cover size 210 x 148 mm (A5)
"VOICES" Financial Appeal
our appeal in the last weeks of October, less than 4 weeks before "Voices" 6
went to the printers. The reason for this call for help was not because of
decline and crisis, quite the contrary. Circulation is continually increasing.
The men and women who write for us are a continually growing number.
But we wish
to expand. our circulation. still more. We need to make approaches to the Labour
movement, to student societies, to bookshops; we generally need, more
advertisement, And in a period of rising costs we want to maintain
level. Hence our call for £250 to see us through the next 2 issues, or better
still £350, which would enable us to complete our budget promotion to the end of
We hope never
again to shake a begging bowl before our readers, and are very grateful for the
response so far (Nov. 12). Total £164.23.
£10, Martyn Handley £1, Anon (Watford) £5, Ben Ainley £5, Bill Eburn £2, H.
Burgess £1, Joyce Stebbens £5, M. Orbach, M.P., £1.50, Roy Melven £5, C.S
Bescoby £1, J. Wolmark £3, Mike Pentelow £5, Mrs.E. Sheldon,£1, C. Morris, M.P.,
£2, M. Balchin £2.40, - Brian Simon £5, Rose Friedman £5, H.G. Klaus £2, V.P.
Richardson £1, S.M & K. Karim £2, Bernard Barry £2.50, Fran Hazelton £5, F.
McGill £10, J.M. Hawthorn £3, Sarah Windlebank £4, Julia Murphy £2, Anon (M/c)
£2, R. Howard £2, Sam Watts £1, H. Morgan £1, C. Hargreaves £2, F. Seyd, £2, W.
Hodgart £1, N. Wylie £5 A.D. Clegg £5, M. Butler £5, B. Hodkinson £2, C.W. Page
£5, Alf Morris, M.P. £5, Connie M. Ford £9.93, R. Hartman £2, G.Restie £1, P.G.
Gallop 40p, J. Hanby £2, E. Jessup £2.50, M. Sedgley £5, N.L. (Hale) £5,
Craigavon Gp C.P.I. £3', John Pinkerton, £2.
ON A LOWRY PICTURE
From these drab streets, these too much clouded skies,
who shall condemn a painter if he flies
to where the sun some brilliance supplies?
Though those that tread French pavements, Spanish dust,
barefoot for poverty not pleasure, must
like us unsatisfied and hungry rust.
For rain is not responsible for slums
nor smoke nor industry alone benumb
people into the shadows they become.
These who are lords of molten metal, kings
of locomotives, makers of fine things,
should walk with dignity, nay, swaggering.
But since they hardly earn a living pay
which well may vanish on a rainy day,
how can they walk unbowed, much less be gay,
but in the hopes we blaze abroad each May?
TO A NAMELESS JOE
like a nightclub in the morning
you are the bitter end like a freshly harpic' d bathroom
you're clean round the bend
you .give me the horrors
you put me in the poo
all of my tomorrows
are black because of you
like a death at a birthday party
you ruin all the fun
like a sucked and spat out smartie
your usefulness is done
like the shadow of the gallows
bad noose as I would say
bad blood marks the sidewalk
as you go your wicked way
you put the shat in spatter
you put the pain in spain
you're mad as a bleedin' 'atter
you're so lethargic you're lame
your very presence in my view
is an outrage on the eye
a motion picture reminds me of you
each dawn I die
You went to a progressive psychiatrist
who recommended suicide
before scratching your bad name off his list
and pointing the way outside
the day god spat you on the stack
was the last day of laughter
you crawled you walked you jumped on backs
lived apathy ever after
John Cooper Clarke
The parson mouthing
his theological jargon.
the writer's pen
dripping empty cliches.
the politician open-gobbed
showing his rotten teeth.
the lunanaut in orbit
deciding to travel by bus.
me - pretending.
any mirrors around?
Vincent P Richardson
There will come a day
When nobody will think
Of looking for a reason
For living, they'll just
Be living and that'll
Be reason enough
For doing, jumping,
Nobody'll stop wanting
To do things, the way
They do now, because
Most things you want
To do you'll be able
To do. Nobody'll be
Shy of doing things well,
Of having dreams
Too big, too grand,
Too loving, too
Magnificent. Nobody 'll
Nip their plans in
The bud because
Plans are frowned upon,
The way they are here
And now. Nobody will
Cower and be humble
In the presence of
Trash. Nobody'll be
Embarrassed or ashamed
Of the ambitions they
Have for themselves
And their children.
Nobody will conceive
Of tolerating anything
Less than the best
Will accept a
Restricted area of
Understanding, a playpen
In the explorable world.
Nobody will ever have
The thought cross,
Their mind that they
Don't matter. Nobody
Will imagine that
They matter more
Than anybody else.
Nobody will despair.
Nobody will triumph
Except over their own
Will grow and grow
Old like a calf
In a veal-house;
Nobody will walk
Like a horse fixed
To a milk-cart;
Nobody will be
Like a fat
Splayed cat or
A clapped-out old
Can't say what
People will be
Like when they've
Made a leap
As great as the
Leap into language -
But I hope I
Can discern what
Our social silence
Is doing to us
MONEY ON THE BRAIN
(Number of unemployed in Britain on 20 July 1976, 1,463,456).
Money on the brain
Money on the brain of all classes
So no one profits
Men and women exchanged for their use
in making things that make money
involving a surplus they never see
In a word: exploitation
What kind of value is this?
Do the ruling class and the clerks of the state
know that the quality of the unemployed
increases with the number of the unemployed?
Including: old workers soaked with rage
mothers and wives upset in their guts
black and asian youth coping in their stride
- up to a point
white working class youth putting their
literacy to use at last filling in their
first B1 forms
ex-students and their varieties of contempts
All realize their potential for a higher value in
The top cat politicians break for tea
And air their sweaty backsides at the expense of working people
and the unemployed, whose daily life is to be scuttled further
on behalf of the money on the brain syndrome
Think: as the T.V. eye of U.S. space technology extends to Mars
(is there life on Mars?
is the class struggle on Mars?)
as the spurious Olympic vision is made a mock of
- if not or. British T.V.
(how is the class struggle on T.V.?)
as the T.V. spells out the latest
as if matter of fact
(how is unemployment a consequence of
Everywhere there is mcney on the brain
money on the brain of all classes
so no one profits
Can you hear, Brain, on Robben Island? Can you hear in Chile?
Are the trade winds whispering tonight the news, of Portugal-?
Mozambique, Angola, Guinea-Bissau?
The tide of people's power is surging up the
black rocks of fascism:
they'll be engulfed.
One should live for a hundred years to see the future;
No longer just co-existence;
But a new Socialist World, A Fourth Dimensional World
With Fourth Dimensional Man!
