New Book: The Malvern Aviator by Richard Skinner

malvern aviatorToday may be Easter Sunday, and it may be April 1st, but in this wonderful 24 hour 365/6 day year casino online economy, you can’t be fooled out of finding buds of goodness shooting up (even if it is snowing up North). Richard Skinner’s collection, The Malvern Aviator is one such bud which is published today and available from Smokestack Books. I am proud to say Richard is a Stablemate and for a number of gigs, will be my poet bro’ as we embark on our Rollercoaster tour promoting our books. You can buy Richard’s book from Smokestack here.

Below is the poem ‘Dark Nook’ by Richard from the archive, about the working conditions down the mines of the Isle of Man in the 19th century.

Publicity photo

Coal has received most historic attention in terms of industrial development and of course industrial strife. Less is known of the importance of tin mining. There is a certain awareness of its history in Cornwall, but as Richard Skinner’s poem Dark Nook, and the research behind it shows, it was a feature in the Isle of Man as well. And unsurprisingly, like the experience of the coal industry, conditions were just as bad. However, you had to be lucky in the first place just to get the job. “I am Egbert Clague./I come every morning from Agneash/hoping for the nod from the bargain man.” When you did get the ‘nod’ it took you, “two hours to descend the ladders,/…The hole to go down is just two foot by two,” It was dangerous work and there was no compensation for accidents, so when Egbert’s legs are crushed, his wife has to work on the Washing Floor, sorting the ore from the stone. “It’s worse work than the mine—/she has no more feeling in her hands./I’ll be joining her there soon.”

Richard explains the research he carried out on a recent trip to the Isle of Man:
11010594_10152971672946169_8033033697610363003_oI found the island to be a beautiful place full of myth and folklore but I hadn’t realised how much mining had gone on there, and over such a long period, too. The Great Laxey Mine was by far the largest on the island and comparable to some of the famous Cornish tin mines. The first shaft was started in 1824 and sunk to a depth of 247 fathoms (1482 feet). The next 30 years saw a further three shafts sunk. Miners worked two shifts—6am-2pm and 2pm-10pm—but when production peaked in the 1870s, mining carried on 24 hours a day. Cheap foreign imports hit the company hard and the mine eventually closed in 1914.

Miners worked in a team of six led by an ‘elder’ who would agree an amount per day with the ‘bargain man’, who represented the mine, and would split the money with the rest of his team. If you were ill or injured, you didn’t get paid anything. Gunpowder explosions were the most common cause of accidents. Some miners fell down shafts, others were killed by falling rocks or timber. Carbon dioxide—or ‘blackdamp’—was a constant threat. Heavier than air, it would settle at the bottom of the mine. Explosive methane, found in coalmines, was not present in the Great Laxey Mine so the miners could carry candles, the flickering of the flame alerting them when oxygen levels were running low.”

Finally, don’t think that tin mining is any less important today and that it doesn’t have a large social and environmental impact. As a report by Friends of the Earth stated: “If you own a mobile, it’s probably held together by tin from the Indonesian island of Bangka. Mining is wrecking the environment and every year it claims dozens more lives.”

Richard’s poems have been widely published. His full collection, ‘the light user scheme’, was published by Smokestack (2013). His pamphlet ‘Terrace’ (also from Smokestack) was published in April 2015. He is Director of the Fiction Programme at Faber Academy and has published three novels with Faber and Faber.

Dark Nook

I am Egbert Clague.
I come every morning from Agneash
hoping for the nod from the bargain man.
It takes two hours to descend the ladders,
our tallow candles round our necks
like white asparagus.

The hole to go down is just two foot by two,
the spokes like blunt knives,
the blackdamp smelling awful. We chip
and hack until we see the sparkle
of the rich extraordinary,
haul it up through smoke to the adit.

One day, they brought me up
in the dead box, my leg crushed.
The Captain of the Mines
came in person to the cottage and said,
‘We can’t give you anything
and that will have to keep you.’

My wife Brenda is on the
Washing Floors now, sorting ore from stone
ready to ship to Swansea.
It’s worse work than the mine—
she has no more feeling in her hands.
I’ll be joining her there soon.

