragement makes such a difference.

Hope you meet your deadline! Hope the royalties flow in by the boatload.

Rima Staines said...

Oh Gretel! That is wonderful! Bravo for being brave and showing us... I really enjoyed the smiling melancholy to it :)
And happy working...
You are a brilliant writer as well as painter :)
Take care

SueC said...

I have always been a huge fan of your writings Gretel. I still read some of your short stories to Maddy at bedtime. I collected them all. If there is anyone who deserves recognition for talent, it most certainly is you and I hope this 'paying' job is the first of a lucrative many. x

Shona said...

I adore your stories, and the poem's just so lovely! Sometimes it's good to reflect on the journey to put the present into context, even if the deadline of doom is a killer.

You've come a long way, baby!



Mary Beth said...

That was such a wonderful poem! Your imagery is so good - I could see the whole thing. I will never look at a sickle moon without thinking of you up there having a cuppa.

Amanda and Tim said...

Oh this is just too perfect - I love it and am cursing myself for staying away from your wonderful blog for so very long! Well Done and many thanks for sharing! Good Luck with meeting the deadline.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

No self pity for you! This is too wonderful! I smiled all the way through, which on this hot and humid morning, is saying something! Thanks so much for sharing both the poem and your always magical paintings!

Catherine Hayward said...

Thanks for sharing your poem with us. It's really lovely and I found it most entertaining. I would be interested to see more of your writing and I really think a lot of people would too.
Perhaps if your to-do list gets shorter one of these days, you could lay it out nicely with the illustration and sell it like a print, or a small handmade book? This is precisely the sort of thing my mum would have stuck up on her wall, and I mean that to be a compliment!

Cecelia said...

I really enjoyed your poem, your illistrations, and your blog! Good luck with your career! I hope that you do pull in a boatload of money and free yourself to create as you please.
I'll add a link to your blog in my Artists and Authors section of my sidebar.

Christy/Tiddly Inks Digitals said...

I so enjoyed your sense of doom somehow mixed with whimsy. I loved your poem and generally just reading your blog. :)

And of course, I love your illos...lovely and touching as usual :)

Anonymous said...

The poem's lovely...very whimsical and sets evocative visions dancing in my head.

I was always rubbish at poetry, but I know what I like! ;-)

tlchang said...

Golly, it's been years since I last wrote poetry as well! Probably the last time was before I got married... wow... I guess I'm over *that* phase. :-) It's interesting to go back and revisit our younger selves though, isn't it? Thanks for sharing.

tut-tut said...

Wonderful, all of it. Inspirational, really. There is a lot to take in for a first-time reader!! I'll be back, with a cup of tea.

Caroline B said...

Good luck with your deadline - it's not easy being creative to order is it! I admire anyone who can write poetry - my teenage attempts were dire & quickly nipped in the bud! Your poem would be lovely illustrated.

d. moll, l.ac. said...

Nice mix of imagery, I think if I had a proper Medusa mop I could really get the house clean. You WILL make your deadline. What about lavender oil for the wrist soreness, or an Epsom salt soak? Thanks for popping over to my blog, good to have a visitor form across the pond.

Anonymous said...

Oh it's lovely! One day, when you have the luxury of time again, you know what you need to do...!x

Cindy Garber Iverson said...

Oh Gretel! I could see the pages of a picture as I read your poem. I could see the Medusa mop. I could see it all! It is wonderful!!!!!

I know how it feels to shelf one's dreams because it's more important to make money. I can relate to that on so many levels.

Thank you for posting amidst the craziness of painting toward your deadline.

Cindy at Rosehaven Cottage

Frances said...

Hello to you PG,

What a beautiful poem you caught in your magical net.

It was so generous of you to share it with us.

Best wishes with that deadline. You are creative to think beyond it, and to return to the rich land where your imagination dwells.


Anonymous said...

I could see myself reading this to my granddaughters. It is absolutely lovely. The imagery it conjures up! Gretel, I hope you publish this, I would love to read it someday.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to mention, I love the illustrations in this post, so whimsical!

Soozcat said...

I have to agree with Cindy--it's a visually rich poem, as bright with images as a full moon on a summer night. Thanks for gathering the courage to share it.

Elizabeth said...

Such a poem!
You are as much a writer and poet as an artist.
Odd how some of our most wonderful ideas spring from the mundane and dreary.
Since award seem to be cruising the blogosphere I gave you one at The House in M.......
all best wishes!

Unknown said...

I just have no idea how you produce such wonderful and beautiful pictures under such tight deadlines - I would freeze and be hopeless.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I think you are a poet, no doubt! There's no dosh in poetry though. Reminds me, I wrote a poem about the moon once upon a time - for my kids, must find it, see what you've started! Have you tried rubbing some arnica into your poorly wrist? Take care. x liZZie x

Kim said...

Wonderful, wonderful poem. It could be about me, as I do love to clean. I was totally caught up in it, please share some more of your poetry :)

Kim x

Sarah Laurence said...

Gretel, that funny poem and your lovely illustrations made me smile. Maybe one day you could try your hand at writing the book you illustrate too. Children love whimsical concepts like cleaning the moon.

Good luck with your deadlines. If you have to punch the clock, illustration isn't a bad way to do it and you do them so well.

Chris.P said...

You made the unbelievable believable, (says he, sounding like the advert for bbc iplayer;¬))

In a way I'm glad I don't have your imagination. I'd need corks in my ears to stop all thee inspiration flooding out:¬)

Anonymous said...

I just love your art work, it is beautiful and whimsical. Fabulous.

Dana and Daisy said...

I think it is just loverly!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...


I mentioned you today on my blog. I hope it sends people your way!

Best day from Edward and me!

Gordon Fraser said...

Stunningly beautiful Gretel...even by your high standards!!....mucho loveo..

slightly feminine goth!

Kepp checking me bloggy ....should be getting the Beeb illo up soonish!

Lunabee said...

Absolutely beautiful Gretel, I so enjoyed reading that you lady of so many talents :) x

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your lovely encouragement of my Barcelona trip Gretel and the poem is beautiful. It would make an amazing children's book; it is so original, which is exactly what makes a classic in the end (like Sendak's work). Have you shown it to your current publisher? It deserves to be a book.

Francesca said...

I agree how trembly a thing it is to reveal a poem. Thank you for doing so. It sang to my heart.

And I've peeked in at your studio-cam. What a fun idea! And such a treat to see yoU!

Hello! said...

I love reading your posts, admire the beautiful photos of the country, but most of all I love your delicate illustrations and fantastic needlefelted creations. The beautiful poem, was a real surprise!

Gwen Buchanan said...

This is amazing!!! Don't you ever stop writing!!! Absolutely wonderful...

I Love it!!!

Anonymous said...

you have a new fan! Love you work, love your style!

Tess Kincaid said...

Hi Gretel, I'm here by way of Merisi, who knew that I would enjoy your artwork. And she was right! We were chatting about Lisbeth Zwerger and how her work brought to mind yours! Charming!! :)

Thailand Voices said...

Oh the poem is lovely - your artwork is also just beautiful and reminds me of my childhood (long ago :-) growing up in England before we moved abroad. Will hopefully be buying some of your cards or a print soon.

julietk said...

I enjoyed the poem very much. I enjoy visiting your blog : ) I have cleaned houses for a living too, it can be very theraputic cleaning a big empty house, the mind wanders as you go free to invent. juliet