Will he go to the other galaxies?
Will the universe yield us the secret of eternal life?
An answer to our population problem?
To our inborn longing for everlasting life;
And life then no longer mockery;
a clown's act, finished in a puff of wind,
But last forever in the skies!
THE GOOD CHRISTIAN
It is a hot, dry morning, and the veld burns beneath a
fierce, hellish sun. The air is still and all is silent save for the song of
cicadas strident in the scorched grass. The compound 'seems empty, for the black
labourers have long since left to continue the harvest of the maize. But one man
remains half hidden in the shade waiting. Why does he wait? The foreman told him
to report to the boss first thing in the morning. Then there was nothing ominous
in his words. But the black man knows that the man for whom he is now waiting is
harsh and' just, and that he hates thieves even when they steal to feed a
malnourished family. He is afraid, but resigned to his fear and punishment. His
Life has given him a servile and sheepish appearance. Perhaps he hopes the man
for whom he waits, whenever he troubles to think of him. Why does he work under
such bad conditions for such long hours for him? He neither knows nor asks.
Perhaps it is because the others all do so. Perhaps none of them yet knows how
to ask the question why. Perhaps they are waiting for something that is now as
distant as the sun at midnight, but which shall come as certainly as the dawn.
Why does he not flee from the dusty yard of certain punishment? But where? They
must all flee together. Why does he not arm himself to kill him for whom he
waits? But how? They must all strike together. He stands with dignity, but not
in the sun. He does not want to be seen. His body is of bone and muscle: on the
rich and white can have fat. Perhaps there are vestiges in his bearing of his
Zulu ancestry, or are they the signs of a future whose birth is inevitable? How
long must he and his people wait? Now he stands immobile in the quiet of the
morning, a quietness that only the white man breaks.
Christian Bloemfeld is the owner of a maize farm in
Northern Natal. He is the proud descendant of a line of Dutch settlers who rod.e
in ox-drawn waggons into the heart of South Africa to seize the virgin lands
from the native tribesmen whom they either killed or enslaved. His grandfather
fought as a young, enthusiastic guerrilla against the British in the Boer War,
but although the' British won and the miners gained the freedom to exploit the
country's vast mineral wealth, his grandfather kept his lands and kaffirs along
with the other settlers. The farm is appropriately called 'Kruger'. Bloemfeld
himself is a hard, tough man, 'brutalized through an inheritance of endurance,
determination and tenacity and through a Calvinist faith that sanctifies
ownership and wealth as signs of divine favour. Bloemfeld sees the world as
something to be ordered and used to his own advantage. The soil, the grasses,
the seed, the timber, the rains and the sunlight, the animals and the birds, and
the black men are to be' dominated and controlled through incessant effort. 'In
the sweat of thy brow shalt thou labour to eat thy bread'. This formula is
engraved on his spirit. Bloemfeld believes in hard work, running the farm with
efficiency. His days are spent in giving orders backed by the threat of the
whip, ensuring that the maize is planted properly and harvested, buying and
servicing implements, and then selling the maize at a good price. He is moderate
in what he consumes compared to his relatives in Johannesburg and Kaapstad, and
has the reputation in the local community of being a generous man, his donations
to the Dutch Reformed Church being not inconsiderable and evidence of his piety.
He is much like his ancestors whom he deeply respects. They were conquerors, so
branded by natural adversity, and he feels he is of that selfsame stock,
identifying closely with their traditions.
Bloemfeld now nonchalantly enters the compound. He does
not strut, but his air of self-confidence. He is a tall man, a little fat with
hair cut short. His face is heavily tanned, since he spends his days out in the
fields. He wears shorts and leather shoes. His shirt is unbuttoned to reveal a
firm, stone-like chest covered with dense hair. He strides powerfully over to
where he has noticed from the corner of his eye the black man standing
coweringly in the shadow of' the storehouse. In his right hand he clutches the
ivory handle of the bull-hide whip. The black man seems to shrink. He wishes to
merge with the whitewashed wall, but it is impossible. Bloemfeld now looks at
him piercingly straight. The black man's head is bent to look at his naked feet,
whitened by the dust. The ground softly crunches under Bloemfeld's feet: the
"You been stealing grain?" Bloemfeld addresses him. The
words are merely part of the' role - the role of being master. The black man is
dumb. There are no words to be spoken, for they speak different languages of
work and communication. The black man is old, though only forty, for the work
ages so inexorably fast. He has ancestors, but they are unrecorded in history.
His timorous eyes are caught by the hands of Bloemfeld who almost sensually
grips the handle of the whip. He has seen other black men who have stolen or
been too tired to work with ugly weals on their backs. This man has worked hard
and obediently to avoid- Bloemfeld's anger until now. But had his family to
Bloemfeld is relaxed, legs apart and his eyes now locked
on the whip. Both men's eyes are fastened to the whip. It is the medium through
which they see one another, the bond which joins them in an inhuman
relationship. They never look at one another face to face as men. They cannot,
for one fears and the other despises. When does one man's fear become the hate
that can one day kill and when does one man's contempt dissolve into fear? The
black man continues to wait. He wishes to run - to be with his family and
friends. He remains in silent paralysis. Yet though afraid, he does not 'tremble
or plead, to surrender his last possession, his dignity.
"You stole grain. The foreman has told me." Bloemfeld
has spoken the accusation in a language only he understands. He interprets the
black man's silence as stupidity in the face of an irrefutable charge. The black
man is detached from the shouting. He is tired, and only an amorphous foreboding
about the severity of the punishment floats through his mind. Perhaps he sees
Bloemfeld as a puppet. "You know thieves must be punished. 'Thou shalt not
steal.' You know the commandment." Bloemfeld who feels he is the intermediary
between God and this man, thinks he has said enough. He is a laconic man who
frowns upon conversation as 'wasteful. He knows that it is his duty to protect
this man from evil and to enforce God's will, as his grandfather and father did
and as they taught him to do.
Now Bloemfeld raises the whip and begins to beat the
black man, cursing a little as he strains to bring the lash down forcefully upon
the naked black body. The black man is forced down almost at once to the dusty,
white ground. His body is contorted with the impact of each cutting stroke and
blood begins to stream staining red the whiteness of 'the earth. 'He brings his
knees tip to cover his agonized face and tightly clasps his feet as an embryo.
Bloemfeld labours in this rhythmic motion breathing heavily and oozing sweat'.
He is enjoying the destruction of a human being. His pleasure is a grim ecstasy.
