Unlucky enough to pass our eleven plus
we were claw-crane selections
from our class dropped into a history
the likes of us had never read.
Inducted with pictured corridors
of Spiritus Vicis spouting opportunity
from the mothballed grammar
of the cloak-wielding Headmaster
and his fountain of Latin characters.
Amo, amas, a matter of opinion
was to know our place. Our mouths
were swabbed for memories.
We were to become
someone else’s nostalgia.
By the time we left early,
five of a seven-year stretch,
we stooped off to the factories
that laughed at us
for taking the long way round.moment to look through the gallery, and get in touch for more information.
IF WE WERE REAL
‘The people who make the wheels go round have always been ignored by novelists. When they do find their way between the corners of a book, it is nearly always as objects of pity or as comic relief.’ [George Orwell]
Jo’s mum Helen is a slag,
doesn’t stop her having a go
at Jo getting pregnant by a black man
and staying in a hole
with that pansified little creep though.
Colin’s mum is no better,
she’s just after his dead dad’s
insurance money, but Colin’s
a little toe rag running for his life,
who’ll let the whole fucking lot
of them down. Arthur’s a proper
hard bastard, working his seed
into as many women as he can.
And guess what, Victor’s only gone
and got his missus up the ready rough,
so has to live with the mother-in-law,
and she’s had a leading role
in working men’s jokes for years.
Tommy’s off up the match, an away game
kick-the-shit out of any proper casual
who’ll have it. Ray beats up his missus
when he gets home, stamps on her throat
like some rat he found in the bog. Lol’s Dad
commits the horrors with her sister
and her mate any place he can, then tries
it on with her until Combo ends the cunt.
Young Timmy knows how to enjoy himself,
he cleans double breasted windows,
or checks under the sink for some
scantily clad plumbing, before delivering
a whipped cream double entendre
to bored housewives. Rita likes a bit
of that an’ all, off shagging Bob,
with her mate Sue, but her namesake
tries her hand at books instead of dotting
her luck on the bingo of a Saturday night.
Shirley’s fucked off to Greece, can’t stand
talking to the wall no more, cooking
egg ‘n chips for her husband,
who believes that’s a woman’s place.
Billy’s dad knows what a man should be,
and it’s not a fucking dancer.
Rent’s smacked off his boat, so goes swimming
for a pearl in the filth of the bog,
whilst Dushane’s a boy at the top
of his game, on the estates round his way.
Like Frank’s kids, who surround him
like a wreath, this all may be true.
And Big Chris is right when he says,
‘It’s been emotional.’
But is that really all we are?
Do we not go by any other names?
Bed by midnight, I set my alarm for two a.m.
At its sound I pad to my son’s room. The floor
is a rubble of clothes, guitar leads, a trophy cabinet
of sticky bowls residue in a corner.
In bed, he holds the glow of his screen,
perched in fear of the grave hymns that sing
in his dreams. He says he’s okay, without shifting.
I fail by saying ‘try to get some sleep’.
I retreat to my bed, risk an hour.
At three he’s still glowing. Says he tried.
I know. Best rise for a time.
I wipe last night’s words from the kitchen table.
We eat cereal to silence, see if that works.
It’s being tested with everything else outside
the covers of a book. Back in bed,
he turns to the wall. Now I stay, see him to sleep.
At the inhale of day, the sun cracks its knuckles
behind the curtains. ‘Come on then,’ I say.
FOR TOMMY IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MUSIC
‘Maggie Thatcher You Can't Match Her’
is railing on the jukebox for the fifth time
that Sunday night, a time when the women
are at home readying the kids
for future failure and an early night kicking off
their blankets and wetting the bed.
The old Paddies, full of pints & roasts,
lost bets and building site wives, shout
about the auld whoor and how she’s ruining
the country they came over to build
when they weren’t paid enough to build their own.
The young lads are all one-in-ten UB40s,
gabbing about the football, fanny
and who's next for a beating
at pool. Signing away their life
at the social, they can still feel
the cane-lined education across their arse.
Everyone owes everyone else, so all’s good,
in this handshake economy - one lad buys
a house off another who’s going away for a year
at least, and their days lengthen over outside events
like the grey shadow of a cloak soaked
in the blood of industrial resignation.
Tommy’s sat amongst them. Once
a scuffle of calcium, now a jenga of bones
carved in the corner with smoke-gold fingers
and no mind to argue with an empty glass.
He’s beaten down by the interventions of time.
