Poetry

Poetry

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

A worker reads and asks questions
Sunday, 25 June 2017 21:18

A worker reads and asks questions

Written by
in Poetry

The recent election results showed a stunning level of support for Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party’s anti-austerity policies. Working people are clearly starting to ask more questions about who exactly produces the wealth in class-divided societies, including our own. Jenny Farrell’s father made this brilliant translation of one of Brecht’s most famous poems.

A worker reads and asks questions
by Bertolt Brecht
translated by Jack Mitchell

Who built seven-gated Thebes
In the books you’ll find the names of kings.
Was it the kings that lugged those hunks of rock?
And what of Babylon, so often demolished?
Who rebuilt it time and again? In which
Of golden Lima’s houses lived its builders?
On the day the Chinese Wall was finished where
Did the masons go in the evening? Great Rome
Is full of triumphal arches. Who raised them? Over whom
Did the Caesars triumph? Had Byzantium of the songs
Palaces only, for its inhabitants? Even in fabulous Atlantis,
The very night the sea swallowed it,
The drowning still bawled for their slaves.

Young Alexander conquered India.
All alone?
Caesar defeated the Gauls.
Didn’t he have so much as a cook with him?
Phillip of Spain wept when his fleet
Sank. Did no others shed tears?
Frederick the Second won the Seven Year War.
Who else?

A victory on every page.
Who cooked the victory feast?
A great man every ten years.
Who paid the bill?

So many accounts.
So many questions.

Grenfell Engulfed
Friday, 23 June 2017 11:41

Grenfell Engulfed

Written by
in Poetry

Grenfell Engulfed

In memory of those who lost their lives in the Grenfell Tower fire

by Alan Morrison

In spite of recent refurbishments – fireproofed? –
Grenfell Tower was engulfed in flames the full length
Of its eyesore height ringed by brown-brick mansion blocks
(Much better Thirties relics of curvaceous art deco);
Now Grenfell Tower is a blackened jagged tooth
On the smoking skyline – but still, by night, a whole day after
The main blaze, orange flames flickered from inside
Like the glows from pumpkin lamps lit up at Halloween parties –
And those broken charred windows now glare
Like the zigzagged grimaces of pumpkins' carved mouths,
Once the candles have been snuffed out in their hollowed pulps.

This gutted, lugubrious building burnished black is now
Nothing more than a charnel house, those still missing
Among its tenants now presumed consumed in smoke,
Burnt out of their tenancies, cremated in their flats, no
Spontaneous combustion of a faulty fridge alone
Could have caused such rapid conflagration – no, those
Refurbishments last year had not been properly fireproofed,
In fact, were done more for external aesthetics
Than for the benefit of the residents' wellbeing or safety,
Simply to prettify the outside of the towerblock
To blend better in with its salubrious surroundings
Of the rich part of Kensington – well now the tower
Has been prettified by fire, Kensington's well-rinsed
Can survey, instead, a fuming burnt offering, a black
Smouldering monument in Brutalist anthracite,
A colossal sooty cactus scorched in the hottest June
Since '76 (when millions of ladybirds coated Brighton beach).

Landlords, maintenance agents, Tory councillors and Tory
MPs had unknowingly conspired to lay in place
The components for a catastrophe predicted by the Tenants’
Association, their complaints and warnings ignored by
The men in grey suits at Westminster, and at Kensington
And Chelsea Council – why would any authority listen to the concerns
Of social housing tenants with no stakes in anything,
Not even the right to justice, courtesy of legal aid cuts,
600 impoverished people cooped up in high-piled compartments,
Many trapped on benefits through no faults of their own,
Or caught in the Russian roulette of zero-hours contracts,
Reliant on food banks, many Arabs, Muslims, immigrants,
Asylum-seekers and refugees among their numbers,
Those whose lives are deemed verboten by tabloids,
Now their homes more than metaphorically put to the Tory
Torch – hindsight haunts Kensington: outside sprinklers
Could have been retrofitted, should have been, in fact.