His consciousness is absorbed into the single, repetitive action: the whip" is
raised and it falls to be raised again. The black man becomes a symbol of what
is still to be conquered. He is a part of nature untamed, evil and dirt. He must
be beaten, for he is a threat 'that' can engulf Bloemfeld's whole' life: his
'religion, his livelihood, 'his family, his race. lie is" all what 'Bloemfeld
hates and fears. Bloemfeld clenches his teeth. His ears are sealed to the
pitiable cries. He hears' only the dry crack of the whip or. the yielding flesh.
His, facial muscles constrict into an appalling mask. He strikes until
exhaustion overcomes him. The black man is silent, semi-conscious.
Bloemfeld walks slowly back to his home, a spacious
bungalow several hundred yards from the farm buildings. He is pleased to see the
minister's car parked in the driveway. Bloemfeld casually climbs the steps and
enters the hall where he ignores a young black maid who takes his whip before
meekly vanishing. Bloemfeld politely enters the lounge where, as he anticipated,
his wife and the minister are talking amicably over coffee: the atmosphere is
civilized. They greet Bloemfeld with obvious pleasure. The minister, a somewhat
gaunt, grey-faced man with a scrawny neck and faint voice, dressed in the usual
black, rises to shake hands with the master of the house. His smile is candid
and unexaggerated, as he explains that he can now accomplish the main purpose of
his visit, namely to express his deepest gratitude to Bloemfeld for his recent
5,000 rand contribution to the Church. "There was never such an honest, generous
and god-fearing man as you in my chapel, Mr. Bloemfeld." He says this sincerely,
clasping the farmer's still sweating tight hand. "I need not hope to see you at
church next Sunday, Mr. Bloemfeld, since you're sure to be there in the front
pew as usual." He smiles ecstatically over his little joke about Bloemfeld's
piety, and leaves after an exchange of farewells, wishing he had more
parishioners like the Bloemfelds.
As the minister is driving away from the Bloemfeld's
residence, he notices a black man hobbling painfully outside the farm compound.
He is bleeding and seems to be drunk. The minister who is upset by the sight of
physical suffering, feels slightly sick and presses his foot down on the
accelerator. The black man who recognizes the car watches it disappear in a
whirl of dust with hateful eyes.
The World, as yet, allows the C.I.A.
Subversive, patterns on its secret jigs.
A day will come when they have had their day!
As hidden dancers in the U.S. pay,
They turn uphere or there in different wigs;
The World, as yet, allows the C.I.A.
Cuba! The Yanks, uneasy, turn away!
Who tried a fast one at the Bay of Pigs?
A day will come when they have had their day.
Chile! This time they act without delay.
Allende might be offered Russian MIGS!
The World, as yet, allows the C.I.A.
Vietnam! Angola! Mozambiquel Ole!
They laugh, though, who control the oil rigs!
A day will come when they have had their day.
Time's running out for those the prop and stay
of Capitalism and its whirligigs.
The World, as yet, allows the C.I.A.
A day will come when they have had their day!
The garden scene is quiet here
It is the essence of stillness
And of Winter waiting
Almost like a suspension of time
On a damp dank breath.
The tidy lawns have been laid to rest
For the drab duration
And inside the red topped chalet
Under dust sheets gathering dust
The Summer trappings hold a multitude of memories.
But for those inside the house
A kind of living is ticking on
The man brings home the rich cheeses
And fine game for the pot
To a wife with painted oval nails.
And soft hand-lotioned fingers
That can shuffle a pack of cards
For Bridge with a slick dexterity
Like nobody's business
And Christian charity is oblong-shaped.
Neatly tailored to fit closely
Into the narrow limits of the fat cheque
That is thrust into the outstretched
Malnutritioned hand of a brown-skinned
Pot-bellied child with a patterned rib-cage.
Whose image stares out with vacant pop-eyes
From the columns of a national newspaper
(He committed the unpardonable indiscretion of.
As a talking point he soon loses out to
"Gas-oil-off Peak" - "we'll make it a world cruise."
However before long (Before one can say
Scotch and Soda in fact) the seasonal wheel
Will have turned full cycle
And the jolly merry-go-round
of outdoor living will, re-start.
Then on one particular hot
And quite unmemorable Summer day
In a bright gay world of striped umbrellas
And still lemonades calculating fingers will
Reach out and make an impromptu fan out of a national newspaper.
And the image of a brown-skinned boy
(Perhaps mercifully dead by then)
Will sway crazily to and fro, to and fro
To the stimulating rhythm
Of the town's latest gossip.
No moon - no sun - no stars
No morning - no evening - no light
No trees - no flowers - no spring
No birds - no song - no rainbow
No seas - no sky - no streams
No smiles - no joy - no laughter
No music - no warmth - no love
No tenderness - no beauty - no
feeling - no tomorrow
FROM "PALESTINIAN RESISTANCE' No.4 April 1976
Your hand lying over mine,
Your being flowing through my veins,
The green of your orchard!
The smell of newly ploughed earth!
Climbing almond trees
Splashing in the streams the reflection of
Now that you are no more,
The seed that fell is growing.
As time sweeps your images from my mind
I can only nourish that sprout
Astronomers can foretell the appearance of a comet
Its age, its course.
Who will listen, to the night rain,
Stand proudly to the sun?.
You told me, that ants have a mill-stone
under their nest,
Make flour, music.
Now that they cover your forehead
Do they know of your clear mind?
There he stands, in the shallowest wavelets
which lap the mile-wide sunlit beach,
whereon Atlantic rollers break and
carry sturdy, lissom surfers on their crests
to slide gracefully to a sandy halt.
He stands, straight, slim, alone –
his eyes and face shaded by a denim cap,
gazing out to sea, to the others,
his twenty-odd years supported by two sticks –
and one leg.
The waves form far out and build,
rolling in relentlessly,
their very tips curled back into a light froth
by the strong shoreward wind.
Golden holiday youth,
bare and bronze,
battle and ride the waves,
now overturned, now skilfully running for the shore,
concentrated on physical endeavour,
without a dark thought, without a glance.
And there he stands, his one jeaned leg cooling in the sea.
The evening is warm, golden, joyous, active.
Each busies himself with his patch of sand,
his beachwear, his bat and ball,
his board and waves.
No one speaks to the young man.
Did some dread disease take off his leg -
Or was it some careless car or bike -
And are his parents broken-hearted -
And his girlfriend disinterested now?
Or is he maybe a casualty of the
troubled land of Ireland,
reject of that undeclared war and
unwanted army of the occupying power?
We shall never know.
For I, like the rest,
making the best of each new wave,
and striving to remain contained and strong
within my own private disaster,
did not dare to. speak to him.
'ER THAT NATTLE
t'Thrang day o'er an' er that nattle: Gubbins,
Fleakt i' bed, tews chauvin' for ter sattle 'er –
B'r owt aw does, fer mi livin' or luvin', 's
Slur'd when hoo snurls, "Tha shaps like a tackler."
