Indebted
Wednesday, 03 March 2021 11:35

Indebted

Published in Poetry

Indebted

by Sally Flint

'I owe them my life.' - Boris Johnson, thanking NHS staff.

It's early morning: no-one speaks. Not yet.
Yellow's Orthopaedics, pink Paediatrics,
purple Chemo ‒ not enough aqua for A&E,
so there's a sharing out of ICU's blues.

They've sat with the dying beyond shifts,
high-fived and hugged each other for the ventilated
dads, mums, daughters, sons, brought back.
Now, in handovers with bleary-eyed night-staff,

they dread further shortages coming.
It'll take more than a pandemic to examine
if the 'public purse', can pay those on 'the frontline'
enough to 'put food on their tables', settle their debts.

Nurses always applaud patient recoveries,
know sometimes it's a word, a touch, saves
a life. It's not about colours. They know politicians
who clapped loudly when blocking their pay rise.
Some dream of a future government unmasked.

After Lockdown
Wednesday, 03 March 2021 11:35

After Lockdown

Published in Poetry

After Lockdown

By Christopher Norris, with images by Martin Gollan and James Gillray

No we’ll never go back to the bad old days,
To the days of corporate greed,
When the bankers thrived on their bad old ways,
And the poor folk went in need.
For when viruses strike they don’t care who pays,
Who’s the bit-part or who plays the lead,
As the thing goes into its critical phase
And the leveller gets up to speed.

Oh we’ll not go back to the years we spent
Being told that the set-up was fine,
Though the good things went to the 1%
And the crap to the 99,
While they tried to muffle the discontent
Among those at the end of the line
By treating the Coronavirus ‘event’
As just that: not for us to repine!

But we’ll not go back to their crafty tales,
To their trickery, scams and lies,
To the nincompoops raised as alpha-males,
And the hedge-fund hiking guys
Whose idea of a game-plan that never fails
Is to chase the brown-envelope prize
Till the plan goes tits-up and a long spell in gaol’s
The just sentence that never applies.

For we’ll not go back to that time before
The Coronavirus struck,
Though it struck all the harder if you were poor
Or temporarily down on your luck,
And not raking it in like those devil’s spore
Soon competing to make a fast buck
From the plagues of the time, whether sickness or war,
With us plebs as their sitting duck.

No we’ll not go back to all that again,
To the age of executive jets
And the time when we thought you could hop on a plane
And then life would be good as it gets.
For it’s now clear as day if you’ve half a brain
That the present’s no time for regrets
If the skies show blue through the windowpane
And the Sun gleams bright as it sets.

No, we’ll not go back to the days of old
When those racketeers ran the show,
When our lives were wrecked by the lies we were sold
And the rip-offs they had on the go,
While their government lackeys did what they were told
Or picked up on the quid pro quo,
And the huddling masses, left out in the cold,
Were the last ones who got to know.

Yes, I grant you, the worst time we had to get through
Was the time when that plague hit its peak,
When the doctors and nurses did all they could do
But a vaccine was still far to seek,
And we suddenly knew, as the death-figures grew,
That for many the prospects were bleak
Since we all, nervous sailors and medical crew,
Were headed up Corona Creek.

But know this: if there’s one bit of wisdom we learned,
As we fretted lest months become years,
It’s that even the worst of events can be turned
To good ends as our retrospect clears;
For there’s strength to be had from those lessons hard-earned,
From the hopes intermixed with the fears,
And the new life discerned as we lock-downers yearned
To make good on those lives in arrears.

So there’s no going back to how matters stood then,
No regressing to times gone by,
When the captains of commerce were masters of men
And their whims could decide: live or die!
Yes, we lived through the virus and told ourselves: when
This thing’s finished we’ll want to know why
The old fixers and fraudsters had done it again,
Screwed us over and wrung us out dry.