Now after the flames, the blame games: whose gross
Negligence lit this tinder box, what cultural drift of anti-
Immigrant rhetoric ignited the match? The flammable
Padding in the new zinc cladding apparently helped the flames
Catch! The yellow helmets say they've never seen anything
Like this before... The tower protrudes as a combustible
Symbol of the vulnerability of the disadvantaged,
Never have so many people perished for a metaphor,
The surviving tenants are spitting tar, now homeless,
Will they be given permanent shelter? Some survivors
Voice fears that Kensington and Chelsea Council
Will take advantage of the tragedy to decant the tenants
Elsewhere and refurbish the tower block (and properly
Fireproof it this time, presumably) to house better-heeled
Private tenants – Grenfell gentrified by fire? The arms-
Length maintenance organisation might have a hand
In this, more profits for future, while tight-lipped ministers
Of an arms-length Government avoid the gazes
Of camera lenses, mute in suits; and a spineless
Prime Minister is photographed skulking awkwardly in black
Among the uniforms, looking like the rich distant
Relative at the funeral keeping apart from her mourning
Poor relations; while Jeremy Corbyn responds more promptly,
Goes among the families of the missing, comforting them,
Hugging those who are denied even the vent of grieving
For not yet knowing if their bereavement is temporary
Or permanent, surviving relatives who catch on the grapevine
Of drip-fed information that the bodies still inside
Might be so badly burnt they'll not be able to be identified –
Forced out by fire, is this how Grenfell's gentrified?

Pity The Woman Made of Wood
Thursday, 22 June 2017 19:26

Pity The Woman Made of Wood

Written by
in Poetry

Pity The Woman Made of Wood

by Kevin Higgins

Crowned temporary Empress
of this tragic bit of chipboard floating
off the northernmost coast
of what used to be Europe.

Open please your hearts, empty your heads
and pretend not to notice the predictable few
disfigured old bastards who operate her,
yanking the all too visible wires
that make her jaws clack
awkwardly up and down. Pity please
this woman made of wood
now she’s too well understood
and gets all the kicks and expletives,
when she tries to speak about
anything other than the quarterly accounts.

Her back burdened and bent.
Respect please the enormity
of the pearls she must bear
about her splintering neck.
And don't be behind with the rent
or petition her to save you when you again
characteristically fail to save yourself.

When smoke curls black under your door
you can snore on unperturbed in your narrow little bed,
bought with a pay-day loan obtained - quite legally -
from a bloke reputed to give defaulters
cement flip-flops for Christmas, to take them safely
down one of the larger pipes that joyfully
pour shit into the River Styx.

But the woman made of wood,
must at all costs avoid
unguarded flames for she would go up
like a cheap deckchair that picked the wrong
day to go sunbathing at Hiroshima.

Think of this, please, when bawling
your lucky human screams
as the fire arrives quite matter-of-fact
to oxidise you to a small hill of ashes
around what looks like
a collarbone. No such luck
for the woman made of wood.

On the Up
K2_PUBLISHED_ON Friday, 16 June 2017 13:51

On the Up

in Poetry
Written by

On The Up

by Paul Dovey

He was on the up,
He knew what to say, voted the right way,
And he kept the report buried,
In the time capsule under his desk,
The hermetically sealed preservation of the old order.

The area was on the up,
Shopping centres and investors,
The supersonic property boom,
Legacy tenants just taking up room,
Because, "There's no magic money tree,"
Well, not for the likes of you and me.

They looked up,
From their multi-million pound mews,
From their gentrified Victorian slums,
At the blocky, vertically angular skyline,
And at other people's homes,
Spoiling their view.

She was on the up,
21st fucking floor,
Buggy, shopping, three kids,
Builders, hard hats, hi-viz,
Banging, crashing, acrid tang,
Maybe they'd make it better again.

Then it went up,
They never heard a thing,
Until it was too late,
Stay put, stay safe,
Compartmentalised, like our lives,
As the cladding went up like a cheap night-shirt.

Time's up,
A blackened monolith stands against the summer sky,
A giant smoking question mark,
How could it happen? We already knew!
What needs answering now...
Is what will we do?