Meantime, I grow veg, read and
visit the village chapel on my sticks
to pray our Sooki will one day flee.
When I’m alone, I kneel and whisper,
‘The affection you get back from children
is sixpence as change from a sovereign.’

happy poem & sad poem by Jake Hawkey

Stop_the_FOBTs_Machine-e1360155648590Besides cleaning the toilets, one of the hardest things I had to do when I used to work in the local bookies, was taking bets from Dads of some of the lads I knew; especially Dads who had too much to drink. Coming over from the pub after three o’clock closing, they would empty their pockets on the horses before trailing off home to sleep it off and face the consequences. This was a time when there were far fewer races to bet on and no Fixed Odd Betting Terminals (like the old one arm bandit).

Lies, damn lies, and statistics, damn the betting industry over problem gambling. On the one hand, it is claimed that problem gambling hasn’t risen at all over the past fifteen or more years, since FOBTs were introduced. Yet, there are questions about the relevance of the methodology to today’s market. Putting that to one side, there is undoubtedly an increase in advertising in gambling and it also makes me wonder the correlation with the increase in payday loans. There is far too little regulation in this market. Although gambling and betting are synonymous, I think there is a difference between someone studying the form and placing a bet on a particular nag, dog, or football team, and someone coming into a betting shop and dropping their money in a machine of luck.

Jake Hawkey PictureToday’s poems by Jake Hawkey, takes on the juxtaposition of a loving husband and problem gambling and drinking. They remind me a little of Simon Armitage’s ‘Poem’ in the duality of a man’s personality: ‘And every week he tipped up half his wage./ And what he didn’t spend each week he saved./ And praised his wife for every meal she made./ And once, for laughing, punched her in the face.’ Jake’s poems are split neatly into ‘happy’ and ‘sad’: in ‘happy’ our narrator tells of his boss who had a drinking problem, but ‘she gave him a chance./ she stuck by him./ it’ll be seven years soon without a drink/ and they’re off to Spain next week.’ However, as you can guess from the title, in ‘sad’ it doesn’t turn out so well. ‘George has just been escorted by the police from/ the premises./ £900 went missing and George took it from the safe/ and spunked it in a local bookmakers.

It was the mothers of my friends (as well as my friends) who were the collateral damage of problem gambling and drinking done by the ‘head-of-the-household’ – although I do have to emphasise they were a minority. There are multiple reasons why someone becomes addicted to some form of stimulant; but what doesn’t help is when the ‘free market’ whether through advertising or deregulation is allowed to feed on the vulnerable. It’s like giving a drunk driver a bottle of whisky on the motorway, it is a car crash waiting to happen, with the family sitting in the back.

 

Jake Hawkey was born in south London in 1990, studied Fine Art at the University of Westminster and released his debut chapbook ‘all the flowers at the petrol station’ in 2016. He is currently teaching and listening for his next poem. You can get Jake’s debut chapbook here – Twitter: @jake_hawkey

 

happy poem

 

my boss George
said his wife hated him when he used to drink.
she used to pray for him to go to sleep;
staring up to the ceiling.
she still flinches to the sound of a can opening.

he had no control.

now, he tells me,
they travel the world.
they’ve been to Singapore,
Italia and many more.
he’s lighter on his feet.
ocean liners, one-liners,
making love in big hotel beds.
Sunday dinners joking with the in-laws.

now she adores him.

she calls the desk at work and I put her through
and even I can feel the warmth through the phone.

she gave him a chance.
she stuck by him.
it’ll be seven years soon without a drink
and they’re off to Spain next week.

this is a happy poem

and George you guys just might be
my hero and heroine.
 

 

sad poem

 

in a previous poem
I wrote about my boss George finding some balance.
George has just been escorted by the police from
the premises.
£900 went missing and George took it from the safe
and spunked it in a local bookmakers.

this man with a family, a beautiful wife and a mortgage
won’t be trusted around money again.

betting on Charlton to win when he doesn’t even know
who’s in the team.

maybe this is how he affords holidays.
maybe he just wanted to take his wife away again,

to make up for lost time.

I hope George figures out what’s driving him.

I hope George finds some balance.

I hope George slays his demons.

his wife phones in to ask what’s happening –
her loving voice down the phone –
I don’t know what to tell her.