Now we’ve made sure their schemes and devices won’t come
Back and bite us, like last time around,
That the billionaires won’t get us under their thumb
Till we end up six feet underground,
That their mansion won’t tower over our little slum
Where the viral infections abound,
And that never again shall they do zero-sum
Calculation of lives to the pound.

main image

A Voluptuary Under the Horrors of Digestion, by James Gillray, 1792

Prime Ministerial Couplets
Wednesday, 03 March 2021 11:35

Prime Ministerial Couplets

Published in Poetry

Prime Ministerial Couplets

by Edward Mackinnon

Not favouring Curry
John had his way with her, but wouldn’t promote her
She was salmonella poison to the loyal Tory voter

Suppliers of corpses
His Edinburgh schooling must have taught Blair
he needed a Bush just as Burke needed Hare

Economic Braveheart
No return to boom and bust: he certainly had some baws
when he claimed he’d put an end to capitalism’s laws

Distant relative of the Royals
Though born to rule, he said he was a team player at heart
ER and PR failed him when his heartless team fell apart

Surveyor’s report
Clad with towering faith and burning conviction
her strength and stability were proved a fragile fiction

Proving Juvenal right
Classic narcissist and Olympian liar
makes lyric poets give up and turn to satire

An Eton Mess

Image by Martin Gollan

An Eton Mess
Wednesday, 03 March 2021 11:35

An Eton Mess

Published in Poetry

An Eton Mess

by Christopher Norris, with cartoon by Martin Gollan

We’re in an Eton mess, my friends,
We’re in an Eton mess.
Those posh-boy crooks have cocked their snooks
And cooked the books when no one looks:
That’s how it goes I guess, my friends,
That’s how it goes I guess.

We’re back up Eton creek, my mates,
We’re back up Eton creek.
Those stuck-up fools from public schools
Have bribed their tools and fixed the rules
To suit their crony clique, my mates,
To suit their crony clique.

They lied to win our votes, you folk,
They lied to win our votes.
They said ‘Vote leave, one final heave’,
But whispered ‘We’ve tricks up our sleeve’,
And now they’re at our throats, you folk,
And now they’re at our throats.

They played the racist card, old chums,
They played the racist card.
They said ‘we’ll claw back cash galore
If we show more of them the door’.
They hit the migrants hard, old chums,
They hit the migrants hard.

It’s you they’re out to screw, you lot,
It’s you they’re out to screw.
They say the gains outweigh the pains
But use your brains, you’re still in chains:
You’ll starve before they’re through, you lot,
You’ll starve before they’re through.

Fight back and see them off at last!
Fight back and see them off.
Just seize the day, make that lot pay,
Get back what they have stashed away
And stuff that tosspot toff at last,
And stuff that tosspot toff.

You’ll clear the Eton mess all right,
You’ll clear the Eton mess.
You’ll hold the pass, put ruling-class
Dolts out to grass, and kick some ass:
One gang of thieves the less all right,
One gang of thieves the less.

 

The Buttering of the Bread
Wednesday, 03 March 2021 11:35

The Buttering of the Bread

Published in Poetry

The Buttering of the Bread

by Rob Walton, with image by Martin Gollan

Just because I changed to the Tories
people tell me I don't know
which side my bread is buttered
when in actual fact
and no word of a lie
the smiling Mr Johnson
buttered both sides.

He covered one side in our beloved Brexit
so we won't be bothered by the French
and the Germans and all them eastern Europeans.
Then on the other he spread a better NHS
and tax cuts and more or less more police.

And if he put a little bit of ground glass in the butter
that's a small price to pay
and besides I'll get treated for free
in one of the forty new hospitals.