 Zoë Kravitz
K2_PUBLISHED_ON Thursday, 08 June 2017 13:56

Staring Back

in Poetry
Written by

Staring Back

by Manash Firaq Bhattarcharjee

The eye you see is not
an eye because you see it;
it is an eye because it sees you.
~ Antonio Machado, ‘Proverbs and Songs’

You stare at her body. You don’t see
Her eyes seeing you. Her body is a blind mannequin
Of desire. When she moves, you are surprised.
She is a spell, not a spectre. Her skin is a black hole.
Her eyes, an abyss. You see everything
She is not. She is a black myth from books you read
Wrongly. She strips to let her body stare back
At you. To tell you she hides nothing
You do not know. Her breasts are breasts. Not
Fruits of a Baobab tree. Her lips are lips. Not the work
Of bees. Her legs are legs. Not a sea
Of drowning nymphs. Her knees are knees. Not
Hot yolks of the moon. You aren’t ripe for metaphors.
The cigarette she holds – measures
Your insecurities. The tattoos on her body
Mark you off. She is tattooed to memories of flowers,
Wounds, honey. You see what you don’t know.
You see her eyes. Not what she holds in them. You are trapped
In a forest of imaginary beasts. She finds you
Lost in a childhood zoo.

You do not see her. You cancel her gaze. When she stares
Back, hold on to her eyes. They might set you free.

Author's Note: This poem is inspired by a photograph by Mahesh Shantaram of a black woman in Kasaul who stripped for the camera to convey how it feels to be stared at (not available online). It is part of a series on 'African migrants in India'. Shantaram's The African Portraits will be on view​ in New Delhi at Exhibit 320 from June 2-16, 2017.

The Greatest Gift of Boris J: A New Dunciad
K2_PUBLISHED_ON Tuesday, 06 June 2017 15:13

The Greatest Gift of Boris J: A New Dunciad

in Poetry
Written by

The Greatest Gift of Boris J:
a New Dunciad

by Christopher Norris

The greatest gift of Boris J
Was having lots of things to say
That sounded smart but very soon
Revealed him as a prize buffoon.
His father quickly saw the boy
Was most unlikely to enjoy
Preferment of the kind that came
Of native wit, since just the same
Perception had compelled his Dad
To say of him: 'a splendid lad
But thick as two short planks'. Still he'd
Got on alright, maintained the breed,
Produced son Boris, raised the kid
To do the sorts of things he did,
Like spouting nonsense long and loud
To wow the plebs or please the crowd,
And made of him, in short, a fine
Addition to the family line.

          But every idyll has an end,
And so the time arrived to send
This none-too-promising young chap
Somewhere to plug the three-year gap
Between school and whatever kind
Of job Dad's city friends could find
To put his way. In short, he'd not
The brains to mix it with a lot
Of clever kids from grammar-school
Or comprehensive whom he'd fool
With one of his set-piece displays
Of blustering, but who might raise
Some question as to whether he,
That loud-mouthed bully-boy, should be
Received amongst them in a place
Of higher learning. Such disgrace,
His father feared, could so affect
Poor Boris that it wholly wrecked
His chance of spending those three years
On sundry ways to keep his peers
From finding out the little trick
He'd learned for not appearing thick.

CN1
          So off he went to Oxford where,
Great tricksters all, they didn’t care
Too much about the curious lack
Of evidence with which to back
The perfect self-assurance that
Came of his having got off pat
The sorts of stuff that went down well
With tutors not allowed to sell
A place at college but inclined
To favor those with whom they wined
And dined. The trick: pretend that you're
A clever chap who knows the score
Alright, but just pretends he's dumb
For laughs, though really (as they'd come
To know if things went wrong) you played
The game of a buffoon who made-
Believe he’d brains enough to take
A jester's role. If he could fake
It well enough then soon he'd get
The hoi polloi onside and let
Them count him just a harmless clown
While commentators had him down,
Obligingly, as more clued-
Up inverse Coriolanus who'd
The vulgar turn of speech to bring
The mob on board but the true ring,
To ears attuned, of one whom it
Best suited now to play the pit
Against the gallery. He’d show
(For those onlookers in the know)
How the best minds could always hide
Their true intent or send us wide
Of it if we’re the sorts of folk
Not smart enough to get the joke.

          Yet knowing types were taken in,
Just like the mob, because their spin
Was one that opted to rehearse
The Boris line, not its reverse.

CN2                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Else they’d have quickly found him out
A genuine fool (of this no doubt)
Though one who opted to regale
The world with an unending tale
Of follies that could only strike
His classy chums as too much like
Their own for them to think of him,
The Johnson chap, as simply dim.
That’s why their preferential view
Revealed a brilliant thinker who
Exploited every chance to sus
His various publics out, and thus
Did more than anyone to keep
The dogs of class-war safe asleep.

