It goes on one at a time,
it starts when you care to act,
it starts when you do it again after they said no,
it starts when you say we and know who you mean,
and each day you mean one more.

Marge Piercy

The Hate-Song of J. William Rees-Mogg
Monday, 11 December 2017 14:14

The Hate-Song of J. William Rees-Mogg

Written by
in Poetry

The Hate-Song of J. William Rees-Mogg

by Chris Norris

My name is Jacob Rees-Mogg, and
I’ll have you peasants know
I'm here to save this precious land
From many a deadly foe.

I'm ten years old but please don't laugh;
I'm grown-up as can be.
I read the Daily Telegraph
And that’s the rag for me.

It's great, a name like J. Rees-Mogg;
It helps me meet celebs,
And keeps the tabloid press agog,
And wows the idiot plebs.

My way of talking’s a big plus:
Old man or pimply boy?
A cross between Gerontius
And Little Lord Fauntleroy.

CN jacob fresher images

But I have plans they cannot guess,
Those types who'll love to mock
My weird beliefs or style of dress;
They're in for quite a shock.

I like to say, when interviewed,
That my ambition's height
Is to have loads of dosh accrued
And put the nation right.

CN jacob William Rees Mogg images

Sometimes I like to flummox them,
Those interviewer-chaps,
By saying I'll become PM
By age eighteen, perhaps.

But really what most stirs my soul
And seems the better plan
Is casting myself in the role
Of Mosley, my main man.

CN jacob mosley staring

Already I've the right ideas
And the right attitudes
To make us two, across the years,
A hand-picked pair of dudes.

I look ahead and seem to see,
Like him eight decades back,
A fascist column proud and free
All dressed in shirts of black.

CN jacob mosley marching

I'll meet their chief ideologues,
Their neo-Nazi clones,
And love it when they tell me 'Moggs,
You're fascist in your bones'.

* * * * * * * *

And now I tick each box of theirs,
Those splendid chaps who find
In Trump a president who shares
Their every turn of mind.

Yet – here’s the neat bit – people say
‘Rees-Mogg’s a harmless fool’,
Or ‘Anyone who talks that way
Deserves plain ridicule.’

Meanwhile I hold forth all the time
On all my latest fads,
Like making birth-control a crime
Or anything that adds

To my large fan-base among those
Who think me just a clown
And those for whom my class-act goes
A whole lot deeper down.

For some watch film-clips and recall
How many folk would scoff
When Mosley spoke; yet still they fall
For any right-wing toff.

CN trump 3

It's still the same fifth-column stuff,
With Trump in Hitler's place,
And us his side-kicks keen enough
To push the fascist case.

This Brexit thing’s come bang on cue;
It’s set friend against friend,
Remobilized our street-mob crew,
And let me set the trend.

Meanwhile the Tory faithful choose
Me as their pin-up guy
And propagate my right-wing views
So followers multiply.

The beauty is, they’re simple folk
And know not what they speak,
Or half-suspect it’s all a joke
Amongst their Tory clique.

The Guardian sounds a warning note:
‘Don’t trust this man an inch
Or one day they’ll be at your throat,
Those who’ve long felt the pinch’.

‘For now’, its columnists intone,
‘This fraudster has their ear,
And though his head seems solid bone
His words are words to fear.’

But I can happily ignore
Their cautionary tales
Since for each reader twenty more
Pick up their Suns or Mails.

Else it will be some viral tweet
Passed on in that mixed mode
Of call-to-arms and ‘Can you beat
This guy?’ that they decode,

My readers, pretty much as taste
Or politics incline
Though few are favourably placed
To grasp my true design.

They said of Mosley he was our
Lost leader, one who might
Have done great things had lust-for-power
Not put his wits to flight.

CN jacob mosley salutes

Me, I’m much subtler in my bid;
I’m well prepared to wait
With powder dry and keep the lid
Tight lest it detonate.

For soon there’ll come a time when it’s
All up with bleeding hearts,
With those who say that Trump’s the pits,
Like his Brit counterparts,

Who think that I’m a nasty piece
Of work in clownish guise,
And whose emotions find release
In new things to despise.

I’ll keep it up, my fogey act,
But leave them in no doubt,
My trusty Blackshirts, of the fact
That what it’s all about

Is bringing on the day when we
Can raise our flag again
And celebrate the victory
Of true-born Englishmen.

Then there’ll be no more flannelling
To keep the Guardian quiet,
No delicate news-channelling
In case the peasants riot.

CN jacob with textimages

I’d come right out with it and nail
My theses to the door,
Except that Luther won’t prevail
With those who know the score.

For ours will be a nation ruled
By Catholic decrees,
Where women are from childhood schooled
Their men and God to please.

We’ll have no liberal talk of choice
But preach the right to life
And how each woman should rejoice
In what befits a wife.

For that’s God’s law as certified
By chaps, like J. R-M,
With God-appointed role of guide
To weaker souls like them.

