Mostly Hating Tories by Janine Booth

I’m no historian of the Conservative party, nor have I any wish to be. However, in thinking about this feature, I looked at the idea from the posh boy anti-establishment-lite Monty Pythons with their sketch of ‘what have the Romans ever done for us’, in terms of the Tories. They are the oldest political party, which is not surprising given that it was very hard during the 19th century for labour to get organized never mind form a political party; it was the Liberal Gladstone who increased the suffrage to include working class people in 1884, and it wasn’t until 1906 that the Labour Party had its first formal meeting, finally taking power in 1924, albeit having to rely on the support of the Liberals.

So what have the Conservatives ever done for the likes of us? First off, they killed many many Irish people during the protracted so-called Troubles, and used Unionist paramilitary groups to their own illegal ends. Similarly their imperial and colonial endeavours have killed unknown amounts of people in the countries of Africa, South and East Asia. Obviously, they have continually restrained, if not tried to completely wipe out, the Trade Union movement; the ironic hypocrisy of this historic relationship recently came in the setting up in 2015 of the Conservative Trade Union and Workers (named: Tory Workers). The party’s mantra of free trade has forever been to line their own land with the hedgerows of wealth that separate the worker from the landlord, landowner, businessman in similar pre-industrial ways.

austerityThen, since the setting up of the Welfare State by the Atlee government, they have continually tried to dismantle it, not only from their small state ideology, but in order to spend as little on people who are most in need by lowering the taxes of the most well off So, we knew it all along, but now it’s official; the Tories kill poor and disabled people. It may not be murder, nor manslaughter, if only in the eyes of the beholder of laws they invented themselves. The new austerity age of the past seven years or more, has seen many people die as a direct result of Tory policies on welfare. In a Grauniad article recently, the following facts were put on bloody display: 90 people a month die in the UK as a result of being deemed fit for work; in 2015 there were 30,000 excess deaths, the greatest rise in mortality in fifty years; suicides in prisons reached a record high with a 40% drop in prison officer numbers. I could go on, but we’d never get to the poem, and it’s all very depressing.

mostly hatingTherefore, to cheer you up, I give you the wonderful Janine Booth with her wonderful “Mostly Hating Tories”. By the way, she has a whole oeuvre of Tory hating poetry. Check them out here.

Janine Booth is a Marxist, trade unionist, socialist-feminist, author, poet, speaker, tutor, former RMT Executive member, supporter of Workers’ Liberty, aspie, bi, Peterborough United fan!

 

 

Mostly Hating Tories

What shall I do on this fine day?
There’s so much on my list
A mix of work and rest and play
I’m sure you get my gist
And maybe I’ll compose a rhyme –
But my unwritten law is
That every day I’ll spend my time
Mostly hating Tories.

I’ll go to work, some bills I’ll pay
That’s if I’m feeling rash,
To see her through to payment day
I’ll lend my friend some cash,
I’ll probably make my kids some tea
And read them bedtime stories
Of homeless piggies one, two, three
And why they hate the Tories.

I’ll hate them for the bedroom tax
I’ll hate them for the cuts,
For living off the workers’ backs
I’ll hate their very guts,
Look, see the depths to which they’ll sink,
They don’t know where the floor is,
That’s why I’ll spend my day, I think,
Mostly hating Tories.

What’s that you say? That hate’s not nice?
Please love thine enemy?
Well yeah, I tried that once or twice
It doesn’t work for me,
And if you think that’s not fair play
Remember this, you must:
The Tories, they will spend their day
Mostly hating us.

A history of evil done
Will justify my hate,
I still detest the Tory scum
For Section Twenty Eight,
Nye Bevan built the NHS
So he knows what the score is:
And he said vermin come out best
Compared with bloody Tories.

I’m sure I’ll find time to revile
That UKIP and its drivel
And I’ll locate a little while
To loathe a lonesome Liberal,
I’ll maybe pause to show regret
For Labour’s missing glories
But save the fiercest fury yet
For mostly hating Tories.

For generations and hereon
Our class and those before us
Grew up to know which side we’re on:
The side that’s not the Tories,
So when I die, do this for me –
Inscribe and sing in chorus
Here lies Janine, her life spent she
Mostly hating Tories.