          His father realized early on
That fortune had not blessed his son
With brains enough to make the grade
Against those upstart sons of trade
Who nowadays aspired so far
Above their station as to bar
The Boris-types from grabbing all
The academic prizes. 'Call
Me prejudiced', Dad said, 'but I'm
Resolved my idiot son will climb
As high as I did up the tree
Of unearned wealth and stand, like me,
Foursquare on privilege and rank.
Not like those redbrick kids who bank
On brains to get them good degrees
Instead of knowing how to please
Some well-placed person who can tip
His friend the wink or quietly slip
A word into the Master's ear.
He’ll see exams don't interfere
With the arrangements put in place
To make quite sure we don’t debase
The currency by letting brain,
Not wealth, direct the gravy-train.’                                             

CN8

          Then Father, warming to his theme,
Worked up a further head of steam
As he recalled again how his
Own alma mater did the biz
For Boris, let him in with no
Hard questions asked, refused to toe
The line on widening access, and
Allowed him full scope to expand
His range, not of ideas or thoughts
But handy friends. They were the sorts
(His Dad reflected with a sense
Of grateful pride) who’d recompense
Their pal with favors far beyond
Whatever hike might correspond
To coming out with a starred First,
The prize for nerdy blokes who nursed,
So Dad assumed, some petty grudge
Against the rich. This made them drudge
Long hours in libraries instead
Of making friends, getting ahead,
And plugging any deficit
Of intellect or mother-wit
With smooth talk of the kind that went
A whole lot further to augment
The family fortunes. Yes, they still
Found a few scholarships to fill
With all those intellectual types
Or state-school kids. Whence all the gripes
About the sorts of rowdy stuff
That happened when the fights got rough,
Or when the Bullingdons decreed
Some hapless scholar had no need
Of trousers, books, or things defined
As smacking too much of the mind
In quiet revolt against the brute
Assertion of a creed to suit

CN4

That drunken mob. But it's a case,
Here as in all things, of 'the race
Goes to the fittest', which translates
In Boris-speak as: choose your mates
With care and then they'll help you fix
Things up – friends, enemies, odd tricks
To balance books, a bob or two
In leaner times, and chaps to do
The necessary when it comes
To stuff best handled by your chums
Like claiming debts, or settling scores
With bigger blokes, or routine chores
Like squaring chappies who don't quite
Latch on. Those chappies may be bright
Yet miss the finer points involved
In how such matters get resolved
Amongst the smart set who've received
Their drill in what to do when peeved
By such slight upsets. 

                              That’s the best
Thing about Oxford and the test
Of how much it can do to boost
Your real life-chances, get you used
To spieling confidently when
You’re talking utter tripe, and then –
Should some smart-arse presume to take
You up on it – get chums to break
A bone or two. They’ll help repair
The social breach lest more of their
Prerogatives be stolen by
Those pushy redbrick alumni.

CN5

Thus Dad again: 'Think, if you will,
How vain the effort to instil
Wisdom or knowledge in a mind
As primitive and unrefined
As that which he inherited,
My son, from ancestors long dead
And brought to that pluperfect stage
Where his meanderings let us gauge
How far it’s gone, our family tree,
In its decline to idiocy.
Those Oxford tutors know the ropes;
They get their share of wealthy dopes
And so adjust their teaching plan
To suit the individual man
(I'm told some colleges accept

download

Girl students now, but that's best kept
Well under wraps).

                 Where was I? Yes,
His Oxford tutors took a guess
That Boris likely wouldn't shine
In scholarship but might do fine
In other ways if they could build
Constructively on unfulfilled
Potential and so stretch his few
Poor talents till one hardly knew
How few and poor they were. The task
Was somewhat eased, in case you ask,
By his strong tendency to big
Them up and then, should someone twig
How perfectly absurd the boast,
Repeat it louder till the most
Determined sceptic had to stop
His ears and let the matter drop.

          That gift they cultivated, plus
His way of making a great fuss
About his always being right
On every topic. This despite
His almost always being wrong,
Which didn't much affect the song
And dance he made or help him learn
From his mistakes, unless to turn
The volume up and shout them down,
Which hugely bolstered his renown
Among the likewise challenged bunch
Of hangers-on. They had a hunch
That this might be their own best way
Of keeping mockery at bay,
This Boris-wheeze of talking crap
But getting everyone to lap
It up because he put in lots
Of pompous words and filled the slots
That English nonsense failed to reach
With foreign nonsense. This they’d teach
Him every day, his tutors, so
That soon he’d be prepared to go
Out in the world and not let on
How dense he was.