Then we’ll be near to heaven on earth,
A heaven for all but pro-
Life activists who think of birth
As their gift to bestow,

Not God’s, or those poor infidels
Who question the command
Of scripture when it plainly tells
Truths given us first-hand.

So let them mock my speech so quaint,
My breakfast shirt and tie,
And say the patience of a saint
Is what my witterings try.

I’d just remind them: now we’ve Trump
And Boris plus the hordes
Of disaffected types who’ll plump
For anyone who lords

It over them like me and spouts,
In truth, a load of tosh
Yet wows them as he flaunts and flouts
The rules of being posh.

CN jacob top hat

Deny it as you may, I’ve tapped
Into a certain vein
Of Brit class-sentiment that’s apt
To go against the grain

Only for those who spot my ruse
And think back eight decades
To the last time when toffs would use
It on the hate-brigades.

So don’t desert me now, my loyal
Supporters from the ranks
Of those on whose delight in royal
Occasions our lot banks.

For we’ve deep things to draw upon
And old myths to revive
Which might see you lot dead and gone
While we still live and thrive.

 CN jacob hate tories











Patrick Kavanagh_monument at Grand Canal, Dublin
Thursday, 30 November 2017 16:25

Patrick Kavanagh

Written by
in Poetry

On the 50th anniversary of Patrick Kavanagh's death, Jenny Farrell draws out some of the political meanings of Patrick Kavanagh's poem Epic. 

The Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh (21 October 1904 – 30 November 1967), who died fifty years ago, is not as well known internationally as he should be. He has been declared the greatest Irish writer after Yeats.

Kavanagh was born in a small village in the Irish countryside, his parents and his people were poor peasants. He left school at 13. He can be compared to John Clare in England and Robert Burns in Scotland. Like them, he wrote about the reality of peasant life, about the poverty of rural life, and the reality of a country dominated by the Catholic Church.

He writes an anti-pastoral, setting reality against a sentimentalised version of country life imagined by the educated city dwellers, or by influential figures such as Ireland’s first Prime Minister, Eamonn de Valera, whose romantic vision was expressed in a famous speech given in 1943, where he states:

The ideal Ireland that we would have, the Ireland that we dreamed of, would be the home of a people who valued material wealth only as a basis for right living, of a people who, satisfied with frugal comfort, devoted their leisure to the things of the spirit – a land whose countryside would be bright with cosy homesteads, whose fields and villages would be joyous with the sounds of industry, with the romping of sturdy children, the contest of athletic youths and the laughter of happy maidens, whose firesides would be forums for the wisdom of serene old age. The home, in short, of a people living the life that God desires that men should live.

This was not the kind of Ireland that corresponded with reality. Kavanagh was the first writer to oppose this view and one of his great works, where he openly presents a realistic picture of rural Ireland is THE GREAT HUNGER.

It’s an ironic title as this is the Irish phrase for the Famine, a time of starvation, a huge national trauma that occurred in the mid-19th century and caused the unnecessary death of a million Irish and the emigration of many more. Kavanagh, however, does not refer to this Famine but to the starvation of the rural population and one farmer in particular, Maguire, of sex and the right to have a wife and a family.

It is a satire in a way, because nature will have its way and not everybody in Kavanagh’s home place lived by the rule of Catholic teachings. Kavanagh’s depiction of rural Ireland was anti-pastoral.

The poem I want to look at here, though, is a much shorter one. It emphasises the fact that if art is honest, unromanticised, unblinkered about its subject, and set in a specific time and place, then it will contain contact points for other people, in other places and times.


I have lived in important places, times
When great events were decided; who owned
That half a rood of rock, a no-man’s land
Surrounded by our pitchfork-armed claims.
I heard the Duffys shouting ‘Damn your soul!’
And old McCabe stripped to the waist, seen
Step the plot defying blue cast-steel –
‘Here is the march along these iron stones’
That was the year of the Munich bother. Which
Was more important? I inclined
To lose my faith in Ballyrush and Gortin
Till Homer’s ghost came whispering to my mind.
He said: I made the Iliad from such
A local row. Gods make their own importance.

The title creates the anticipation of a long poem about the deeds of legendary or heroic figures in the past history of a nation. Instead, we have before us a fourteen line poem, a sonnet. It is loosely based on a Shakespearean sonnet, which comes in three sections of four lines each and a two-line conclusion, the couplet.

In the first four lines (quatrain), Kavanagh creates a sense of irony: I have lived in important places, times/ When great events were decided: This is the stuff of an epic poem, we think, until we read on, as Kavanagh seems to joke with us, contradicting that expectation: who owned/ That half a rood of rock, a no-man’s land/ Surrounded by our pitchfork-armed claims. Is this an incident of national importance? It would appear to be the opposite – a petty if at times deadly serious feud over an eighth of an acre (a tiny, tiny piece) of barren land.

In the second quatrain, the focus moves in on the parties ‘at war’; we visualise them and hear what they are shouting. The language the poet employs takes on a military tone: no-man’s land, Surrounded, armed. At the level of sound, the phrase Rood of rock is echoed in Surrounded, reinforcing the connection between the piece of land in question and its military defence. Pitchfork-armed suggests the deadly earnest and aggression accompanying the feud.