Jone O' Broonlea
Thrang, busy; nattle, bad tempered; Gubbins, soft self; fleakt i' bed,
lying naked in bed; tews, works hard; chauvin', ("rubbing together", euphemism) making love;
snurls "turns nose up".
AGITPOEM NO. 17. -
They fortified the Board.
with an item for the agenda.
They cried, "Unconstitutional!" and set up a
working party to make suggestions on the forming
of a committee to make proposals on drawing
up of an agenda for a meeting which was to
discuss the setting-up of a working party
to report back on the forming of a committee (with an agenda) ...
We lobbed in a motion,
but they repulsed us crying,
"Loyalty", "Order", "Noblesse Oblige" and "Responsibility".
We tried three amendments
but they didn't fit the proper channels
in which the Board had entrenched itself.
They offered that "steps" and "measures" wculd be taken
- and even flew a kite!
We threw in a point of information:
they put up a smoke-screen of confidentiality.
It was no use
- in the end, we had to use dynamite.
and Mrs. Polowski stepped from the platform of the number twenty one bus at the
temporary bus stop-by the road widening works.
the stop', the conductor yelled.
"What does he
say?" All these years, and still so little English penetrated her. Her hand
clutched his arm.
not the stop”
Not only was
the road being widened but the beginnings of a new road rubbled in from behind
pressing through the soles of their shoes. Mr. Polowski looked first one way,
then the other. The traffic came thick and fast. He looked down at the white
painted signs on the ground but they told him nothing.
he said. "Half way we can get, to the island."
thin material of his coat he felt the sharp pressure of her seemingly fleshless
fingertips. There had been a period in time when that pressure was ugly to him.
When, a young man, he had awoken sharply from a dream feeling her fingers
clutching him in a whirlpool of war and glassy-eyed faces, only to find she
slept, coma-like, beside him.,
He turned to
look with satisfaction at the sea of traffic he had brought them through but
already his wife's anxious eyes traversed three lanes to the other side.
after a hooting car in pained surprise. "These motorists never do like to see a
pedestrian going about his business."
afternoon we'll go to the cinema," he said. "What do you say to that?"
and the pressure of her fingertips lightened. "And tonight we'll have stroganoff
for dinner." She beamed and her fingers drummed a tune on his arm.
the Ministry of Health and Social Security and a burly Irishman said,
the Polak. What you tipping. today, Polak?"
laughed. This was their standing joke though he had forgotten its beginnings and
was uncertain why it was funny. He was not a betting man and preferred to see
something tangible for his money. He liked to see his wife eat a jaffa orange
and watch Putty put away a half a pound of liver.
building, Mrs. Polowski stood motionless,, unsmiling, her arms by her sides,
fingers pressing tight through her black coat onto her lump legs. He smiled at
her but it was no use. Surely she would know by now that it was advantageous to
be attended to by the same lady each week.
he said to the girl at the desk. She looked at
him. She smiled.
I worked as a watchman."
right, do you have your note?"
He took the
note from his pocket, small crumpled, and began to straighten it.
"Take this to
the fifth floor. You know the procedure” He was glad when the cinema lightened
and they could return home with the liver for Putty. He pointed out the card in
the post office window advertising that Putty's kittens were free to a good
time," she said. "Soon they will be too big to go!”
said Mrs.. Brown stepping into their path, "But there's been a mattress in your
back yard for four months now. Someone should report it to the Health
nothing of that," Mr. Polowski said.
"But it's in
your back yard."
“It was there
when I came. You want it, Mrs.?" He smiled. She could certainly have it, without
payment. True their room was of the second floor but he was at present the
tenant of longest standing and if anyone had jurisdiction over the mattress it
was he. Of course, there was a possibility that the woman whose room looked
directly onto the back yard could lay a claim to it.
don't want it" said Mrs. Brown. "It's been there for four months and it's soaked
through. It smells. Someone should report: it to the Health Authorities. He smiled.
Perhaps she meant that the Health Authorities would use the mattress for a needy
wife tugged. "Come away." They walked
should report your whole house. Layabouts. Cats. Stinking dustbins. Noisy
prostitutes! Yes she was right. The prostitute was noisy, but only on Saturdays.
But the dustbin, the dustbin did not smell noticeably different from any other
as far as he could tell.
He sat by the
window. He liked to sit by the window playing with Putty's kittens. Putty ate
the raw liver.
easy. Don't make he glutton of yourself."
over the meat, growling as she picked up a large piece, snarling and looking
from side to side. The door was ajar and the prostitute looked in.
you stopped starving that cat."
"Half a pound
of horse liver I'm giving to her." He smiled. "She thinks Tuesday's Christmas.
I'm leaving today. No one else will feed her." The kittens
fought for her nipples.
"Go on, Tibby.
Push in, Whitey." He stroked her head as she fed them and in turn she stroked
Tibby's head with her quick rough tongue. "I've made you happy."
He heard his
wife's slow tread from the kitchen to the bottom of the stairs, and then the
plod of her footsteps on bare boards.
and glared at him. He smiled gently and put a forefinger against Tibby's neck.
Tibby." His wife's footsteps sloped towards the door. She would not call
upstairs. She was the most silent person he had known. She wore a blanket of
silence day and night, even while speaking. He turned. She looked troubled. What
could it be? Oh, that he had heard her coming up the stairs and along the
landing and had not come.
stroganoff is ready." She turned.
He moved after her.
Putty." In the
kitchen he put a forefinger behind his wife's neck. "Tuesday is a happy day."
She did not
smile. He brought a hand from behind his back and brandished a bottle of sweet
white wine. She smiled, and they sat contented. The
prostitute put her head round the door.
the door for you."
"Who?" But she was
"What is it?
asked his wife.
that there's someone at the door for us, for me."
"Who is it?"
"Don't go." He pushed
away his plate, scraped his chair back and stood.
“I wont be
"Don't go." A child
confronted him, a girl of ten or eleven with a pink face and a grey neck.
"I'd like to
have a kitten please." Not today. He couldn't let one go on such a happy day. It
would spoil the day. It would be dangerous to take one away while Putty was
"There are no
kittens." The girl
looked puzzled. But she doesn't fool me Polowski thought, she doesn't look hurt,
"But you have
a notice in tbe post office window." He looked at
her closely. She obviously possessed cunning, guile. It was clever of her to
mention the presence of the notice, to casually refer to the post. office. There
was only one way to deal with this.
"There are no
"But I see
you playing with them every day in your window." Spying. But
for a moment she looked hurt. Then she stared directly at him, challenging. He
did not waver.