              The handiest con-
Trick was the schoolboy one that took
No more than a quick, furtive look
For Latin tags or quotes. These fall
Conveniently to hand on all
Occasions when one’s tried and failed
To think of something that availed
Last time to hide one’s total lack
Of gumption. Plus it takes a smack
At those who’ve missed out on the rich
And many-sided culture which
Lies open solely to the sons
Of privilege. For they’re the ones –
Contest it as you will – whose sense
Of taste and native competence
Allows them that especial ease
Of access that the legatees
Of vulgar ignorance should just
Accept since their condition must
Exclude them from the magic zone
Where class and classics greet their own.

CN6

            So thought his Dad, though that old block
The chip was off maintained his stock
Response whenever someone had
The cheek to call his son a cad.
Else they might raise the question why
He sounded such a clever guy,
With all those long words and his air
Of having such a natural flair
For languages, yet somehow got
Mixed up when faced with on-the-spot
Collocutors who went off-script
Or TV panellists who quipped
About him in satiric mode,
Thus disrespecting every code
Of media etiquette. This left
The poor lad totally bereft
Of words beyond the tongue-tied yawp
Or snorts of rage at which they'd gawp,
Those interviewers prone to think
Him super-smart since told to link
Up with his media-savvy team
Of PR heavies whose regime
Imposed strict limits on the scope
For doubt. For it's a slippery slope
From slight misgivings they might feel
To counting him an imbecile
And so thenceforth according scant
Attention to his mindless rant.

             All this his father deemed a mere
Reflection of the need to sneer
At intellects above their own
Among the rabble, or those known
As rabble-rousers in the crew
Of ex-chums. Must be that lot who
Spread all the nasty stuff around
Announcing that he'd now been found
A fool, an ignoramus, and
The kind of bloke they couldn't stand
To think they’d just last week embraced
As sharing their superior taste.

CN7
Truth is, Dad wasn't quite immune
To doubts on that score, but would soon
Suppress them when some cheeky cub
Reporter took his chance to rub
It in that his fine son was (let's
Say) just the sort of chap who gets
Thrown out of parties, or the sort
Who seems a few IQ points short
Of normal, or who, every time
He speaks, commits some hideous crime
Against the English Language. Still,
Though Dad had learned the put-down drill
To send them packing, he could not
Conceive what might have been his lot
In life, young Boris, had the fates
Withheld that gift which compensates
For defects of the mind or soul
With other benefits. These stole
A march on all the clever blokes,
Or nice-guy types, or other folks
More able but less well supplied
With skin like a rhinoceros-hide
And lacking his protective gift
Of being not the least bit miffed
At satire's barbs since wadded thick
So even the sharpest didn't stick.

            'Full many a flower is born to blush',
And all that, but before they rush
To judgment – so his father thought –
Perhaps those social levellers ought
To count the cost in man-hours spent
By Oxford tutors eminent
Enough to land themselves a post
At seats of learning coast to coast,
Yet now with naught to exercise
Their minds save trying to devise
New ways to keep a nincompoop
In check. Else he’d provide some scoop
For paparazzi keen to bite
The hand that any moment might
Give one of them a story sure
To hit the headlines and procure
Such short-lived fame as comes to those
Who hardly need to hold their nose
When tailing Boris. For the smell
Brings promise of more tales to tell
And lets them know, should any doubt
Remain, that they have all the clout
In market terms since no one reads
The nice stuff. Plus, raw sewage needs
At least as much disposal-care
As those choice items fit to share
With readers whose more sensitive
Olfaction means they’re apt to give
Both Boris and the hacks who thrive
On him scant licence to connive
At further lowering the tone
By any standard but their own.