These people are prepared to kill for their claim. This evocation of  aggression and militarism is continued over the next 3 lines: I heard the Duffys shouting ‘Damn your soul’/ And old McCabe stripped to the waist, seen/ Step the plot defying blue cast-steel - / ‘Here is the march along these iron stones’. The Duffys and McCabe are the two parties to the feud.

However, the line I heard the Duffys shouting ‘Damn your soul’ suggests other Duffys as well – Eoin O’Duffy’s supporters who in the 1930s were Ireland’s own would-be fascists, and extreme Catholics. They too could have been shouting ‘Damn your soul’ in Dublin around the time this poem is set. This connotation subtly introduces a national dimension to the local scene of rural aggression and threat.

It is developed even further in the image of McCabe marching around this tiny piece of land (plot): Step the plot defying blue cast-steel, the word step suggests goose-stepping Nazis and blue cast-steel surely evokes guns as well as describing the pitchforks, indeed the word plot is commonly used to refer to a grave.

Just like the Duffys before, McCabe is also quoted Here is the march along these iron stones. March means both border and to walk in a military fashion or indeed a military tune. And in this line, the stones are no longer simply rock, they are made of iron, just as cannons are.

All these references to warfare do not simply apply to the local row. They are suggestive of the situation in Europe in the 1930s, when O’Duffy’s men were around, and Hitler and Mussolini on the rise, preparing for war. The Spanish Civil war was being waged by anti-fascist republicans from Spain and around Europe against General Franco, who was supported by Germany and Italy. While Eoin Duffy fought on Franco’s side, there were also Irishmen fighting in the International Brigades on the Republican side against Franco.

In this way, the farmers’ readiness to kill reflects the atmosphere in Europe. And, as if to confirm what the reader has been thinking, the opening of the third quatrain confirms the year: That was the year of the Munich bother.

Kavanagh is referring to the Munich Agreement signed in September 1938, where Hitler, Mussolini and the prime ministers of Britain and France agreed to let Germany annex a part of Czechoslovakia - the Sudetenland) in an attempt to avoid a war. Why does Kavanagh describe this agreement as a bother? Because it was treacherous (it excluded Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union from the decision) and because it was simply a trick by Hitler.

While the poet on one level simply describes the feud between two farmers and then says that this happened in 1938, on another level he has given a sense of the increasing militarism of the 1930s in both Europe and Ireland.

In that sense, the question that follows the full stop in line 9 and goes on to the next line: Which/ Was more important? is not perhaps as simple as it may seem. Important refers back to epic and the poem’s opening lines about important places and great events. The images of the farmers have shown that they reflect their times even if their feuds and behaviour seem at first glance to be unconnected to the momentous events in Europe. But Kavangh continues to play with the ambiguity of the very local, the national and the international: I inclined/ To lose my faith in Ballyrush and Gortin.

Interestingly, he continues the sentence without a full stop and says on the next line (to allow the reader to contemplate this choice for as fraction): Till Homer’s ghost came whispering to my mind. This line brings the reader right back to the notion of epic as Homer is the author of two of the world’s greatest epic, the Iliad and the Odyssey.

The final two lines in a Shakespearean sonnet sum up and comment on the twelve lines that go before. Kavanagh does the same here as he ‘quotes’ Homer: He said: I made the Iliad from such/ A local row. This is perfectly true. The battle of Troy, the story of which the Iliad tells, raged for ten years and was ostensibly over the minor event of Helena’s ‘abduction’ from Greece (Sparta) by the Trojan Paris (she went along with him of her free will). However, what makes Homer’s Iliad an epic is the way he writes about it, not the cause of the battle. The poem’s final statement could be uttered both by Homer or Kavanagh: Gods make their own importance. 

This is another reference to the Iliad where the Greek gods all take sides in the battle between the Greeks and the Trojans. It is the fact that Homer fills the poems with the legends of the Greeks that makes this epic poem such a central piece of Greek and indeed European culture.

In other words, even if a poet writes about a local row, the way he writes about it can give it greater political significance, make it important to the way a nation sees itself. Kavanagh is thus not only giving us a sense of the general political situation in Ireland and in Europe, but showing us how poetry itself has a political function in the way it connects the personal and the political.