"There are no
kittens. There are no kittens now." The addition
of that small word changed everything. For a moment she looked as though she
drown them?" Questions, always questions while now the stroganoff spoiled, the
wine waited."I must eat my dinner now. My wife is waiting." He waited. She did
not move. Although reluctant to hurt her feelings, he closed the door and walked
back along the boards to the big kitchen. His wife sat
anxious, eating slowly.
"Who was it?"
"No one. A
"What sort of
"A boy. Nine
"What did he
"A kitten he
wanted." She looked
"But you know
what they are," he said, "He wanted a special kitten. It had to be black and
white with blue eyes."
have taken him up to see them. If he was a normal boy he would have taken a
liking to one of them. Perhaps two of them." She was very
intelligent at times, his wife. That was exactly true.
"No, no. It
had to be of certain markings. A black cape and trousers, four white socks, a
white bib and a black mask and hood. You know the ideas boys get into their
"I wonder why
he wanted such a cat." She ate more quickly now, now that she was reassured.
a game” he said offhandedly "Perhaps for a sinister game."Perhaps."
wine," she said.In a mood of
tranquillity now she washed the dishes and amiable he wiped them, then they
walked out over the boards to the rotting front door to walk along the lane and
look in windows.
they dined on boiled potatoes and drank black coffee, then set off for the
public library. At the bottom of the Terrace he caught a glimpse of Putty by the
house wall of number three. The kittens pushed towards her nipples. She pushed
them 'away. Mrs. Brown walked towards him.
said, smiling, proud.
"What are you
going to do about it, and about these kittens? They're starving."
concerned, he thought. She liked cats. "You'd like to have them," he said.
"I have two
cats of my own." Yes, he had
seen them. One was white, one was tabby. Suddenly it occurred to him that it was
possible to share the responsibility.
"I think," he
said, "That your cat is the father."
hardly likely. Both my cats have undergone operations and in any case are the
wrong sex for that to begin with."
"I think the
white one is the father."
impossible. Just impossible." His wife's
fingers claimed his arm, pressuring and re-pressuring.
ought to report this to the RSPCA," said Mrs. Brown.At the corner
by the chemist's shop stood the girl, grey-necked, grey-eyed, accusing.
have come back.. Would you like to have one?"
won't let me."
tugged at his arm. "Come away."
but are those your cats?" It was a woman again, from a shop yard. "Because one
of them is dead in the back street. I saw it licking the fever grate yesterday
afternoon. It'll be poison or starvation. Either way it's causing germs and the
children are touching it. It should be put in a dustbin. Or burnt."
"I don't know
whose cat." His wife
tugged his arm.
"The library." Her voice was urgent, her brow drawn.
“We have to
go, Mrs” A light rain came, gently touching their faces. She smiled. It had
rained when they met, a clear clean rain from the 'mountains and afterwards a
afternoon he sat looking through Volume Five of the Encyclopedia Britannica and
she gazed far out of the window to the green grass, the benches and the flowers,
seeing old people sitting, and children playing.
"Do you see,"
he said as they walked' back along the lane and -passed the bicycle repair shop.
"Do you see how the light is special and different at t-his time of the
afternoon? Do you see the rays golden from the sun piercing through the clouds?" She nodded.
"Between afternoon and evening is a beautiful time."
From the lane
he saw the woman who had reported to him that one of the. kittens had licked the
fever grate and died. She was talking with Mrs. Brown. They looked in his
direction, waiting for him to reach them. He felt his wife grow tense beside
him. Then he saw beside them the grey-necked girl.
said Mrs. Brown.
"In a hurry,
Mrs. ." he said.
stepped forward. Mr. and Mrs. Polowski stepped nimbly aside.
"Sorry. In a
They sat on
the bed, each back pressed against the-wall, each pressed tight, each silent.
The sunglow of evening gradually filtered out and the room was colourless in the
dusk. She moved then, his wife, across the room and lifted a defeated cushion
from a once upholstered chair. Stretching her hand inside she drew out one by
one four single pound notes, put the cushion back and walked towards her
husband. She took his hand and put the money in his palm, closing his fingers
round it. He smiled but sadly and crossed the room to the wardrobe, and,
stretching, took down the case.
came down the bare steps, silent to the door. On the bottom road the cobbles
pressed through the soles of their shoes. There was a movement on the ground.
her fingers through .the thin sleeve of his coat. 'Come away."
We seen 'em all,
at the ball a fall,
aint it a strain,
good gulping mates,
everyone the same.
pint by pint,
the race and shove,
of hope and inanity.
Their army days,
Where they became,
A small experience,.
in a mediocre gift,
grown up, for once,
a pastiche of life,
seen on a petty plane.
the barrel of a gun.
in the bullying,..
of the stereo-sergeant,
or some insane R.S.M.
Sten guns, bren guns,
armoured troup carriers.
A facade of boy scout,
The naive erecting
willingly tattooed, with
the stigmata of immutability.
Who fears to speak of Roberts Arundel.
Who blushes at the name
When blacklegs mocked the pickets' fate
We bowed our heads in shame.
Though the pickets have gone there still lives on
The fame of me who tried,
With patience and persistence to conduct themselves
Yet still there lingers a thought
Something must be rotten
When for a year and a half
These old men
Were by their leaders forgotten.
telling you Barney, I don't want any Vicar, priest, Rabbi, Bush Baptist, or any
of 'em parrotin' over me when I'm dead. When you're gone - you're gone.
nothing - nothing."
He banged the
table with his fist. The pint glasses wobbled.
finished. It's the end. And don't take me near a Church. One of the lads sayin'
a few words will do me." His brown eyes glowed fiercely.
"An you are
all witnesses to that. So I'm warning yer Barney, if you do - God help me, I'LL
COME BACK AND HAUNT YER."
SONG OF THE EARTH
She, first observed
playing guitar cross-legged
lost in the subways, hands moving
like nail-bitten tarantula's
across the fret, eking sound.
We, speared by hard electric
shadows across cold concrete,
talking for no reason, our ragged
breath shifting the limp air only slightly.
Me, talking of flash-lights at 2 a.m.
disturbing a Skegness seafront wind-shelter.
Police clawing sleep from us,
hands seeking contraband like
inquisitive legal scorpions from
beyond the cones of light. And later,
with morning mist and cold sun
angling across an empty promenade
infested with last night's litter,
metallic sea breaking splinters of
sharp white ice across frozen shingle.
Ocean crouching alive with huge primal
energy - and we are untidy dwarfs breasting
air into early morning abandoned tea-rooms
where coffee smells stain the air,
and a muted radio voice beyond the
pinball machines promises to
melt the last vestiges of sour night.
She, disinterested eyes frail beyond
wire-rimmed glasses, is not pretty,
and her fingers move like
across the fret,
WHOSE ROAD TO SOCIALISM?