CN9

          And so once more: ‘Where was I? Must
Have gone a bit off-topic just
When I got to that handy quote
From Gray, you know, the one who wrote
The Country Churchyard thing – but damn
Me, what a foolish chap I am
To keep on getting sidetracked. Three
Times now I’ve tried to say that he,
My Boris, isn’t half as bad,
As stupid, or as raving mad
As some make out, and every time
For some odd reason – one that I’m
Not up to sorting out – I veer
Off course and make the boy appear
A dunce, a cad, a perfect fool,
A dolt, a semi-witting tool
Of racists, and a chap you’d go
Long ways around to miss or throw
Clean off your trail. For should you meet
He’ll probably be quick to greet
You like a bosom-pal, until
You mention some outstanding bill,
At which he rings his city mates,
Informs them loudly how he hates
Your guts, then – like as not – just hints
He’d like to see your legs in splints.

          But that’s enough – can’t keep on track
As planned but will keep circling back
To all those things that I’d prefer
To brush aside yet still occur
Unbidden to me as I strain
And fail, and strain, and fail again,
Fail worse this time, to stick up for
That boy of mine and so restore
The family name. Truth is, it’s too
Much, even for a father who
Devoutly wishes to defend
His only son, this need to bend
The factual evidence so far
As to make Boris out the star
Yet helpless victim of a vile
Conspiracy with all the bile
That comes the way of anyone
As rich and famous as my son.

          But no, the truth will out: they're right,
And I'll acknowledge it despite
This vain attempt of mine to press
A case for the defence. Why stress
The soft stuff like paternal love
And private loyalty above
The rival claims of civic good
Or common decency that should,
So we're instructed, come to guide
Our acts and choices once untied
From those rogue impulses that rule
Our hearts and minds until we school
Them in more adult ways? Not my
Strong suit, this stuff, although I try
To take the Creon view and see
The problem with Antigone,
If you'll excuse the sharp descent
From their sublime predicament
To how I stall and beat about
The bush. Why can’t I come right out
With what I should have said straight off:
That Boris is the kind of toff
Who gets us fellows a bad name?

          Let’s face it, he’s the one to blame
If things go wrong with our old trick
For pleb-appeal. That lets us click,
Us Grade A types, with all those folk,
The Ds and Es, who like a bloke
Much classier than the Bs and Cs
Since quite at liberty to please
Himself in all he says or does,
Like setting lots of ears abuzz
With gibes about the middling sort
Of social climber. Why comport
With rules of decency or tact
Devised by parties to a pact
The main effect of which has been
To keep the have-nots off the scene,
As well as haves with wealth enough
(Inherited) to tell them: stuff
Your bourgeois virtues, stand aside,
And see us jump the class-divide
From A to E. But now he’s blown
The gaff, my wretched boy, and shown
That up as just the kind of ruse
That chaps like us will always use
To dupe the very folk who’d stand
To gain the most if our old brand
Of fake class-hopping were exposed
For what it is. So, chapter closed:
Just have to have to find another way
To con them, fight another day,
And forge anew the ancient bond
Of foule esclave and beau monde.

Source: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland
K2_PUBLISHED_ON Saturday, 03 June 2017 18:45

An Irish Politician Speaks

in Poetry
Written by

An Irish Politician Speaks

by Kathryn Keane

Of course what you're doing
is phenomenal, I've no doubt about
that, and I'll stay safely behind you
every step of the way.
And of course it's a fine cause,
something we should all be
supporting, and all it needs
is someone just like you
to lead the way and someone just like me for it to die on.

Because when it comes
To any decisive change
Or any decisive action
Or any decision to be made at all
You can count on me
To speak out on every worthwhile cause
And say absolutely nothing.

Mud
Saturday, 03 June 2017 08:29

Mud

Written by
in Poetry

Mud      

by Susan Millar DuMars

 You did right to stay put.

We admire you.  You,

with your gun and your country.

Your children squat in the mud

they were made from.

We want to help you.

Those who ran, are still running,

they’re not noble.  Not solid.

They flit and flutter

from border to border

not knowing when they’re not wanted.

Imagination’s expensive.

They can’t afford it.

We’re sorry to mention,

but the mud their kids

are squatting in?

That’s our mud.

But you – we admire you

with your slingshot and your country.

Hold on please, we’re coming.

A promise is a promise.

Your war is important to us.

Please, hold the line.