on that day
Wednesday, 29 November 2017 23:32

on that day

Written by
in Poetry

on that day

by Steve Pottinger

on that day
when we can barely hear ourselves think
for the pealing of church bells
the cheering of crowds
when the pubs are full 
and the street parties last 
till every bottle’s empty
and the sun is crawling over the rooftops
for the third time

when we wake on strangers’ sofas
on buses and in parks
face down on tables in the kitchen
of houses in towns at the other end of the country
holding the keys to someone else’s car
with no idea how we got there
praying to god for alka-seltzer
saying how we’ll never drink again

we’ll know we were there
wherever it was
whoever we were with
whatever it was we did
(or didn’t do)
on that day
that blessed day
when Donald Trump learned to love himself

the late-at-night-behind-closed-doors self-loving
in front of the laptop
not the live-streamed-from-a-Moscow-hotel-room self-loving
where the girls do that thing he loves
make the right encouraging noises
and never draw attention
to his tiny desperate hands

not that
cast that image from your mind

cast it further

on that day
that happy day
the stars and the planets find some new alignment
butterflies flutter in joyful formation 
over the last patch of rainforest
and the gods of all the major religions
pause from their eternal game of paintball
shrug their shoulders 
decide to toss us a bone

and so it is
on that glorious day
locked in the bathroom with his morning stink
Donnie pauses before the mirror
as he washes his hands
and sees for the first time ever

not the coward who dodged the draft
not the braggart who has no friends
not the mediocre businessman
propped up by daddy’s money
not the misogynist who lacks the balls
to make amends
not the climate-change denier
not the birther
not the racist
not the instinctive liar
who tweets bullshit with no basis
not Putin’s little puppet
not the purveyor of fake news
not the most inadequate of presidents
unable to fill others’ shoes

he sees the lost child he once was
the dreams he once harboured
the readiness to see the best in others
the happiness and innocence and hope
and Donald drops to his knees 
by the toilet bowl and sobs 
among the splash stains and the soap
picks up his phone and types


and across the planet
the party starts
seven billion people giving it large
on the terrestrial dancefloor
pensioners necking more booze 
than you could ever shake their stick at
gangsters loved up on pills and purple hearts

on day two, things got so crazy
we even let Theresa May join in
and as the pair of us sat round a fire 
doing tequila slammers
with the stars twinkling overhead
she took another crafty toke and said

comrade, be realistic 
about what this does
and doesn’t mean
– I leaned in to hear her
above the din of marching bands –
let’s not forget
it’s one very small step

but it’s still bigger than his tiny hands.

Migrants: a dialogue
K2_PUBLISHED_ON Wednesday, 29 November 2017 14:37

Migrants: a dialogue

in Poetry
Written by

Migrants: a dialogue

by Chris Norris

Some certainly recognized the suffering of the migrants concerned, but comments beneath a Daily Mail article included the following: ‘Isn’t it about time these people stayed to sort out the mess in their own countries instead of running away?’; and ‘Hard as it may seem, the only solution is to send all of them (without exception) back to the port where they came from’ . . . . These are not the comments of people simply too absorbed in their own lives to dwell on the suffering of distant people. They express an active resistance against the ethical claim that these migrants’ suffering might make upon the authors.
- Julia O’Connell Davidson, ‘Migration, Suffering and Rights’

We've travelled many seas, my love,
We've travelled many lands,
For when you're refugees, my love,
There's no-one understands;
Sometimes I think the Lord above
Just wants us off his hands.

Shall we not rest awhile, my dear,
Shall we not stop to rest?
I weaken mile by mile, my dear,
And still we travel West,
And still those looks that say: you're here
An uninvited guest.

Don't take it so to heart, my sweet,
Don't let it cloud your days.
If those dark looks should start, my sweet,
Don't mind their curious ways,
And should they curse when they should greet
Think naught of such displays.

But how shall we survive, my chuck,
These endless days and nights?
How keep our hopes alive, my chuck,
When black despair invites,
When it's our being out-of-luck
That brands us parasites?

Let's trust we're through the worst, my pet,
Let's trust there's light ahead;
Else it would seem we're cursed, my pet,
And dark-ward bound instead.
No cause for deathly thoughts just yet
Though some might wish us dead.

But that Home Office man, my love,
That man who spoke so soft,
He said we'd better plan, my love,
And then he sort-of coughed
As if to say: push come to shove
You'll both be upped and offed.

Don't worry about him, my dear,
Don't fret about him still.
He said it on a whim, my dear,
And didn't mean us ill,
Although the episode struck fear
In us, as these things will.

But that's the least of it, my sweet,
The least of all our woes,
For others say 'just quit', my sweet,
'Or we'll soon come to blows'.
They wear black t-shirts in the street
With words that punch your nose.

And there's the UKIP folk, my chuck,
Or hard-core Brexiteers,
Who'd kick us at a stroke, my chuck,
Beyond their state frontiers,
Or otherwise make sure we're stuck
In holding-cells for years.

It's here the seas run dry, my love,
It's here the lands run out.
We've fetched up you and I, my love,
And should we send a scout
Or else, like Noah, a questing dove
It might search far about.

For it's a shallow sea, my dear,
And it's an angry land,
And migrants – you and me, my dear –
Are so much contraband
Brought in by some smart racketeer
When there's the job-demand.

But here we'll have to wait, my sweet,
Just wait until they find
Some other folk to hate, my sweet,
And bring them peace of mind.
For hate-campaigns go down a treat
With fearful humankind.

So don't give in to rage, my chuck;
Don't give in to despair.
Just turn another page, my chuck,
To see what's written there
And try to make-believe we'll pluck
Some blessing from thin air.