 

Three Books from Smokestack in April: Stephen Sawyer, Richard Skinner, and Peter Raynard

Radically good poetry from Smokestack, April 2018

Stephen Sawyer, THERE WILL BE NO MIRACLES HERE

Stephen Sawyer’s debut collection is a book about public dreams, private desires and common fears. From a Merseyside housing estate in the 1960s via Pinochet and Thatcher to the floods in Sheffield in 2007, these poems trace the sutures of power and resistance on the body and under the skin through the mediations of love, death, class, art and oppression.

Paperback £7.99 – ISBN 9781999827601

Richard Skinner, THE MALVERN AVIATOR

Novelist Richard Skinner’s third collection tips certainties on their heads, making familiar objects in the world unfamiliar. From the Lollards to Saint Fabiola, questions of faith run through these poems as they engage with different poetic forms – the cento, the cinquain, the unrhymed sonnet, cut-ups and free verse.

Paperback £4.99 – ISBN 9780995767584

Peter Raynard, PRECARIOUS

A book that  tackles questions of masculinity, class, mental health and work head on. Rosa Luxembourg, Orgreave, 11-plus failures – it’s a book about precarious times, hard lessons and fragile lives, a defiant celebration of British working-class life and the people ‘who make the wheels go round’.

Paperback £7.99 – ISBN 9780995767591

Different Perspectives by Mike Gallagher

FullSizeRender (4)I have just received a great little publication by my friend and comrade in poetry, Rishi Dastidar; ‘95 Reminders’ is designed like an extra-large packet of cigarette papers, with front, back and insides adorned with epigram-type directions. The idea is based on Martin Luther’s 95 theses; some 500 years old, they were ‘arguments against what he viewed as corrupt practices of the Catholic Church, and now considered the start of the Protestant Reformation’. Rishi’s 95 reminders are a wonderful mix of wry powerful statements, from the personal (a reminder that your kids are not as interesting as your thought they were), to the global (a reminder that the world will always be on fire, whether we are here or not), to the political (a reminder that bearing witness can also be an act of resistance).

In light of today’s poem, and my interest in power, I particularly like ones such as his pop-picking Number 1 – ‘A reminder that no one – OK, very few people – ever gives up power willingly’. But the one that really rings in my ear, is probably one of the most simply put – ‘A reminder that solidarity is not a swear word’. Yes! If you look back to the miner’s strike of ’84 for example, Thatcher stopped workers from other parts of the country, going to support the likes of the Yorkshire miners. It was a brazen obstruction of solidarity.

White House PoetMike Gallagher’s poem ‘Different Perspectives’ juxtaposes two examples of oppression; the first ‘Morant Bay, Jamaica, Seventeen Fifties,/ in close order a line of black women/ file up a ship’s gangway, overladen/ panniers of coal balanced on their heads.’ There is some comparison here with Mike’s own heritage, as the Irish were the first to be exiled to Jamaica by the British, and today still make up a large minority in the country. The second ‘perspective’ is ‘West Hartlepool, Nineteen Sixties, on a hard/ winter day, a line of unemployed men scratch/ the shoreline for nuggets of coal, shipbuilding/ gone, steelworks moved on to cheaper climes.’ Although some fifty years past, this feels so contemporaneous. And as Mike says of the two, ‘Different? Hardly! Just different perspectives.’ It is this type of solidarity of thought, experience, of action, that Thatcher knew to rail against when saying: ‘Morality is personal. There is no such thing as collective conscience, collective kindness, collective gentleness, collective freedom.’ I think the opposite to be true – it is immorality that is personal, and the aim and success of the collective, is solidarity, which she made into a swear word.

 

Mike Gallagher, writer, poet and editor, was born on Achill Island and worked in London for forty years before retiring to Kerry. His prose, poetry, haiku and songs have been published in Ireland and throughout Europe, America, Australia, Nepal, India, Thailand, Japan and Canada. His writing has been translated into Croatian, Japanese, Dutch, German, Italian and Chinese. He won the Michael Hartnett Viva Voce competition in 2010 and 2016, was shortlisted for the Hennessy Award in 2011 and won the Desmond O’Grady International Poetry Contest in 2012. His poetry collection Stick on Stone was published by Revival Press in 2013.