 

time comes counting / one two zero by reuben woolley

BalanceOfPower_(cropped)In talking with my wife the other day, we wondered which countries are doing well in the world today. Of course, ‘well’ is an abstraction and it was more easily answered in looking at those doing badly, or not so well. The world is unfurling, especially if we account for the use and impact of social media, exposing great instability. The whole European project is in question, not only in relation to Brexit, but also in terms of resolving proxy wars, as is the case in the Ukraine. Africa is on the whole improving in terms of headline indicators such as child mortality, although it is still high; however, within the individual countries, particularly those who are influential – South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt, not to mention the fluid situation in Zimbabwe – there is instability. India quietly treads water, Pakistan is embroiled in the war in Afghanistan, as well with India through the proxy war in Kashmir. Brazil is also in a state of uncertainty over high level corruption charges. Both Russia and China are becoming increasingly authoritarian and emboldened by the lack of any countervailing powers, both internally, and with Trump, internationally. Pockets of hope come when looking at Scandinavian countries, with examples of Finland’s trial of universal basic income, maybe Canada will have some influence, and Australia has been immune to the international economic crisis – but the latter two examples feel like outposts beyond their geographic location.

Then we have the United States, which is not going quietly into the night. From this side of the Atlantic, it seems the country’s identity is riven with divisions that hark back to the civil war. And the biggest irony in all Trump’s hubris of making the United States isolationist again, is he loves playing draughts/checkers (he’s not clever enough for the chess metaphor) with international relations. In the case of those with North Korea he is being played by China, and to some extent Russia (although they are playing another game with the election interference). So today, we are in a situation where it’s like two children in the playground but both have nuclear weapons. Trump in questioning why Kim Jong Un would call him ‘old’ says, by not saying, that the North Korean despot is ‘short and fat’, to which he, the US president (I still find it hard to comprehend that he is) has been sentenced to death.

me-at-newcastle-stanzaIt is almost beyond cliché to say we have not learned the lessons of history; I say beyond, because of the hopelessness in feeling it could make any difference. But we have to; even if we feel we are repeating ourselves, because after all we are hoping not to repeat history. We see this need in poems such as Reuben Woolley’s ‘time comes counting / one two zero’, which is dedicated to the Coventry poet Antony Owen, who has written and campaigned for nuclear disarmament, in particular his work with the CND education programme and ties with Japan. In Reuben’s usual beautiful brevity and minimalist form, he captures the tragedy of nuclear war in Japan and the impact it still has for subsequent generations; certainly, a history lesson for us all.

Reuben Woolley has been published in Tears in the Fence, The Lighthouse Literary Journal, The Interpreter’s House, Domestic Cherry, Ink Sweat and Tears, The Stare’s Nest, And Other Poems, The Poetry Shed, The BeZine and Goose among others. He has a collection, the king is dead, 2014, Oneiros Books; a chapbook, dying notes, 2015, Erbacce Press; a short collection on the refugee crisis, skins, 2016, Hesterglock Press and a new collection, broken stories, just published by 20/20 Vision Media, 2017. Runner-up: Overton Poetry Pamphlet competition and the Erbacce Prize, both in 2015. He edits the online poetry magazines, I am not a silent poet and The Curly Mind.

time comes counting / one two zero
(for Antony Owen)

when the rain comes
in shadows

                    she said

i’ll see the worlds
turn
like pages

                    the skins
they left
on walls / on
pavements

                    my
Nagasaki
heroes / my
hiroshima angels

they’ll not see
                    she said
not yet / not ever

& the cherry trees still flower
tears for generations

Poetry on the Picket Line, news of upcoming fundraiser & poem by Grim Chip

hackneyritzyprotest460Poetry on the Picket Line (PotPL) grew out of the solidarity work carried out by the poets involved with supporting PCS members in the National Gallery dispute. Understanding the challenges of keeping spirits high on picket lines first hand, they saw an opportunity to punctuate the speeches and slogans with poetry to both entertain and agitate. The dispute was successful, as was the poetry, so with word getting round, PotPL poets have gone on to support strikers at the National Museum of Wales, Junior Doctors, Cleaners at the LSE and, most recently, the Picturehouse Cinema workers fighting for a living wage. They have performed poetry alongside Owen Jones and John McDonnell including sharing a platform at the May Day demonstration this year.