 

black friday
Wednesday, 03 March 2021 11:35

black friday

Published in Poetry

black friday

by Fran Lock, with unlovable labour by Steev Burgess

 hours awake, the news begins
its lisping instrumental. incidental
music for a hunger strike. the tv's
bland incitements. johnson's mouth,
a gimmicked sleeve. dandelion
and atomised, we barely breathe.
hours awake. cities: slagheaps
of a mass extinction. burning
dirty crack-rock earth. we are
ready. for the end times, for
the paranoid mental event,
renouncing our passports.
the rich are padding out
their hollow boasts with glum
extravagance. phoney and vibrating
sky. women walk circuitous
lusts through the subtle legal dusk
in heels. shard. rain. cold hard cash.
no love so deep and pure as brand
loyalty. johnson, a funerary cuckoo,
a soundbite in a fright wig. we are
ready. the bodies of the poor are
batons of pulp. are strenuous meat.
the narcotised light that flows
upward over glass. high-tension
carnivores, bearing down. hours
awake, through the crypts of this
city like pestilence, like hazard
and insomnia, the shivery
international green of money.
to want the fat clam of the dark,
the faces of the addicts, toothless
and intent as mediaeval glass
blowers. to want the water.
johnson, falling like a stone,
through our conscience
and our wallet.

Advice to a Conspirator
Wednesday, 03 March 2021 11:35

Advice to a Conspirator

Published in Poetry

Advice to a Conspirator

by Chris Norris, with image by Martin Gollan

You've told us lots of times 'it's do or die'
For you, this Brexit thing, so if the 'do'
Bit doesn't work, however hard you try,
Then don't despair: there's always Option Two.

I know you'll wriggle out of it, you'll lie,
Prevaricate, and bluster, but if you
Seek one good deed to be remembered by
Then it's that second choice you'll carry through.

If things go pear-shaped, why not be the guy
Who'd read his Classics, tried to stage a coup
Sejanus-style, but, when it failed, thought 'Why
Not play the Roman, pay the forfeit due?'.

At least you'd exit on a lifetime high,
A final act we plebs could cheer, not boo,
As you fall on your sword and groundlings cry
'Great Boriolanus dead? About time too!'

Note: Lucius Aelius Sejanus [20BC – 31AD) was a soldier who rose to become a powerful figure as friend and protégé of the Emperor Tiberius. However he soon made equally powerful enemies and, after standing in as deputy ruler while Tiberius was away in Capri, he was accused of sedition and executed.

 

A Very Eton Kind of Far-Right Coup
Wednesday, 03 March 2021 11:35

A Very Eton Kind of Far-Right Coup

Published in Poetry

A Very Eton Kind of Far-Right Coup

by Chris Norris

(to mark the event of an attempted UK far-right coup, August 28th, 2019)

 Not long since witty heckling might
Have stopped the bastard dead,
But we just thought 'it's not our fight',
And laughed at what he said.

Great thing, the wisdom of hindsight,
Stuff we now take as read,
Like judging when the time was right
To nail the lies he spread,

Take action, raise the cry: 'Unite
Against this knucklehead
Or watch the creeping fascist blight
Bring all the things you dread'.

O yes, we marched, we put on quite
A semblance of street-cred,
And told ourselves the plebiscite
Would soon be put to bed.

We cautioned 'Don't be fooled despite
The lies they parroted;
If that lot win they'll re-ignite
The fire the Führer fed'.

But some were fooled, some put to flight,
Some too compliance-bred,
And others apt to jump in fright
At each new watershed.

So when the crisis reached its height
They simply lost the thread,
Ignored ‘the doomsters’, and made light
Of what the papers said.

They thought 'it’s not so black-or-white,
Keep calm, don't be misled',
And then, lest truth reveal their plight,
Watched ‘Love Island’ in stead.

It’s fools and fascists take a bright-
Side view of what’s ahead
Although, god knows, the appetite
For hope’s our daily bread.

So if our warning-calls invite
The fascists to see red,
Just think: this one’s no proxy-fight –
Strike now, or that hope’s dead.

This poem is taken from Chris Norris's forthcoming collection for Culture Matters.