I cannot equate my road with Crossman's Road, or Healey's Road.
My road has no U-turns to suit economic myth or selfish interest
I, with my grass roots brothers stand bemused,
While others stand and wrangle over GANNEX Macs.
My road does not cater for the disillusionment of emerging youth
My road has seen that, years ago, at the Somme and Jarrow.
And yet, the more I see my leaders mouth their new ideals,
I see the gap grow wider, and for Jarrow, I can only see a Harrow.
My road did not cater for the ego of greedy men,
I did not think to see some comrade drunk with power,
Nor see their backers on their knees,
Begging for baubles from the gift box of Establishment.
So. comrade, where does our road lead?
It may be long my friends, but that does not matter
As long as our road leads straight and true and honest
And our ideals remain, as they were in the beginning.
And what of their road comrades?
Their road is cluttered with the debris of the
Browns, the careerists, the hypocrites.
Their road stagnates with the Woodrow Wyatts and
the coronets of labour peers
I'd sooner walk my road.
Because, my brothers they have,
in their betrayal already been defeated.
But we, thank God, still know the enemies of our beliefs.
Alas, but who needs enemies, with so called friends like these.
From the train
we watched the guard dogs,
all attention, straining
in our direction.
Myself I like animals.
God help anyone,
that gets tangled
I know you
will worry if you don't hear and imagine things worse than they are. So here's a
straightforward blow-by-blow account of what has happened to us. And don't you
dare believe any worse!
Here in St.
Pancras we seem to be in the path of these "flying telegraph poles". But so far
only three have landed within a couple of hundred yards. The rest have gone on
to give hell elsewhere. You don't duck till you hear the engine cut out.
Today I was
on late turn, so at midday I was cooking a meal for us both: Olive was on nights
last week at her factory just down the road. I heard one of these little
treasures coming so went out on to the balcony to have a look. There it was, 100
feet up, moving leisurely in our direction. I'd just told Olive it was going
over when I saw its nose dip, though the engine was still running.
surprising how fast you can move when you must! I backed into the room, caught
Olive by the arm, dragged her from the window and nipped down into a corner in a
reverent position on my knees. It burst just after I'd dropped.
blew the thick black curtains to! We were on our feet again before the house
stopped rocking, Olive crying and shouting: "It's hit my factory!" I saw at once
that it hadn't, from where the column of smoke went up. Snatched up hag and
stumbled over a pile of plaster in the passage stripped off the ceiling, all the
plaster off the ceiling of the porch and some of its beams down. It was already
as dark as a London fog from the clouds of dust sweeping up Camden Road, and
bits of wood and paper still falling. We rushed down the street through the fog
and broken glass to where it had fallen 100 yards away on the other side of the
road from her factory. We must have been there in less than 3 minutes and the
rescue services were already at work.
at her Warden's post at the factory and then went into a house where a mate of
hers lived, with the window frames all hanging out. I went to the doctor's
house. In his garden a woman was sitting crying, her face blackened, a toddler
on her knee. She was only slightly cut, but her skirt was soaked in blood, her
injured mother having fallen against her.She was waiting while the doctor coped
with the old woman and two others, who had been got out quickly for instant
treatment. She wouldn't move until she had heard about her mother and until her
father had come home from work. She herself was all right but very shaken and
couldn't easily stop the tears. I took the kiddie on my knee. She didn't make a
sound except when her mother cried out, and that she couldn't bear. The curly
hair on her little head was full of glass and plaster but she was not hurt.
I told the
mother to stop crying because it was upsetting the kiddie; and to Jennifer I
"You are a
good girl! Why, you're a better girl than Mummy because she's crying and you
aren't. Wouldn't your Daddy be proud of his brave girl?" Her mother fiercely
dashed the tears out of her eyes and said: her Dad could see her now!
leave one of the bastards alive!"
grandmother came out, her arm bandaged, her face still covered with dried blood.
While I was cuddling Jennifer at least five people came up to take them to
safety and give them tea and a share of the dinner. It's a working class area,
of course, and so you would expect it; but the warmth and neighbourliness was
overwhelming. Finally I promised to wait for "Dad" to turn up and tell him they
were safe and where they had gone.
While I was
waiting I helped a man salvage some stuff from his hopelessly smashed rooms. He
said he had just got dressed to go and visit his wife in hospital: she had had
it in one of the two flying bombs here on Friday.
An old woman
was being helped down the street. She had run out of church to come home to her
family. As she reached this corner she had hysterics, throwing herself backwards
and faintly screaming, saying she was dying and clutching her chest. We propped
her up and told her sharply that unless she pulled herself together we would
leave her and not help her find her family. She rallied at once..
running to and fro crying -mostly the ten-year-old boys, I noticed. I stopped
one and asked him if he knew where his Mum was, or had he got lost? He said,
yes, yes, she was all right, but he didn't know what to do, didn't know what,
didn't know ... He was just a bit frantic. I said: "I'll come with you and we'll
go back to your Mum. However is she going to clean up the house if she hasn't
got you there to help her?" He stopped crying, came with me to the end of the
street. There he let out a shout and ran like a lamb to its ewe and jumped into
a woman' s arms.
of 10 with a younger sister went by, both with tears pouring down their cheeks,
the girl carrying a kitten, quarrelling savagely because they both wanted to
A bit further
up the road, away from the incident, a woman was standing on her doorstep
screaming at bystanders across the road: "Why do you stand there ruddy
star-gazing? Why don't you help?"
these every one was very quiet and grim. The bomb had fallen in a little mews
full of small workshops with dwellings over, wretchedly built. Four at least
were knocked flat, but many more most be quite unsafe. Several people were
killed asleep, having come home from sleeping in shelters at night. It was only
a small "do"; I think the total casualties weren't more than 50. After a couple
of hours I went home and Olive and I tried to clear up our own mess. By a
strange fluke not a single window was broken and only one door was jammed. It
was all this filthy plaster; arid of course everything was covered with this
foul explosion dust; my hair is so thick with it I can't get a comb through. The
downstairs people on the ground floor and basement had every window smashed but
no plaster down.