PotPL have always believed in putting their money where their mouths are and use the power of poetry to move people to build funds to support workers in struggle. For this reason, Poetry on the Picket Line are holding their first fundraiser “Cellarful of Solidarity” on Sat Nov 18th at The Betsey Trotwood in Farringdon, London. They will present some of the many poets who have supported or performed as a part of Poetry on the Picket Line including: Janine Booth, Tim Wells and Grim Chip, as well as Matt Abbott, Sophie Cameron, Dan Cockrill and Peter Raynard, with others to be announced. Solidarity messages and poems from Billy Bragg, Phill Jupitus, Tim Turnbull, Joolz Denby, and many more will be read and raffled on the night, which will end with a special Rocksteady DJ set from Tim Wells and live music from singer/songwriter Maddy Carty.

chip picket lineToday’s poem is by Grim Chip who has featured on the PP before. Grim is a poet and trade union activist, a founder member of Poetry on the Picket line.

Bulletin

The Prime Minister is being kept informed,
It is very much business as usual,
We can prove the doom-mongers wrong,
In the event of an incident,
There is no reason to panic,
Casualties are inevitable,
The Prime Minister is being kept informed,
Casualties are inevitable,
There is no reason to panic,
In the event of an incident,
We can prove the doom-mongers wrong,
It is very much business as usual,
The Prime Minister is being kept informed.

 

 

Myth Men and Lone Man Stories by Sarah Sibley

he's hiding somethingOne of my many favourite Tom Waits’ songs is ‘What’s He Building in There?’, about a very ‘private’ man, someone who keeps to himself. ‘He has subscriptions to those magazines. He never waves when he goes by. He’s hiding something from the rest of us He’s all to himself I think I know why.’ Waits says the song is the ‘rat theory’; as there are more and more of us, we turn on each other, with a kind of malevolent curiosity, especially if someone is ‘different’ to what we perceive is the norm. The song is very prescient given it was written in 1999, before the Internet took off.

Back home, we had a ‘strange’ man who lived on the corner. He was a recluse and lived in a big dark house with an overgrown garden that had a pond in it – the handed-down story was that he buried his wife underneath the pond. He was known as Wet Foot, because he once painted his front door and wrote Wet Paint on the glass, that he never took off and it faded away until it looked like the words ‘Wet Foot’. Lots of kids would ‘rat-a-tat ginger’ his door and run away, but sometimes he would come out and chase them. He was an archetype of Waits’ song with all the rumours of what people heard or saw, almost all of which are not true: ‘Now what’s that sound from under the door? He’s pounding nails into a hardwood floor and I swear to god I heard someone moaning low.’

20170716_201556_resizedToday’s dark poems ‘Myth Men’ and ‘Lone Man Stories’ by Sarah Sibley, are similar childhood tales of rumours, with fleeting sights and sounds of scary men. “Have you been down the cellar at The Dog?/ Seen the drayman covered in cobwebs,/ fading in and out of sight/ with the flickering light bulb;’ Such stories are drawn from the ‘outsiders’ of village life where Sarah grew up, which excited the imagination of children in an area full of country shadows. “Up at High Winds farm by the slurry pit/ we’d hide and seek in a thicket/ ripped every night by storms -/ the kind we don’t get in these parts anymore.’ And there always has to be a dark side in order for the stories to hold our curiosity. ‘For a time, stories of a lone man/ wiped us out from the copse.’ And it is always a glimpse, it can never be a clear sighting: ‘Shrimp’s sister saw him once in her rear-view mirror, disappearing down Baby Lane,/ feeling hunted again.’ Happy Samhain everyone – welcome to the darkness.

 

Sarah Sibley was born in 1985 and grew up in the Suffolk countryside where she currently lives and works. Her pamphlet The Withering Room was published in 2015 by Green Bottle Press and was the London Review Bookshop’s pamphlet of the year. Her work has featured in Agenda, Orbis, Iota, Obsessed with Pipework, Ink, Sweat & Tears, and And Other Poems. She is currently working on a first full collection.