Says, he keeps hearing things he never said,
wants someone to call him a psychiatrist
next week. Any day will do, except for the ones
he’s dissolved in drink. He’s a packed diary.
The lads tell him he’s got the experience
but not the qualifications. It’s a joke
he doesn’t get, but no-one makes the call either.
By the middle of the week Tommy's kitchen
has music dancing off the walls without
a guide rope. A few too many lines, sees him
shaking with uncertain psychosis, and in need
of the padded cell of plant food. So he takes off
to the shop with the fairies, for fags
and skins to roll a coned one. Then sits
in the company of a pigeon decorating
the bench with other white shit from the city’s
indulgence. Tommy smiles as the Hail Mary
Jane takes to playing him a soothing tune.
Meanwhile his muscle-in-residence
anabolic neighbour turns up at the empty flat
to tell Tommy he’s broken their keep-the-peace agreement
hammered out at three o'clock Monday morning
over empty promises and a full bag of Super Brew.
Yer man spots Tommy's powder floured across
the table like the extravagance of an apprentice baker.
He jibs him to the beasts, but not before stealing
a line or three for his own well-tunnelled nostrils.
So now Tommy’s bored as a spirit level
in an IKEA showroom. Flat packed
on the lower deck, in a 23 hour lock up.
He suffers his top bunk’s bucket list for when
the great outdoors opens once again. This lad
is little more than an 18 year old roll up,
a career choice cock up. A neck tat toe rag,
useful as 90 pence in Poundland, he stinks
of stale digestives. The lad needs crampons
to cling to his delusion, instead of slip up plimsolls
stolen from the pay-us-what-you-got shop.
The lad says he knows the inside of a car
inside out, cackles like a cauldron stirrer, before
showing Tommy his un-fathered hands. For the next
six weeks he is nearly all Tommy will see, laid out
on a diamond wired spring framed mattress,
gabbing on like a trade description act
in a six by ten picture frame for Her Majesty’s Pleasure.
Tommy was born in the day, but it wasn’t
yesterday. He’s got his whole life behind him
and he’s losing all feeling toward keeping
another lad safe from a future stretched
out dreaming at the ceiling.
Our Tommy finally gets to see the psych.
They listen to music together with the door shut,
in the prison’s excuse for a chapel. Strings and piano
keys echo through the rows of empty chairs;
enough to give Tommy the steadies. And so,
for one hour a week at least, he's free
of all those fellas jabbering away in his head
about Thatcher, the horses, football and the fanny.
Extract from "The Combination"
A spectre is haunting Europe
— the spectre of communism
that loose blanket in need of tucking in
All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre
this unholy spectre come to remove the opium and Xanax flow from the ennui of its existents
Pope and Tsar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police-spies.
Pope and President, Merkel Macron, autoimmune free radicals of capitalism, each playing I spy with my belittling eye
Where is the party in opposition that has not been decried as communistic by its opponents in power?
Karl saw a gap in the market before the market had been fully formed
Where is the opposition that has not hurled back the branding reproach of communism
no-one likes us, no-one likes us, no-one likes us, we don’t care, we are commies, new-born commies, we are commies from over there
against the more advanced opposition parties, as well as against its reactionary adversaries?
we are coming with sickles and fists, hammers and molotovs, balaclavas and masks, & pen and paper (just in case).
MARX’S TEN COMMANDMENTS OF COMMUNISM
Extract from "The Combination"
Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purpose
I suggest we begin with cutting the hedge funds, the casino capitalism, the prospecting close your eyes and pick a card path to prosperity
2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax
in the heated climate of today’s reprobates, they’ll not be much need for public debate
3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance
Can I keep my granddad’s watch, it’s broken, it’s worthless, it means a lot?
4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels
there’ll be no more capital flight, those runways closed at midnight
5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly
credit where credit is due, an economy not founded on a global debt of $233 trillion, phew!
6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State
yes traveller I’m just putting you through, can you believe it, no trains overdue
7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State
of factories, mere metal filings remain, big data now is the name of the game
the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan
I sat upon the shore/ Fishing, with the arid plain behind me/ Shall I at least set my lands in order (TSE)
8. Equal liability of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture
you might need a little marketing advice, industrial armies doesn’t sound nice
9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country
the green with the grey, cosmopolitan hue, no borders, no hoarders, no get in the queue
10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, &c, &c.
with child labour/girls denied education/born into sex work we mustn’t forget this is not done-and-dusted, those wheels have not come off yet, though they may be a little rusted