O it’s white lies you tell, my love,
Yet lies so kindly meant
That when they cast their spell, my love,
I’m instantly content
To fancy all I'm dreaming of
Made true should fate relent.

Yet it’s just lies they told, my dear,
Not wishful truths but lies,
Those swine who had us sold, my dear,
On hell in heaven's guise,
And made this hostile zone appear
A haven in our eyes.

CN migrants life jackets cropped thumb large

Endless shit stain (perpetual motion)
K2_PUBLISHED_ON Wednesday, 22 November 2017 18:16

At Service or Brexit

in Poetry
Written by

At Service or Brexit

by Alan Dunnett

In the timings is some dislocation.
All the cogs seem oiled. You pull and again
at the lever. Each day, it is harder,

sweating underground while the batteries
get low. Each day, the end-count is smaller.
There is a dull continuing. Hands reach

through the cage for bread at agreed hours.
On more occasions, the system is sunk
until the complainers are proved correct

but there is no exodus into light
and there is no contingency plan. Stuck
in a diminishing with bones turning

yellow, you pull at the lever, all pull
but nothing works. Silence starts, then is still. 

Alix Emery, the artist who provided the brilliant accompanying image, lives and works in London. She has had work exhibited at Tate St Ives, Birmingham Hippodrome, The Truman Brewery, Tenderbooks, The House of Blah Blah, and PS Mirabel. She is in her final year, studying BA Fine Art, at Central Saint Martins.

Bread and Roses Poetry Anthology 2017
K2_PUBLISHED_ON Tuesday, 21 November 2017 22:03

Bread and Roses Poetry Anthology 2017

in Poetry
Written by

Len McCluskey introduces the Bread and Roses Poetry Anthology 2017.

As working-class people, we know all about economic struggle. It’s a constant struggle for many people nowadays to make ends meet on low incomes and inadequate benefits, because these have been deliberately frozen and even cut by governments of the rich and powerful.

The chaos and cruelty around the introduction of Universal Credit is just the latest example of the deliberate attack on the poor by the Tory Government.

It’s hard work just to keep your job these days – let alone get more pay, win better terms and conditions, and get some satisfaction out of work. The trade union movement, which is by far the largest voluntary movement in Britain, is vital to protecting working people’s economic interests, but it has been limited and obstructed by successive governments.

That is why political struggle is so important for us in the labour movement. It’s why we need to campaign politically as well as economically. It’s why we need to vote for political parties which will genuinely try and change a system which is so obviously rigged against us.

There is another struggle, though – the cultural struggle. And culture is not just the arts, it is all the things we do to entertain, educate and enlighten ourselves, usually with others. It includes the arts like music, films, theatre and poetry. But it also includes sport, television, eating and drinking, the internet, religion – all those activities which bring meaning, purpose, enjoyment and happiness into our lives.

In each and every one of those activities, working people face a struggle. It’s getting harder to become a musician or actor or writer without rich relatives to support you. The ticket prices for football games exclude families on tight budgets from attending together. Cuts and curriculum changes mean our children are being deprived of good arts, sporting and other cultural educational activities, at primary and secondary schools.

Libraries and other cheap or free cultural facilities are being cut back, part of the deliberate class war being waged by the rich and powerful on working people. State funding for the arts – money that comes from our taxes and our Lottery tickets – is overwhelmingly focused on the London area, benefiting mainly the already well off, and tourists.

Unite, Britain’s biggest trade union, believes that our members, and working people generally, have an equal right to join in and enjoy all the arts and cultural activities. We believe we should be able to afford them, be near to them, and be able to enjoy them.

Most of all, we believe artists and leaders of cultural institutions – not only theatres, art galleries, concert halls and poetry publishers, but sports clubs, churches, and broadcasting and media corporations – should seek to engage with all sections of the community, particularly the least well off.

That’s why we sponsored the first Bread and Roses Poetry Award. Organised and managed by the Culture Matters Co-Operative, the Award attracted a huge response. Over a thousand poems were sent it, many from people who would not have otherwise have dreamt of taking part in such an exercise.

Here’s what Jilly O’Brien, one of the entrants, said:

Please find attached my three poems for the Bread and Roses poetry competition. I'm glad you are running this competition because poetry sometimes disappears up its own bum of elitist, out of touch carrying-on. And yet we know that the working class have always been the storytellers – just take a visit to any pub on the Clyde on an average afternoon and you'll see what I mean.

The judges – Andy Croft, the poet and publisher, and Mary Sayer, a Unite official working in the field of cultural education – were very moved by the quantity and quality of the entries. They felt the exercise showed the collective strength of writing by working people. Here’s what Mary said:

I began to appreciate what a privilege it was to share the outpourings of so many committed and caring individuals. It was almost impossible to shortlist, and we did so on the understanding that we could highly commend a long list of entries and do justice to the rest by publishing as many as possible, in an anthology.

So we asked Culture Matters to put together an anthology, and it has now been published. Unite are grateful to Culture Matters, to the judges, but most of all to the entrants, for all their hard work. We’re very pleased and very proud to have supported such a successful project, and we will be repeating the exercise next year.