 

 

Myth Men

Have you been down the cellar at The Dog?
Seen the drayman covered in cobwebs,
fading in and out of sight
with the flickering light bulb;
seen the man whose head
is as big as a car steering wheel,
driving fast out of Stowmarket.
Or the man whose hand is a pig’s trotter;
Shrimp’s sister saw him once in her rear-view mirror,
disappearing down Baby Lane,
feeling hunted again.

Lone Man Stories

Up at High Winds farm by the slurry pit
we’d hide and seek in a thicket
ripped every night by storms –
the kind we don’t get in these parts anymore.
For a time, stories of a lone man
wiped us out from the copse.
Rik Loader said he’d crossed back in,
showed us his souvenir – a knife,
its blade the width of my thigh.
At night I dreamt of the thicket;
in my hiding place a dead fox,
the lone man lost in a cloud of gnats.
Other times the startled pigs
and spooked horses tipped his mind
and he went staggering into the pit;
at the farm a single light kept vigil –
no stir from the brush,
a campfire burned to dust.

 

Fracking, North Dakota and Prophet and Loss, a plague foretold by David Olsen

001-fracking-57ed6af0d7315-57ed6af0e7d4eWhen it comes to making a decision, we all like to think that we have rational minds of our own; we are open to listening to both sides of an argument, then we put our tick or cross in the box, give our opinion in the pub, at work, or Speaker’s Corner. But the truth is, we are all a guilty of bias. However, I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing; for example, if Boris Johnson or Alan Sugar say something I’m pretty sure I will disagree with them; so the nihilistic part of me says, why bother listening? Most politicians with wealth (often inherited), are all eyes on maintaining their privileged lineage, thus couch their arguments in a thinly veiled rationale, which usually equates to bullshit and hypocrisy.

This applies to today’s subject, fracking. Type ‘arguments for and against fracking’ into your preferred internet search engine and you actually don’t need to read what is being said, just who is saying it, to know which side you are on. Unsurprisingly, the likes of Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, CPRE argue strongly against fracking (causes earthquakes, polluting, won’t have huge impact on energy costs), whilst the likes of Spiked Online and those supporting oil and gas companies argue in favour (it’s not dangerous, it’s clean, will create jobs, reduce prices, etc.). Then there is Drill or Drop, which reports ‘evidence-based’ journalism about the onshore oil and gas business.

A lot of the problem with the search for new energy sources, which are sorely needed, is the governance behind their implementation. In today’s neo-liberal world, where co-operative non-profit ventures are rarely considered, big business with its anabolic influence, doesn’t need to ask for our trust, because government won’t hold them to account and are ever-seeking to offload fiscal responsibility. David Olsen’s poems, David 2007d (2)Fracking, North Dakota’ and ‘Prophet and Loss, a plague foretold, expose the effects fracking and rabid capitalism have on the lives of people directly impacted by them. From the beginning of such processes: ‘Columns of stainless steel stab the earth./ Waste gas flares from a pipe;/ orange flames corrupt the blameless sky.’ To their catastrophic end: ‘Through every field and farm will swarm/ conforming fools consuming all,// returning naught of worth.’ The case for and against a biased attitude is a straightforward one; your opinion is either biased toward ensuring you make huge profits whatever the consequence, or it is skewed toward ensuring you have a livelihood; a job, a home, enough food, access to health services, to education. Of course, if we weren’t so biased we’d use the terms objective/subjective so that everyone would really know which side we were on.

 

David Olsen’s Unfolding Origami (80pp, 2015) won the Cinnamon Press Poetry Collection Award, and Past Imperfect, his second full-length poetry collection, is forthcoming from Cinnamon Press. Poetry chapbooks from US publishers include Exit Wounds (2017), Sailing to Atlantis (2013), New World Elegies (2011), and Greatest Hits (2001). David’s work appears widely in the US and Europe. A poet, playwright, and fiction writer with a BA in chemistry from University of California-Berkeley and an MA in creative writing from San Francisco State University, he was formerly an energy economist, management consultant, and performing arts critic.