 

 

Different Perspectives

Different pictures in my Sunday paper:
Morant Bay, Jamaica, Seventeen Fifties,
in close order a line of black women
file up a ship’s gangway, overladen
panniers of coal balanced on their heads.
From an upper deck, a white overseer
looks down on the scene; no doubt, he fumes
when the woman slips, spills her load
onto the floor below; no doubt, he takes
appropriate action just as I would in Achill
all those years later when the donkey got
stuck in the bog, lashing out with whip and clog
at my own clumsy beast of burden.

West Hartlepool, Nineteen Sixties, on a hard
winter day, a line of unemployed men scratch
the shoreline for nuggets of coal, shipbuilding
gone, steelworks moved on to cheaper climes.
Balanced on the bars of Rudge or Raleigh bikes,
jute bags hold half-crown promises; Woodbines
dangle from bottom lips; half hidden under the
peaks of cloth caps, cowering despair scowls
its irresistible, irredeemable fate.

Different? Hardly! Just different perspectives
on nationhood, on history, on gender on race,
snares set by an unscrupulous elite to divide us,
to persuade us to hate, to slaughter each other
while they, the bankers, the masters of war,
the ministers, the moguls, the rapacious
minority, rob our Earth of its resources; by choice,
will starve to death eleven million children
in this one year alone; through their predator instincts,
their manic obsession with profits, will lead us into wars,
into famines, maybe annihilation, lure us, slavishly.
to the insatiable trough of commerce, make us
even more unequal. Greed makes us all the poorer.

Message from my Aunt on her son’s death anniversary by Zeina Hashem Beck

MOMS_EIn almost every country, in particular those where guns are prevalent, the murder rate is overwhelmingly men killing men; whether in gangs, organised criminal activities, or random acts of violence. Yet, it is women, mothers especially, who are at the forefront of the grieving and action to stop further killings of their sons and partners. In the UK, there are initiatives such as the Mothers Against Violence in Manchester, in a number of US states MOMS Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, there is even a Grandmothers version of this group.

Of course, in zones of conflict and state-sanctioned violence, the pattern is even worse. In Argentina, during military rule in the 70s & 80s, it is estimated that 30,000 people went ‘missing’. It is the mothers, sisters, aunts, who turn up at political institutions, holding pictures of their loved ones who were taken by the junta, asking for information. In the once besieged town of Raqqa in Syria, families are now searching for their men who went ‘missing’ at the hands of Islamic State. And one can only imagine how widespread this is in Syria at the hands of the government.

Beige DressZeina Hashem Beck’s poem, ‘Message from my Aunt on her son’s death anniversary, beautifully tells of the narrator’s relationship with her aunt who lost her son ‘to a shooting on the street’. This is done through the seemingly blunt tool of texting and emoticons, but what is told is poignant, sad, and also uplifting, about a love between an aunt and niece – two women grieving over the loss of another man to gun violence.

Zeina Hashem Beck is a Lebanese poet. Her most recent collection, Louder than Hearts, won the 2016 May Sarton NH Poetry Prize. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, won Best of the Net, and appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, World Literature Today, the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day, and elsewhere. Her poem “Maqam” won Poetry Magazine’s 2017 Frederick Bock Prize.

 

Message from my Aunt on her son’s death anniversary

My aunt, the one who lost a son
to a shooting on the street, the one slowly losing
her sight, sends me voice messages and emoticons,
prayers like A fortress, my love,
protect you from harm in all directions –
above and below you, behind and before you.

Today, the emoticon is an orange.
Perhaps it’s a mistake. Perhaps she means
a kiss, or a heart, or a flower,
her eyes and aging fingers failing her.

But perhaps she means the fruit, remembers
how she used to sing me that song
where I was the orange she wanted
to peel and eat and not share with anyone,

remembers how much I love sour winter oranges,
the way they are round and whole, yet break
into many bright crescents hidden beneath their skin.

Perhaps she’s saying what she always says
when she opens her arms and walks towards me,
I was telling myself you must have arrived.
The whole town smells of oranges when you are here.

The Communist Manifesto: a poetic coupling by Peter Raynard

The following appeared on the brilliant Culture Matters site, edited by Mike Quille. The site is a great source and resource of working class and socialist culture.

A Poetic Coupling of the Communist Manifesto by Peter Raynard (with Karl Marx)

Counting in at around 12,000 words, can there be a more influential book with so relatively few words, than the Communist Manifesto? Today (21st February, 2018) is said to be the 170th anniversary of its publication. Written in a six-week rush, after the Communist League imposed a deadline on Marx, its take up has been phenomenal and its relevance remains today, if not more so.