I felt all
right today - perhaps because there were things to do and one didn't feel so
bitterly helpless. I'm writing this during "the cut" at work, and I still keep
seeing faces and wondering how they are now - after seeing people so bare, one
feels so close. The man and woman uninjured but homeless, walking down Camden
Road to the Rest Centre, erect and proud- looking. A young woman suffering from
shook, bent and shuffling like an old crone. A month old baby in a woman's arms,
sleeping quite peacefully, wrapped in a shawl flecked with blood. A rough and
ugly landlord, coming to see his house, bemoaning the damage, forgetting to ask
if any of his tenants were hurt. A whole volume of life, and fine sturdy, angry
people. The Jewish doctor, his own house uninhabitable, helping a woman along
his passage and irritably kicking a fallen oil painting out of the way.
admit to one bad moment, when I was going past the incident to work three hours
later. Just past the entry to the mews there is a disused garage and one of its
shop windows has a display of artificial limbs. It was heavily blasted. All the
glass went. And there lay some legs from the window, there on the pavement. I
had to stop under the railway bridge there and take a deep breath and swallow it
... Got it
good and proper today. Am so relieved that Olive went off to the country Monday,
her whole department being on holiday. For her factory got a direct hit - just
across the road from Sunday's incident. And this house is a right mess, though
just about habitable.
When it fell
I was upset, because I knew the factory was working flat out except for her
department. I went down the road at top speed. It seems a miracle that no one
was killed outright though some were so badly injured that they won't live.
Everyone had managed to get to the shelters because the roof spotters had given
enough warning. They themselves had to jump for it off the roof; it was a direct
Bit by bit, I
found all Olive's friends, more or less O.K. Her special friend the cook -in the
canteen in the basement under the adjoining building - had provided tea for all
within ten minutes.. serene, blue-eyed, delicate, smiling and gentle, rather
like a small deer! Soft voice and Cockney accent. Two hundred girls and fifty
men assembled in the yard for roll-call; I didn't see more than ten in tears.
They were perfectly steady and quite magnificent. I asked some back for tea and
a rest, but with real warm and friendly thanks they all preferred to get back
home sharp before the news got there. The little tobacconist, blasted three
times in two weeks, next door put up a notice within ten. minutes: "No
sightseers served here." I like that. Next to it the bootmakers has an odd
boots repaired here." I went over to where an Irishman and his mate had been
filling in the windows blown out of the artificial limbs display place. They saw
the bomb coming straight at them, he said. At the very last moment it veered
slightly and hit the factory across the road. "I was that petrified I never
moved. I stood agarp, me hammer lifted." His wife and children went to Scotland
two days ago. He said he was getting out of London after this, he hadn't felt
afraid before. It wasn't quite his war, he seemed to feel!
He told me
this because the landlords' agents agreed I should get the house made secure,
and the Irishmen came and did it, and we restored ourselves with strong tea.
doors of both flats with their six foot glass panels were blown out, and the
main door wrenched right out of the frame. I couldn't go to work until it was
made safe. For the house is empty. The downstairs people now live in the
basements of the Criterion and only come home twice a week to feed the cats.
Irish pals were doing the work I swept up the glass - same old tinkle, tinkle as
in 1940. I found a slight scratch on my forehead, when the woman next door told
me it was bleeding. Probably when I ran out of the door I had shaken a glass
splinter down on me.
afternoon was fairly brisk, but only two of the things were duck-worthy. I'll
write somehow each day, if only a line. Not to worry.
First, it was to be held at his - the man's place - the out-of-work man. But Maureen's chief
advisor objected: is that a concession Kissinger would make at the start of negotiations?
He demanded new terms of reference which saw her, who paid the rent, as hosting the Conference.
His Lawyer's speech was commended by all, and led to the first adjournment. Lambchops' pad was
His being co-respondent to this thing; and as not to lose the impetus, they decided to meet
in the local Underground on a Sunday morning. It was what you would call a triangle kept in
by pressure of advice from outside. They were all poor people in a difficult. situation, whose
choice of action was limited. Suicide and other heroic solutions were out. Duelling was from
another tradition. Why couldn't the three live somehow as one, or maybe two? But these were
civilized people - and fastidious. The brilliant Lawyer commended Africa's traditional winner- take-all
development policy: did we three lack Africa's courage? The West Indian thing was
compromise-and-let-the-three-live sort of thing. Whether this was a good thing (that thing again)
objectively, was something they adjourned to think
about. lambchops said, to solve this one, was to delve
through the false bottom of West Indian ambivalence
to the bed-rock on which our great nation of the future
must be built. But Philpot thought it feeble of Lambchops to turn politician just to win a woman
like Maureen. And so it went on. Advisors got bored,
changed jobs and families, left; but over the years
the triangle managed to keep something of its original shape; for it's a big decision
when you come down to it, and poor people can't afford to be wrong all the time.
Paul St Vincent
DOWN THE OLD KENT ROAD
I walks around the bleedin' place
An' faces thats I knows.
I sees the West 'ams shambles
Where no weeds will grow.
Bein' now a country boy
Ma 'art beats funny fings.
To see the park of pissy grass
Like sparrows wivout wings.
The pubs stand firm as ever
Yet the singin' is all gone
A buildin' tall an' stupid
At the site wheres I was born.
Me cockney blood gets colder:
Me brain finks funny foughts.
One shoulder gets the lower
At the school where I was taught.
Come Arfur, gets yer 'ome
To the cows and chicken pie
Befores yer spit upon yer shoes
Which tread on greener spires.
A puffer took me 'ome
From those ugly days.
But my dear old chap
I'll ever have cockney ways.
SONG OF MARXIST-LENINIST INTELLECTUAL
God bless the workers
the salt of the earth
the force of revolution
God bless the workers
and make them follow me
I'll learn to drink
beer with them
on Saturday nights
and then I'll teach them to think
coldly and rationally
I'll free them from their prejudice
about women and housework
and the role of theory
and I'll eliminate all traces
of bourgeois ideology
to make a new
(of course I was middle-class
then I read Capital
and now I am a Marxist-
Leninist professional revolutionary)
God bless the workers
who'll make the revolution
God bless- but no
I haven't any confidence in
CONFUCIUS WAS CRUNCHING CARROTS
Confucius was crunching carrots when Chung Yu entered
And laughed. Confucius went on eating, saying:
The wise man doesn't fail to commend the carrot
A superior plant with twenty meanings, it's:
Honest - wears its heart on its overcoat
(Its rind shows all the promise of its centre),
Even-textured, gentle with the digestion
(and so a model for civilized discussion);
Prudent - supports itself, remaining stable
(Compare the bean, which relies entirely on poles),
Subtle - keeps its qualities under cover
(Compare the marrow, cheek-by-jowl with dog-dung);
Modest - doesn't flaunt its excellence
(All it shows to the world is its frivolous side),
Sage -like in its reply whenever addressed
(Usually cheerful and crisp, but now and then snaps);
Neither too hard nor too soft, a fine example
(Carved on public buildings) for kings and judges,
Neither too sour nor too sweet, and so a reminder
(Hung in bars and bedrooms) for lovers and poets;
Good for the health, especially for philanderers
(Improves your vigour, breath, and night-time vision),
Polite - in the way you should be towards women
(Present your posy first, your member second);
An easy-to-carry lesson in solid geometry
(Includes the paraboloid, hemisphere, and cone),
Ringed, with each ring representing eternity
(Defectively - which puts the idea in doubt).