 

Fracking
North Dakota

A young rancher leans on a fencepost,
squints at a distant horizon as if to discern
the future of his family’s land and livelihood.

Prices of open land rise with groundwater
toxicity. Soon neither man nor beast
will inhabit this home on the range.

Columns of stainless steel stab the earth.
Waste gas flares from a pipe;
orange flames corrupt the blameless sky.

Land, once infinite and timeless,
is now changed, changed utterly
by the eroding flood of dollars

created beyond the wounded horizon
by the reckless click of a mouse.

Prophet and Loss
a plague foretold

He hears the stirring underground.
Too long ignored, the sage intones
his grim portentous prophecy:

From drought shall arise a plague
devouring every fecund bud
and diligent leaf, leaving bare

sterile stems to grieve their loss.
Through every field and farm will swarm
conforming fools consuming all,

returning naught of worth. And their
new verities and misdeeds will be
unnumbered as indifferent stars.

Now the sightless sage awaits
the frenzied buzz of locust wings,
the reckless theft of common wealth.

 

Anger in Poetry: Fran Lock’s Muses and Bruises

muses bruises imageIs there enough anger in mainstream poetry today; in the journals/magazines and collections? In the US from Audre Lorde to Claudine Rankine, Terrance Hayes to Danez Smith, there is great anger in poems about the discriminations upon which that country is founded and governed. They make it into the pages of POETRY, and sell many books. Here in the UK, I’m not so sure. We may not have the scale of discrimination as felt by the US, but black men are still killed by police here, women are discriminated, abused, and killed by men, and let us not get started on the implications of Brexit and the hatred it has stoked.

This is not meant to be a comprehensive survey of anger in UK poetry, but off the top of my shiny head, there were the Liverpool poets, the original ranters of the 1980s who came out of punk; some still going strong like Tim Wells who chronicles those times in his site Stand Up and Spit. There are others in performance poetry and spoken word (as it is known); Anthony Anaxagorou’s Outspoken Press in London, which includes a number of BAME poets, such as Sabrina Mahfouz and Raymond Antrobus. There are other BAME poets, such as Kei Miller, Malika Booker, Roger Robinson, Nick Makoha (the latter published by the wonderful Peepal Press) who have great subtlety to the anger in their poems. Tony Walsh and Salena Godden from Burning Eye Books (to name only two from that stable) who have been treading the boards with their distinct brand of anger that is often done with humour. Smokestack Books, has consistently published radical, global voices, such as Amir Darwish and Steve Ely, for many years now.

Penned in the Margins publishes the aforementioned Tim Wells, and one of my favourite poets, Melissa Lee Houghton (who recently published Cumshot in D Minor, by Offord Road Press), whose poems of sexual abuse and misogyny burn. Of course, there are other publishers whose catalogue will include poets or poems of anger, e.g. Bloodaxe and Nine Arches Press, two of my favourite publishers, as well as some of Kim Moore’s past and present poems published by Seren. Then there are the online publications, with an overt social and political stance, which include Reuben Woolley’s ‘i am not a silent poet’ and Jody Porter’s ‘Well Versed’. (apologies for any glaring omissions I’m sure I’ve made, please feel free to add to the list in the comments below). However, I do feel these are on the margins.

fran lockFran Lock, who has appeared on this site a number of times, is, along with Melissa Lee Houghton, one of those electrifying poets both on the page and the stage. Since Flatrock in 2011, to the wonderful The Mystic and the Pig Thief (Salt – which no longer publishes poetry), through to Dogtooth (Outspoken Press), and our feature collection Muses and Bruises (published by Manifesto Press) Fran has consistently shouted down those who discriminate against the working class, women in particular. As she says in her introduction to the collection: “I was told once that my writing was inauthentic because working-class women don’t think or speak that way. Bollocks. I am a working- class woman, and I do write and think and speak this way. There is no one homogeneous working-class voice, any more than there is a single monolithic working-class culture. No one has any right to set limits on the way we sound or the words we use.” The collection is complemented beautifully with collages by Steev Burgess, which “bring this to the fore,[with] a mixture of decadence and squalor; grind and grime with a lick of glitter.”