It's the kind of democratising, energetic exercise that we see behind so much of the support for Jeremy Corbyn. His message of hope and the possibility of real change has inspired new generations to look afresh at politics and express their support creatively.

Let's build on that - and work to keep our cultural activities open to the many, not the few.

The Bread and Roses Poetry Anthology 2017 is available priced £5 (plus £1.50 p and p) from here.    

universal credit
K2_PUBLISHED_ON Friday, 17 November 2017 11:32

universal credit

in Poetry
Written by

universal credit

by Fran Lock

statues wake, and yawning, scrape
the birdshit from their tongues. london
drags a dirty nail across her fibroid lungs.

the hoodies and the halfwits are disporting
on the green. their smiles are shallow gashes
like the slots of fruit machines.

the silent politicians brush their dandruff
from their suits. rehearsing alternate careers
as undertakers' mutes.

work and pensions perverts, and the l.s.e's
pet boffins, offer thrilling opportunities
in made to measure coffins.

Us Too
Friday, 17 November 2017 10:32

Us Too

Written by
in Poetry

Us too

by Fran Lock


And at the knackered traffic lights, the lads, led about by their soft-boiled

bellies like pregnant seahorses; regimental maniacs in berets, khaki slacks

and symptomatic tattoos, checking their reflections in their steel toe-caps.

It’s Friday night, and I am walking the tusky ramparts of our beautiful coastal

town. Crossing the road by the fountain, I smile at a bony-shouldered band

of amphetamine featherweights, young boys bitching their brittle Polari in

local parks where broken railings fix their bayonets. I walk, and I’m watching

the women, old women, women in acrylic skin and slit up skirts and circus stilts,

preening their screams in a nightclub queue. Their eyes are dressed in injury,

they wince and strut; the curb becomes a catwalk of hot coals. I have seen

them, squeezing defeat into too-tight shorts. Hey, don’t laugh, the world turns

on its thirst, you know? The world turns, on a thousand fetish devastations. No

word is safe. I heard them say: You’ll be scraping your face off the back of his

hand. I’ll be scraping my face off for years. It’s Friday night, dear God, and there

is a girl, young girl, sucking a hardboiled silence, cut right down to her tight pink

passing-sacred; all thin white arms and long wet hair, who hangs around her

boyfriend’s neck like a broken stethoscope. No, no heart to hear. That girl is

me. I see myself, undoing my smile like the top button of a shantung blouse.

How I court their brawling foreplay. Lose count of the times I heard someone

say: It’ll all end in tears.  A minor vice, a little statutory angst, summer’s giddy

commerce on the corner in the evening. Or, those seasick seaside mornings,

flaunting my disorder by the boat swings, skittish in a miniskirt. A blowjob or

a stick of rock; a loose tooth and a broken nose. Pain is our roseate intercourse.

There’s coercion God, and then there’s force. At the traffic lights, the lads.

Our eyes collide like marbles. I’m leatherette and penny sweets, and sexy.

They said I was sexy. I feel about as sexy as a two-seater second-hand sofa,

a busted spring in my empty belly. So scuffed, I am, so worn. There’s a girl who,

night after night, will polish her most affordable fear. That girl is me. And a lad

looms up once more, a video game glow round him, big as an end of level boss,

he’s swinging his arms through the slutty gloaming. He grabs me by my sleeves;

he drags me past the sagging wrecks of blackened bandstands, wind-distorted

portacabins. I’m on my knees beneath the beer-gut of an old pavilion. The reek

of fish and week old fat. He leaves my mouth a smashed mess of slang and teeth.

Woke up on the wrong side of the war: I’ll school you, you pikey caant.


 Worse things happen at sea, they said, and what did you expect? And I’m thinking

of you now, ba-lamb, bestie, the ways in which you understood. There are days that

I contain you, my own controlled explosion. The ways we shared the dolorous

geographies of home; the way that home had made a fetish out of splendour,

benediction, reverie. There is no safe word. No word is safe. Bottomless duty, gilded

fate, a beauty we were born imploring. How we adored the Paschal musk and chorus

of Compline; the way the lady Saints inclined their heads, girding a devious grace in

groups like school-gate gossips, how they might blow a scented mercy you could

treasure like a kiss. We knew no better then. There was nothing better for us to know.

Oh, my most Catholic ghost, I still dream about your mouth, succulent and fated

and twice the size of itself against a motley, potholed sky. Your kiss was like pink fairy

lights inside of me. Loss is not the word, not deficit, butwound, this pain, both abject

and succinct, and no I will never drink myself free. Four and twenty blackbirds baked

inside this grief, this keening extremis. No prestige grief we plump like pillows on

a sickbed, but something with yellowy incisors, stripping the meat from a glistered

phrase. Tell me, what did you expect? The Lord moves in mysterious ways. You knew

how it felt and you knew what it meant, and you spent the rest of your empty days

acquainting God with the back of your head. I remember us haunting your bedroom

mirror with our failed symmetries, hollow-eyed, companionably jaded – feral, defiled,

and exiled from the neck down, pushing our ugly consumptive luck. Oh, my bright jinx,

my strictest-shining Catholic ghost, you remembered too well too. Left me what was left

of you. I’m stood in the photonegative light of some shitty hospital corridor, wringing

my hands and rapidly blinking. The tired eye tries to free itself from the shock it

stepped in. Dead.