Much is planned to mark the occasion, especially as it is also the 200th anniversary of Marx’s birth on May 5th. I have read the Manifesto a number of times over the years. However, as a poet, I hadn’t given it much thought in my writing until I was introduced to a poetic form ‘coupling’, devised by the poet Karen McCarthy Woolf. Coupling is a line by line poetic response (that includes rhyme, repetition, and assonance) to an existing text; it can be applied to any text but I think works very well with political writing, either as a way of making it relevant to today’s readers, or as a (satirical) polemic against it. In writing a poetic coupling of the Communist Manifesto I took the former approach but with a critical eye. The book will be published in May in time for the 200th anniversary. Below is my coupling of the infamous ‘preface’ of the book, as well as Marx’s ten ‘commandments’ of communism.

“In accordance with my state of mind at the time lyrical poetry was bound to be my first subject, at least the most pleasant and immediate one….Poetry however, could be and had to be only an accompaniment; I had to study law and above all felt the urge to wrestle with philosophy.” [Marx’s letter to his Father, November 1837]

karl marx ting

image by Sam Raynard

PREFACE

A spectre is haunting Europe
innit though

— the spectre of communism
that loose blanket in need of tucking in

All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre
this unholy spectre come to remove the opium and Xanax flow from the ennui of its existents

Pope and Tsar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police-spies.
Pope and President, Merkel Macron, autoimmune free radicals of capitalism, each playing I spy with my belittling eye

Where is the party in opposition that has not been decried as communistic by its opponents in power?
Karl saw a gap in the market before the market had been fully formed

Where is the opposition that has not hurled back the branding reproach of communism
no-one likes us, no-one likes us, no-one likes us, we don’t care, we are commies, new-born commies, we are commies from over there

against the more advanced opposition parties, as well as against its reactionary adversaries?
we are coming with sickles and fists, hammers and molotovs, balaclavas and masks, & pen and paper (just in case)

Two things result from this fact:
I. Communism is already acknowledged by all European powers to be itself a power
albeit a power with a crackly track record of misuse, one dictatored by substance abuse

II. It is high time that Communists should openly, in the face of the whole world
come out and tell it how it is FFS, it has been 170 years but it’s never too late!

publish their views, their aims, their tendencies,
they tend to hang to the left, last I heard, but added ingredients can make it absurd

and meet this nursery tale of the Spectre of Communism with a manifesto of the party itself
ring a ring a roses you pocketful of posers, atishoo, atishoo, we will knock off your crown

To this end, Communists of various nationalities have assembled in London
to mark the 200th anniversary of Marx’s birth, to honour his will, to update his worth

and sketched the following manifesto
give him a deadline and he’ll give you a tract, the theory, the practice, revolutionary acts

to be published in the English, French, German, Italian, Flemish and Danish languages
& Bakunin translated it into Russian, and we all know how that turned out

Marx’s Ten Commandments of Communism

…………..in most advanced countries, the following will be pretty generally applicable
behold, the secular ten commandments, scribed in the original Manifest der kommunistischen Partei

  1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purpose
    I suggest we begin with cutting the hedge funds, the casino capitalism, the prospecting close your eyes and pick a card path to prosperity

    2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax
    in the heated climate of today’s reprobates, they’ll not be much need for public debate

    3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance
    can I keep my granddad’s watch, it’s broken, it’s worthless, it means a lot?

    4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels
    there’ll be no more capital flight, those runways closed at midnight

    5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly
    credit where credit is due, an economy not founded on a global debt of $233 trillion, phew!