The collection is in two parts; the first is a set of poems based on the muses of the arts from Greek mythology. Here is Clio, muse of history: “My mother was a Goddess, she could charm/ bees and her cheekbones were stunning./ Her silence gathered dust like an heirloom. //I am an unquiet child./ I see things and I must tell: //That man, grinning out from under/ the redacted oblong of his eyes, crawled/ from the comic opera of the past, dragging his period costume;” Similarly in the poem, Erato (muse of love poetry), there is the question of female identity from a patriarchal expectation: “And to top it all off, I’m expected to ride on
a float, my face scraped on in a strong wind, all
tits and teeth, rigid as any a hood ornament: winged Victory, pigtailed and pinioned. Bow to the crowd
like Jackie O, glamming it up at an airport.” Fran is imagining Erato as a Connemara beauty queen who is not allowed to be seen as having any other ‘attribute’ than her physical beauty, and thus like the Greek muse, is imprisoned by it.

m&bThe second part of the collection is a wonderful grotesque imagining of a place called Rag Town and the girls who inhabit it, in particular the ubiquitous La La. In her notes on this section Fran says: “We have the right, and we deserve the space in which to be angry. I started writing the Rag Town sequence with this one thought looping endlessly in my head.” This was driven by Fran’s disillusion with what International Women’s Day has become; originally called International Working Women’s Day, the dropping of the ‘Working’ de-classed the day, so that in Fran’s words it has become divisive to raise issues of class as they relate to women’s oppression. “It’s divisive, for example, to say that white, settled, middle-class women “escape” from unlovable and undervalued domestic labour at the expense of working-class women, immigrant women, women in poverty.”

Towards the end of the collection, in the poem ‘Rag Town Girls see God’, there is almost an inverted elegy in its telling of the end of man as represented by the deity. “There he is, eyes half closed, doing the math of a difficult miracle, wrist-wearied, leaning into his swig, his pull of smoke. We assume he is God. He reminds us of a man we once knew: slender and insulted by life, mixing his blessings like strong drink, suicidally agile, tying a nimble noose the minute your back was turned.” The final poem in the collection has undoubtedly the longest and angriest title, aimed at the mainstream poetry world that ignores the ‘likes of us’: “Rag Town Girls Don’t Want to be in your Shitty Fucking Magazine/Anthology/Stable of Wanky, Middle-class Poets Anyhow.” These following lines from the poem end what is a brilliant collection masterfully complemented by the collages of Steev Burgess.

“How to fake it? How to keep it in, that jittery, impassable grief? Don’t scratch yourselves, girls. Bathe. Point your toes. Glowing in a backward light cast by everything you flee from. You like proper edges, incline a tin ear to the shrug and flutter of our debateable music. If we could only sing like you, a proficient, accredited language. But we can’t, so we won’t. La-la lit a fire instead. It ate a hole in everything.”

You can listen to Fran read two of the poems here and here. You can buy the collection published by Culture Matters/Manifesto Press here.

 

Fran Lock is a sometime itinerant dog whisperer and author of three poetry collections, ‘Flatrock’ (Little Episodes, 2011), ‘The Mystic and the Pig Thief’ (Salt, 2014), and ‘Dogtooth’ (Out Spoken Press, 2017). Her work has appeared in various places, most recently Communist Review, The Morning Star, POETRY, Poetry Review, and in Best British Poetry 2015. She is the winner of various competitions including the 2014 Ambit Poetry Competition, the 2015 Out Spoken Poetry Prize, and the 2016 Yeats Poetry Prize and was shortlisted for the 2017 Bread and Roses Poetry Award.

 

Steev Burgess has juggled his career with an interest in music and art, releasing records and holding his debut art exhibition of collage art in “Red Bologna” with the help of the Circolo Ricreativo Aurora ARCI. Taking a break from music, he concentrated his efforts on making better art and extending his writing skills by “writing proper poetry” and founding the Y Tuesday poetry club at the Three Kings in Clerkenwell. His work caught the attention of the Libertine’s John Hassall. Steev and John now have a song writing partnership with his new band John Hassall and the April Rainers, whose debut album “Wheels to Idyll” has recently been released.