 I dreamt of it again, lie still until I’m sane. The dream retreats, but leaves its curdled

traces. The school is worst, where boredom makes the minutes swim, where the low

ceilings stunted our growth, where I was a child, lisping and conspicuous to history;

suggestible poppet with braided hair, the barer of a deformed faith that clutched at beads,

a face that didn’t fit. Where you were a child, prodigal of famine and infliction, bygone

pogrom, occupation and eviction. Half breed. Bad seed. Black sheep. Mad cow, bovine

on dopamine, slurring her girlhood, I could not run, could only sweat the dread of barefoot

threat in dusty halls with all the windows  painted shut, a stale and violent light outside.

Inside the proper girls, with crop-circle smiles, who sharpened their collective whisper

like a shiv and smirked my gremlin pedigree: Gyp bitch! You botched abortion! The boys,

aggrandised and Neanderthal, scholars of the picked scab, the sucked knuckle, the untucked

shirt. Tumescent cretins, snickering under their breath. They followed me home. Blighted

desire had tightened their guts, they took disfigured joy in causing pain. Just like their fathers,

brothers, future sons: You slag! You slut! And I was cornered with exhaustion, writhing

like a salted slug. Cher sings Gypsies, tramps and thieves. Big fucking laughs from

the peanut gallery.


And for the longest, dear God, I couldn’t speak of this. My mouth was a glass

house, gathering stones, stoned and phobic on Seroxat and Sertraline. Days

spent redacting a dark eye with liquid liner, losing weight, becoming shallow

as a footprint in wet sand. For the longest time I’d close my eyes and smell

the sea, and brewers’ yeast, and boot polish. For the longest time I’d smell

the lino, chalk dust, desks: dirty grey, and barnacled with chewing gum. I’d

close my eyes and feel the stingy and complicit looks of teachers boring into

the back of my skull.


Mr B is bad breath and soiled ambition. His face swims like a boiled shirt, his skin

the white of unsigned plaster casts; he has the long front teeth of a talking horse.

In a rank mood he leers and reels toward me. Do you remember how we prayed

back then? To God on his gilded battlements: Sweep ‘em up or strike ‘em dead, dear

God. He never did. Social worker measures out her well worn spite in meticulous inches.

She’s a local girl. Her smile is frowsy industry, coastal erosion, and economic stalemate.

She doesn’t care that a boy has worn me like a secret on his lips; she cannot help me,

can’t tell me how to make a poem from a fistful of wet earth, how to dislocate my

shoulders and keep on swimming. Hey, the world turns on its thirst, you know? On

the scurvy lusts we must remake ourselves from daily. Two young girls, too young,

tricked out in torrential dresses, smiling their slow dissolve into camera.  Savants

of resurrection.


Because for every well-publicised celebrity victim of sexual assault there’s a working-class woman or girl who has suffered the same in silence. I’m writing about girls who were groomed for the male gaze from an early age to survive, because they were taught that’s what they are for, because sexually available is all they’re ever allowed to be. And because they are groomed for this gaze they are considered complicit in their own exploitation, they are chav slags and silly sluts, and what happens to them doesn’t matter. There are millions of us. We matter.



A Double Act
Friday, 17 November 2017 10:10

A Double Act

Written by
in Poetry

A Double Act

by S. O. Fasrus

'But what I learned later in life, too late, is that when you have power over another person, asking them to look at your dick isn’t a question. It’s a predicament for them - Louis C K

It's fifteen years later
we're rueing the day
we should have said no
to that Louis CK.

No hint, no suggestion
no nudge nod or wink.
we looked on aghast
did he ask what we think?

His sudden request
caused confusion and stress
we both raised our eyebrows
we both uttered yes.

There were guys in the corridor
two doormen, a clown
coulda yelled 'Come see Louis -
see what's going down!'

Were we too middle class
were we far too polite
should have told him to beat it
Camille Paglia is right:

that our cleaner would say -
'Man you gotta be kidding
I'll phone your wife now
you perverted sh*t pudding!'

But Goodman and Wolov
did a quick double take -
'Hey C K's a jerk off -
is this our big break?'

To the Wife of an All-Too-Interventionist Foreign Secretary
Friday, 17 November 2017 09:45

To the Wife of an All-Too-Interventionist Foreign Secretary

Written by
in Poetry

To the Wife of an All-Too-Interventionist Foreign Secretary

by Chris Norris

Note: This piece is an updated reprise of Edgell Rickword’s mid-1930s poem ‘To the Wife of Any Non-Interventionist Statesman’. Rickword was addressing those mainly Conservative politicians who opposed sending military aid to the Republican Government in Spain on grounds of Britain’s supposed ‘neutrality’ in keeping with the policy of other European powers. This was in flagrant disregard of the fact that Germany and Italy were providing large amounts of logistical support to the rebel (Francoist or Fascist) side. 

