There are people who still use the word
Pursing their lips to spit the PROM.
(Acts like the queen, but don’t believe the hype)
Smiling behind their teeth into the MIS
(She never married, did she? Who would touch her?)
Snarling and sneering bitterly on CU
(Line up now, lads, there’s plenty for you all)
But O their sorrow, as they utter US
(Not fair! It doesn’t matter what we call her:
She won’t belong to us.
She promised, oh she promised that she would.
She promised us. Promised to us. To us!)
She never promised you a goddamn thing.
You missed the point.
The way you always do.
This word won’t bother her:
it marks and labels you,
Spitting your bitterness.
(This is a completely true story)
A trip to the ruined abbey
And the river.
I dare to feel happy.
I imagine sinking in dark water.
The current’s pull.
As deadly and as brown as Coca-Cola
The Dreaded Wharfe.
Aire drowns one.
My mother warns
But Wharfe drowns five.
She will not let me swim.
The water does not scare me:
Its cold dark beckons me.
Once, years ago, I floated here
Tiny in an orange rubber ring
Out of all their reaches.
They said I could have died.
I think I can remember speed,
My sisters shouting, running alongside me.
My disappointment when at last I drifted,
Unharmed toward the shore.
My sisters are not here.
I’m only with my parents:
A unit still, but barely.
I stare out at the pulling, dark brown, water.
Sweet and dangerous.
My father buys a can of coca cola.
Not so much a kindness meant for me
As another knife to stick into his marriage.
To win me over, poison me against her.
He knows my mum already told me no.
I know he knows.
My mother sighs, and shrugs.
I take my treat to drink down by the river.
The next Olympic Games are in Korea.
The can I’m holding tells me all about it.
It tells me I could win a trip to Seoul.
I know that this is Sports. I do not care.
I did not know Korea was a country.
I thought it was a job.
Or maybe, the sensation
Of veering off, untethered, uncontrolled.
I rip the ring pull off.
The underside is gold.
I’ve won a trip to Seoul.
I think. They will not let me go alone.
Perhaps they will not let me go at all.
It’s cannot be for me. It’s a mistake.
They’ll laugh, and say I haven’t really won it.
And, probably, my mum and dad will argue.
I throw the ring pull deep into the Wharfe.
And drink the dark brown water.
On the way home, they argue anyway.
Here’s little Lucy, what a shining star!
With all your help we’ll see this kid go far!
Donate, and she can have a brand new chair
And 14 days a year of respite care.
Brave little Lucy’s growing every day!
Her needs are too, so someone’s got to pay.
Without your help, she’ll be all on her own
As services are cut back to the bone
These needy kids depend upon our aid,
As each November violins are played
To tug our heart strings. It feels good to give!
And by our charity, the poorest live.
When little Lucy reaches working age
Just watch that sympathy turn into rage.
With right wing spin, it’s strange what we become;
She was an inspiration, now she’s scum.
Of course if all the funds weren’t drained by greed
But shared with each according to their need
Brave little Lucy would disdain our pity
There’d be more than she needed in the kitty!
Each day another human life succumbs
As wealthy benefactors scatter crumbs
But tie that bandage over both your eyes.
Refuse to see beyond the cheerful lies.
I noticed it a week into the job.
The colleagues who would tilt their heads and sigh
When, somehow I’d impinged upon their normal
With unexpected pronouns.
Thrown ‘girlfriend’ like an unexploded bomb
Into the break room. The pause.
Before they’d cluck their benediction.
We do not spend much time in front of mirrors:
How can we with so much we need to do?
We look out at the world through tunnels of bone
Through lenses with the bloodshot tint of rose.
How often do we really see the way
Reflected in another’s eyes?
Did you feel it?
The sneer that touched your lip
And soured the smile you gave me?
I could not see my own arms
As they folded against you.
You thought: she doesn’t make it easy for herself
I thought: I will not drop my guard again
The pause. And then again that verbal tic
We go and take each mandatory training,
Each online course; a duty, grimly borne
We vaccinate ourselves
Against imaginary litigation.
We keep out of the red. We stay in line.
We know that we do not discriminate.
The pause. And then the stilted sympathy
I watch for it now
When someone not the same
Disrupts the status quo by… being there.
I know I feel it, often, on my face.
The look of blank surprise: why are you here?
Why have you stepped out of the role we gave you?
Of inspirational minority?
Of patient story: (didn’t we do well?)
The script runs in my head, corrupting files
I do not want to be the one who’s wrong
Somehow, I still believe I am the one
Who never makes mistakes, who always smiles
Without the blessing, bitter on my tongue
I try to bite it back without a wince
Too late. I know how sharp our eyes become.
How often do we see the way we look?
We do not want to be the one who’s wrong.
You do not want to be the one who’s wrong.
Look difference in the eyes. Don’t fill the silence
With empty benediction. Don’t be scared
Of being wrong. Of listening. Of truth.
Look at you now, reflected in another’s eyes.
Imperfect, but prepared at last to learn!
ǂ represents a palatal click or “tut”.
Adjust your attitude.
Adjust your attitude.
Be grateful for days you’re not beaten.
Be thankful for nights you don’t freeze
Be grateful for days when you’ve eaten.
Give thanks for a life on your knees.
Think not of yourself but of others.
Your needs do not need to be met.
Give all that you have to your brothers:
Are you feeling that inner peace yet?
Resolve to absolve
Or you will not evolve.
Resolve to absolve
Or you will not evolve.
Forgive those who trespass against you
Your anger is harmful and wrong
Forget all the trauma that pains you:
Why can’t we just all get along?
Do not be proud,
Or shout aloud,
You’re not allowed:
You should be cowed.
Be humble, forgiving and grateful.
Your imperfect soul for to save.
Don’t be uppity, bitter or hateful:
There’s a good and obedient slave.
We don’t need to pay people working tax credits,
There’s food banks and soup kitchens: people get fed. It’s
The charities’ job to make sure that they eat
If their wage only covers their rent and their heat.
Our benefits culture we ought to attack:
After months on the dole, they should give something back!
They’ll be paid in experience
Yes, and perhaps,
If they’re working with food, they can live on the scraps.
There are plenty of jobs, everyone should be working:
They do not pay much but it’s better than shirking
We can’t force the bosses to pay a fair wage
They need to make profits in this day and age.
So we give them free labour from those on the dole
Fair pay for fair work isn’t really our goal
The more wealth to the top of the pyramid goes
The more generous donations from rich CEOs.
Of course, if the companies paid what they should
We could get rid of working tax credits for good.
But why put all that pressure on millionaires
When we’ve got all these food banks and soup kitchens there?
Post sanity We talk about gender like it’s binary as if it is as black and white as that, Missing out on all the glorious colours that are in-between