    6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State
    yes traveller I’m just putting you through, can you believe it, no trains overdue

    7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State
    of factories, mere metal filings remain, big data now is the name of the game

    the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan
    I sat upon the shore/ Fishing, with the arid plain behind me/ Shall I at least set my lands in order (TSE)

    8. Equal liability of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture
    you might need a little marketing advice, industrial armies doesn’t sound nice

    9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country
    the green with the grey, cosmopolitan hue, no borders, no hoarders, no get in the queue

    10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, &c, &c.
    with child labour/girls denied education/born into sex work we mustn’t forget this is not done-and-dusted, those wheels have not come off yet, though they may be a little rusted

Marx’s Final Words

The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains
With links made of debt, disease, war, racism, sexism, capitalism, and more

They have a world to win
and win it they will, for as Prometheus was Bound to say, ‘defy power which seems omnipotent’

Working Men of All Countries, Unite
and women as well, and all those between

__________________

 

Peter Raynard is the editor of Proletarian Poetry: poems of working class lives (www.proletarianpoetry.com), which has featured over 130 poems. He has been widely published and his debut collection Precarious will be published by Smokestack Books in April 2018. His poetic coupling of the Communist Manifesto will be published by Culture Matters in May, 2018. He is also a member of Malika’s Poetry Kitchen, a poetry collective set up by the poet Malika Booker.

 

The Shop-Floor Gospel by Jane Commane

The Big Clear Up Begins After Glastonbury 2009At the end of the Reading Festival when all of the punters have gone home, the site is a wreckage; a teenage detritus of (un)broken tents, sick-strewn sleeping bags, cans, cardboard, and many other unmentionables. What is left is gathered up by volunteers, some of it is donated to charities (one year, tents were given to refugees in Calais), the rest recycled and landfilled. I think of this as a metaphor for how capitalism leaves places when it’s done. A factory or a pit closes and all that is left is a rusting construction and a community having to rebuild itself from nothing. For it is not only the workers, but all those who relied on their income; suppliers, local shops, local clubs and pubs.

Hope is the wrong kind of four letter word in these circumstances (I won’t list the right kind). Of course, with the demise of the Unions, negotiations to mitigate against such withdrawal, tends to be a one-sided affair, with the government having to foot the bill in welfare provision, or lack thereof. During the late 90s, I worked in the area of what is known as Corporate Social Responsibility (a somewhat oxymoronic term looking back now). ‘Ethical’ companies such as The Body Shop led the way in making businesses more accountable for their social and environmental impacts (it was termed the triple bottom line). Some good work was done in this area, and many companies paid more than a little lip service to such responsibilities. However, when times became tight, whether financially in terms of profits, or politically in terms of government influence, it was always the financial bottom line that over-rode its helpless bedfellows.

Jane Commane Assembly Lines cover imageJane Commane’s poem The Shop-floor Gospel, from her debut collection Assembly Lines, goes inside the uncertainty felt by workers both back in the day (that day being the 1980s I’m presuming) to the present; where either redundancies are in the air of shop floor gossip, or potential closure. ‘Fortune-teller, free agent,/ laughter in grubby canteens;/ Mark my words./ We’re a living museum!/ There’s no future’. This type of thing is happening across many developed countries. The feeling of being left when industries go under, is one the reasons people gave for voting Trump, or Brexit; when there was ‘only the holding out against/ believing in some kind of new/ that pacified the absences/ with retail parks.’ The extent of a ©PLP-24854-webt-044company’s responsibility goes well beyond its shareholders, its directors, even its employers. They should have responsibility for clearing up the mess they left behind, because just like the volunteers at the end of the Reading Festival, people aren’t paid to pick up their own pieces.

Jane Commane was born in Coventry and lives and works in Warwickshire. Her first full-length collection, Assembly Lines, was published by Bloodaxe in February 2018. She is editor at Nine Arches Press, co-editor of Under the Radar magazine, co-organiser of the Leicester Shindig poetry series, and is co-author (with Jo Bell) of How to Be a Poet, a creative writing handbook. In 2017 she was awarded a Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowship.

 

The Shop-floor Gospel

Angry –
he who trudges the grey
dog-eared estate avenues,
a rasp of
I bloody told you so
ready on their lips.

Fortune-teller, free agent,
laughter in grubby canteens;
Mark my words.
We’re a living museum!
There’s no future.
We’re sold, sold out –

Decades blowing a coarse wind
through the resistance,
where no borders were left
to cross, no other line to join,
only the holding out against
believing in some kind of new
that pacified the absences
with retail parks.

You are
the lone no
on the shop-floor –
the habitual reader
of all the wrong news,
the public library ghost,
the vote cast for some
Old School
that’s long since closed.

A vanished oddment
a piss in the wind
the autumn leaves
laughing
at a glib historian’s
reworking
of the lady’s
not for turning.
I bloody told you so.