So. Cut to Yemen, 2017.......

Bad form, I know, intruding thus on your
Most intimate proceedings at a time,
Of all times, when you'd wish to shut the door
On such intrusions, let alone what I'm
Proposing here. Just let me say, before
You cut short this rude visitant mid-rhyme,
That though it's something most folk might deplore,
And some would count a veritable crime,
Still certain faults may merit rather more
By way of censure, and - if my words chime
With your assessment - urge you to ignore
Your husband's overtures. So, should he climb

Into the marriage-bed and indicate
That maybe you'd now like to have a go
For old time's sake, so he can demonstrate
His undiminished powers, please let him know
It's just not on and that he'll have to wait
Till you've delivered him a blow-by-blow
Account of why you're dead set to frustrate
This new-found fervent craving to bestow
His favours nearer home. Affairs of state
Are more the sort of stuff you'll want to throw
At him than those affairs that hardly rate
Brief mention in the gossip-pages. So
Let me, your voice of conscience, intimate
Some counter-thoughts to interrupt the flow
Of pillow-talk that then begins to grate
Until you give that dolt the old heave-ho.

Past forty people tend to have the face
That they deserve, as Auden said - a bit
Unfair to some, perhaps, but just the place
To start in figuring how you'd better quit
His soon detested marital embrace
As the truth dawns. For it's a phizog fit
For detailed study should one wish to trace
The path by which this liar, hypocrite
And bully-boy outlived each new disgrace,
Each proven lie or piece of pure bullshit
Exposed, and, after letting in some space
Of time - alms for oblivion - strove to hit
The headlines once again. He'd join the race
As if from a fresh start, and so omit
To mention how he'd made a basket-case
Of every job for lack of mother-wit

Or through an ego whose enormous size
And utter lack of scruple left it prone
To all variety of tricks and lies,
The sort of thing he'd never quite outgrown
Since Oxford. They're presented in the guise
(As you'll best know) of one just lately flown
That second nest and not yet worldly-wise
Though quick enough, when his thin cover's blown,
To play the Bullingdon and exercise
The toff's old privilege of uttering bone-
Head platitudes that win the booby-prize
Except as judged by members of his own
Select bunch with their Oxford-nurtured ties
Of influence, patronage, and social tone.
They made sure he could never jeopardise
His chances through excess testosterone,

Stupidity, or (now you'll see just where
I'm coming from) his willingness to sell
This country down the river, bring despair
To countless migrant lives, make each day hell-
On-earth for starving Yemenis since they're
In line of fire for every British shell
Rained on them by the Saudis, do his share,
And more, in building up the current swell
Of fear-fed xenophobia, and prepare
The witches' brew of lies that cast its spell
On those without the time or thought to spare
For checking things. That's why they promptly fell
For every false prospectus he'd declare
With all the chutzpah of the ne'er-do-well
Street-trader trying to flog a dodgy pair
Of Levis to a cash-strapped clientele.

So when he next lets on he's keen to get
Back on connubial terms, or starts to press
The chat beyond a spot of tete-a-tete,
Please think - before allowing him to mess
With your sleep-patterns - how it might be met,
This fumbling boss-shot at a first caress,
By firm repudiation of your debt
To nature, custom or the old-style stress
On wifely duty. Then - to make him sweat -
Recount his sundry acts of boorishness,
Hypocrisy, self-interest, covert threat,
Bad faith, and willingness to acquiesce
In proven war-crimes. No cause for regret:
Think Lysistrata, watch him detumesce,
Then hit him with your choicest epithet
As he finds cause to rue his state of dress.



Leo, poet, & Heather at Poetry Ireland launch of Social Welfare for Artists
Saturday, 04 November 2017 08:55

On the Appointment of Director of Failed Bank

Written by
in Poetry

On The Appointment of Director of Failed Bank
To Executive Board of Literature Ireland
for Jonathan Sugarman

My Dear Writers and Readers,

Adhering to recent Arts Council guidelines,
we are adjusting
our corporate governance structures
to include more criminal psychopaths
and people who just don’t know what they’re doing
than are allowed exist, per capita
wherever the average eejit gathers
to do his or her thing.

To this end, and furthermore, to help me,
I mean ‘us’, avail of the expertise
of those with experience running the real economy,
I am appointing to my board a man
with a wide-brimmed felt hat
who has supplied political and business
conferences down and up the country
with all levels of women.

To assist in the enforcement area
we are anointing a bloke who for our purposes
will go by the name “Anto”;
who may have unexplained income
about which the Criminal Assets Bureau
would love to have a chat
but that is none of my business or,
if you know what’s good for you, yours.

Finally, from next month
the skeleton of a different one
of David Lloyd George’s mistresses
will sit in on each of our meetings
to advise on social agility.

Yours transparently,

Chief Administrator,
Literature Ireland.


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