(images by Steev Burgess)

 

 

 

Saving for the Hamper by Ali Jones

oxfam coop stampsWhen I was young, my mum used to collect stamps. We had a Co-op on the corner. I remember she would come home with the shopping and blue stamps, letting me stick them in to slowly fill the pages until you had enough for a dividend (the books are low value collector’s items these days). The Co-op’s stamps were a response to their competitors’ schemes, especially the catch-all Green Shield stamps, which were very popular during the 1960s and 70s. Its founder, Richard Tompkins went on to set up Argos. These were the precursor to modern-day loyalty cards that now involve you giving them information about your habits through your purchases thereby capturing your ‘loyalty’.

The stamps were first introduced in the United States towards the end of the 19th century; given to customers who paid in cash as opposed to credit. There are though other schemes, especially saving for Christmas, which is implied in Alison Jones’ poem, “Saving for the Hamper”: “There was more to it than I thought, the pulling together Profile Picof pennies/ in a small leather purse and counting them when no one was looking,/ the card left face down on the kitchen table, in anticipation of a stamp.” These schemes were/are targeted at those who may not have bank accounts, or a way in which they have enough extra money at the beginning of December. This was the case for the grandmother in this poem, “I did not see the strange woman/ who woke in the dark and went digging through her pockets,/ knowing she would find nothing more than ghosts and prayers.” The schemes are now fairly widespread, the latest being Toys R Us; this despite a number going bust, sometimes before the Xmas return to its customers, such as Farepak where people tried for years to get their money back without success. Pleasures change, whether it be a computer game, or as in our poem, “The sweetness of boxed dates was as surprising as summer rain,/ and now I know that hope was a wellspring beneath the ground.” Merry Christmas everyone, whatever your faith or time of the year it may be, at least when it comes to the concerns of capitalism.

 

Ali Jones is a teacher, and writer, living in Oxford, England. She holds an MA in English, focused on poetry in domestic spaces and has written poetry in a variety of forms for many years. She is a mother of three. She is interested in the relationships between place and personal, in terms of ancestry, the everyday, geology, folk lore and fairy tales.  Her work has appeared in Fire, Poetry Rivals Spoken Word Anthology, Strange Poetry, Ink Sweat and Tears, Snakeskin Poetry, Atrium, Picaroon Poetry, Mother’s Milk Books, The Lake Magazine, Breastfeeding Matters, Breastfeeding Today and Green Parent magazine. She writes a regular column for Breastfeeding Matters Magazine, and blogs for The Motherload. She was the winner of the Green Parent Writing Prize in 2016, the runner up for the Mother’s Milk prize for prose in 2016, and has also written for The Guardian. Her poetry pamphlets, Heartwood and Omega are forthcoming with Indigo Dreams press in 2018.

 

 Saving for the Hamper

There was more to it than I thought, the pulling together of pennies
in a small leather purse and counting them when no one was looking,

the card left face down on the kitchen table, in anticipation of a stamp.
There’s more to making a celebration than I ever expected,

the small processes of finding one thing to set against another
one thing to leave out, to make do without. The chill of the larder,

the echoes in the meat safe that I did not hear, stilted to lift it
from the reachings of hungry mice. I did not see the strange woman

who woke in the dark and went digging through her pockets,
knowing she would find nothing more than ghosts and prayers.

It was always better than I hoped, the old need keeping us strong,
the anticipation of cardboard boxes and shredded newspaper,

spam, Dundee cake, jellied fruits, Baxter’s soup and beetroot relish,
My grandmother’s cooking always tasted the best. At those times,

I think we had something else with us all along, in the way she worked
hour after hour, back bent beneath the heat, drifting between

house and garden, bringing everything in, currants and plums,
potatoes and peas, turning the soil, not a scrap wasted, ever.

The sweetness of boxed dates was as surprising as summer rain,
and now I know that hope was a wellspring beneath the ground,

as she worked, letting things in, immersed in the purr of the wireless,
bleeding carols through the air, making things possible, gathering us in.