Waiting for Boris
Wednesday, 03 March 2021 11:35

Waiting for Boris

Published in Poetry

Waiting for Boris
after Constantine Cavafy

by Kevin Higgins

What are they waiting for,
the archbishops and casino owners
clutching their bags of cocaine,
the barman at Wetherspoons eyeing the clock,
and the little people who live
in Jacob Rees-Mogg’s top hat
who’ve been watching things
go slowly downhill
since thirteen eighty one?

Boris is to arrive today
in a chariot driven
by a man with syphilis.

Why so few new laws
up for debate in the House?
Why do the Lords seem happy
to lie about the place waiting
for aneurysms to take them,
without even the energy
to pay their assistants
to give them one last beating
with Daddy’s bloodstained walking stick?

Because Boris arrives today
wearing an eye-patch he borrowed
from Madonna.

Why should the Honourable Member
for Cambridgeshire South bother
crying her usual tears?
Boris, when he gets here,
will have everyone except himself in tears.

Why do the Chairs of Select Committees
race up and down Whitehall
wearing only ceremonial dicky-bows
quoting passages from the Magna Carta
and the new Ann Widdecombe cookbook
into the surprised faces of tourists?

Why have the Speaker of the House
and Lord Privy Seal exhumed
from Westminster Abbey the bones
of Alfred Lord Tennyson
and dragged them to a cheap hotel near Waterloo
to engage in a rattly threesome?

Because Boris arrives today
and approves of such things.

And why doesn’t the Office for National Statistics
give us the latest disastrous news?
Because Boris arrives today
and is bored by people who can add and subtract.

What does this sudden outbreak
of accountants and High Court Judges
vomiting on each other mean?
How grey their jowls have grown.
Why have all the escalators stopped moving?
Why all the red buses crashing into the Thames?

Because the clock has rung
and Boris is not coming.
Some journalists formerly resident in Hell
but now working for the Telegraph
have been sent from the frontline to confirm
there is no Boris.

And now what will we become
without Boris?
We must urgently set about inventing
some other catastrophe
to rescue us from ourselves.

Bojo: Night Thoughts of a Political Journalist
Wednesday, 03 March 2021 11:35

Bojo: Night Thoughts of a Political Journalist

Published in Poetry

Night Thoughts of a Political Journalist

by Chris Norris

 It's faults of yours in me that I most hate.
The mirror finds fresh features to despise.
How intimately known each odious trait!
No fault of yours I couldn't try for size.

I hear you bluster, bluff, prevaricate,
Twist questions round, give off-the-point replies,
Yet tell myself: let moral fervour wait
Till it's those mirror-faults that meet my eyes.

I note the long words, used to generate
A sense of gravity or advertise
Your cleverness, while hiding how you skate
Clean over awkward truths or proven lies.

I see you play the winsome reprobate,
The jolly rogue, Falstaff in modern guise,
Up-market yobbo, Bloke Who Tells It Straight,
And winner of the Fool-the-People prize.

I listen, wonder-struck, to each new spate
Of addle-pated verbal merchandise
And think again: what if I asked some mate
Of his and mine 'Look, who d'you recognise?'

It's us the mirror shows, journos who prate
Of how the rich thick idler always buys
His way to public office, how the state
Rigs all things in his favour, how the rise

Of toff-class populism may create
Just the conditions apt to catalyse
A fascist hate-crusade, and how a slate
Wiped memory-clean is where all freedom dies.

For it's us journalists who catch up late
With suchlike stuff, evade and euphemize,
'Protect our sources' (lest we alienate
The guys we ought to nail), turn dustbin-spies

In quest of stories, learn to contemplate
(Like them) all sorts of shabby compromise,
And keep them sweet by cutting off debate
When PR chaps suggest – word to the wise!

Oh there's no end of ways to compensate
When conscience pleads and small-hour thoughts chastise.
Turn mirrors round, let circumstance dictate,
And bid a glad farewell to those faint cries.

 

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