Death Chant of Capitalism’s Handmaidens
Wednesday, 31 May 2017 18:33

Death Chant of Capitalism’s Handmaidens

Written by
in Poetry

Death Chant of Capitalism’s Handmaidens: For Choir of 350 Identical Voices

 by Kevin Higgins

We the underwritten do with great solemnity promise

on our watch Union Carbide, Johnson & Johnson,

Lockheed Martin, and the late Herrs Bosch and Braun 

will all have penis and balls cleanly dismantled,

made safe, and exported to fortify the wall

keeping terrorists from Judea and Samaria out;

each have a working vagina installed

under a Chanterelle beige

plutonium-powered pants suit fit

to play rhapsodies in

for the safe delivery of the shells

Golda guided onto the outskirts

of Damascus, for Indira’s ‘Smiling Buddha’

one thousand four hundred kilogram bomb,

for Imelda’s closet of shoes too fabulous

for the likes of you, on a grand piano

your grandmother swiped

from departed refugees,

seconds after one’s typed

in the codes to end man,

plant, and womankind;

bequeathed the planet to the gender neutral,

and hence far more successful, bacilli

Deinococcus Radiodurans who unlike us

will waste not one moment working out

on their calculators

which Facebook comments

it would be a smart career move

to like.

 

Note by Kevin Higgins

Recently, Frankie Gaffney wrote the following article in the Irish Times: Identity politics is utterly ineffective at anything other..... 

Frankie's argument that class, not gender, sexuality or race, is the key division in society was supported online by a number of activists and writers of both genders, and was shared sympathetically by many, including Kitty Holland, the Irish Times journalist who broke the story of the in 2012 death of Savita Halappanavar (after she was refused an abortion at University Hospital Galway), a tragedy which led to Ireland's abortion laws being amended. 

An open letter titled 'Cop On Comrades' condemning those who shared the article and supported Frankie's article was then published and signed by 350 women 'activists' https://feministire.com/2017/05/25/cop-on-comrades/ It focuses on the men who shared the article, for obvious opportunist reasons, ignoring the fact that many women also supported the general point of view. Elsewhere online Kitty Holland, perhaps Ireland's leading journalist on the issue of women's rights, was condemned by some for being anti-feminist. 

It must be pointed out that though many of the signatories to the 'Cop On Comrades' are indeed respected activists, a good number have never been active in doing anything other than promoting their own literary ambitions; a few were open supporters of Hillary Clinton against Bernie Sanders in last year's US Presidential election; and several remained entirely silent during the massive movement against water charges/privatisation (2014-16) which mobilised hundreds of thousands of working and middle class people and forced the Irish government into a historic climb down.

At Shannon
Saturday, 27 May 2017 15:44

At Shannon

Written by
in Poetry

At Shannon

by James Martyn Joyce

The black man wielding the bottle of Tia Maria and the chocolates,
Padding to the checkout, is the full-stop that makes him look,
Makes him see the others:
Uniformed ants feeding through the shelves,
Aran sweaters and golfing hats clasped to their sand-brown chests,
Multiples of vodka clinking in their fists.

They bring the desert here, these young troops,
Camouflaged to blend into sand,
Melt behind baked brick walls,
Soundless on desert soles, eyes scanning as they move,
Through the aisles of alcohol, the rows of packaged gifts.
Shaven headed, they choose the normal,
The day-to-day, like returning from a holiday,

As if their tour was not of duty,
But two weeks lingering near girls they never got to know,
Or did, and were gravely disappointed.
Or lucky, maybe, like the mine exploding down the street,
Comrades like so much meat, dead,
Like the eyes of the Texan boy on the edge of his seat,
Bidding ‘good-day Sir’ to the man who accosted him
In some vain attempt to understand, and got called ‘sir’,
As if such mannered traits could lead to a better understanding,
But does not.

Or the thin girl by the souvenir rack,
Clutching a leprechaun for luck,
Her smile, wistful, praying a stuffed doll
Could bring back everything she’s lost,
All she saw justified by some salute,
Ignoring her own mother in the eyes of an Arab woman,
Crying out, calling death into the room,
The wounds cratering her son’s remains just cause.

Or the ones called Brad or Goose,
Hard men at the bar, talking whiskey, kills,
Cadavers lined up and swallowed down,
Bodies stacked with the Paddy and the Bells,
Their ghost-victims carpeting the room:
Sub-human in their facelessness,
Down there with the hogs,
Players, they shield the timbered bar and I sit
Lined-up at their feet, try to read departure times,
Avoid their burning stares.

 

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