It goes from thin to thick for ease of eating
(Knowing the hardest thing is to begin),
Keeps relationships few, is stiff among crowds
(Not like noodles or rice - over-familiar);
Resembles in section, when bitten, a human iris
(Wisely calm when watching its own destruction),
Keeps its juices decently well contained
(Not like oranges - uncontrolled and embarrassing);
Shows at one end the sage's rooted uncertainty
(About to establish a point, it tails away),
Acknowledges at the other Art supreme
(About to round things off, confects a flourish);
Prospers in soot, which symbolises Creation
(Dark and mess were prior to life and form),
Prospers also in wood-ash, signalling Hope
(Out of what's destroyed proceeds the new);
And these are the twenty attributes of the carrot.
To which Chung Yu, with a broad smile replied:
I shall carry your textbook, a carrot, in my sleeve,
Offer it you, and see if you eat your words.
I believe that days of war will come,
When birds will shrivel in the trees,
Our people then,
Our little children grown to men:
All dead, and stretched beneath the sun.
I do not dare, I do not dare,
To bend and touch the sea's blind glut of boiling sand
Or raise my live, five-fingered hand
To trace a fragile path in air,
Or stroke the barrel of a gun,
For I believe that days of war will come
To blaze the surface of this land.
That is why I do not dare
To strip a young girl's body, bare
Or bury my tongue in a woman's lips:
For cold class war must bring about
The anxious slumlands' stunned eclipse.
Break the parades! Shatter the patriotic shout!
The mesh of veins within the fern
Can make my stomach churn in fear
For I believe that days of war will come:
Still in its sleeve will the severed limb be blasted high
Spread tassels of blood to the rim of the sky.
I do not dare, nor dare foresee
The babies' match-boned bodies there
Where orderlies with sticks are poking
For the shreds of a scalp stuck fast to a tree,
Burned to a crisp and scarcely smoking,
Still with their blackened wisps of hair.
FOR A FINE COMRADE
I always like the thought of meeting new, young men,
although I'm married, and want to/ feel I ought to
see you only as a person
I suppose as time goes by I become more skilled
at concealing my inner turbulence
as someone takes my fancy.
I savour awakening Desire furtively;
but more often than not, this subterfuge
confuses me, and I am left bewildered and inadequate.
I have not yet come to terms
with loving one man wholly and strongly,
and yet wanting others too;
We have agreed we need development
and we have opened up our marriage
Though if he feels as shaken in the presence of my lover
as I in his,
then maybe we were wrong.
I was nervous and shook your limp hand
harder than you shook mine.
With your eyes you drew a line around my silhouette,
and I was honoured by it.
Your lanky framework lagged in ancient denim,
your gawky movements
cast me as a Lady,
made me feel a child.
I am younger, less experienced,
naive and I have suffered less;
but in this child, you move the Woman.
If there is to be no union,
and if there is to be no celebration,
then it needs to go on paper
so a thousand generations down the ages can be sure
Woman still wants Man.
Desire rules, O.K.
The strength of your image
generates energy in me,
moves me with internal combustion.
Longing sways me as the boulder crumbles walls.
Visions of moving clenched fists -
or are they merely phallic symbols
of unrequited passion.
I am moved to bear your children
as were countless mothers moved before me.
Desire for our unison unites me with my Foremothers
and with all my Sisters past and present.
A fragment of the whole and yet exalted for a moment.
I would have liked to touch your hair and beard,
and maybe my fingers would have led
your lips to mine.
I wanted to feel the smoothness of your contours.
Your nakedness beneath that purple vest tormented me.
I would have left, my probing eyes were perceiving
reading perhaps too much into your drinking,
your limp and slouch.
Preternatural wailing from my ever present sisters -
was it a harmony or was it a warning?
I am young and strong.
I am a temporary vessel of life.
My womb is a door from the beginning to the future
I would take you home and comfort you.
I AM A FRIGHTENING QUIETNESS
I am a frightening quietness.
That watches your absence with growing fear;
A silence that frightens us both;
I'd like to fill your sky with words
Like bright balloons;
Concepts and implications;
Bright empty balloons:
But I have only frightening quiet thoughts,
That weigh us down,
Don't they, love?
friend Bob who knew I was "between jobs" arranged that he and. I started work
the next day on a building site for the rather grandiose sum of £7.50 per day -
a great job he promised, but what was the catch, I thought.
I turned up
promptly at 8.0 a.m. but no Bob. He had sent along his kid brother instead
because Bob reckoned brother Tim's need was greater than his own. The wind was
freezing -sub zero or so it felt and from the north east, direct from Russia. No
doubt benevolent Bob was still well and truly buried in his warm cosy bed.
A small Irish
figure - the ganger man -soon organised us. The first lorry arrived and. our
gang speedily unloaded thousands of tiles under the unremitting eye of the
leprechaun ganger man. We sweated - which was surely an amazing feat considering
the icicles hanging over our heads when suddenly he disappeared - the ganger.
But as we relaxed I had a start. Surely I could perceive the leprechaun's eye
peeping through the nearby hedge checking our progress. I was getting positively
neurotic. My heart wasn't feeling so good either. I was convinced it was pumping
erratically - surely I was made for the more genial administrative, managerial
type of post. And here was I sweating blood for Sir Rupert McAlpine. "And now
you know" said one of the gang, "why he was given a knighthood".
loaded with hundredweight bags of plaster appeared. We threw it off quickly and
having finished someone mentioned it was tea time. "No!" said the Irish
gangerman, 'five minutes to go - back to work." This man had a heart made of
granite and his watch kept Irish time for sure.
end of the ten hour day -working under arc lamps and surrounded by night we
barrowed loads of heavy hardcore and rubble up a steep ramp onto the hoist. I
knew I had muscles now - every individual one ached so to look busy to the end I
loaded the barrow with empty plaster bags and just managed to push them to the
top of the ramp. Each minute was an hour as the clock slowly ticked towards
and I had completed one whole day's work and earned the princely sum of £7.50.
All I needed now were several weeks convalescence on the Costa Brava but
preferably without a blonde - I wouldn't have the strength. And just wait till I
see Bob. Perhaps I can do him a favour because I know where there is a terrific
We are marooned today, little one.
Yesterday, washed by fevers,
We clung to our few feet of wall to wall Rock.
Now, limply, your rag doll and I
Gaze on giddy emptiness
Through drenched February windows
While you sleep.
There is no weather for distress signals.
We will alert no-one -
The world is weeping.
Only the distant, dark houses take us in.
They are as empty of people as we are.
My- body, shaken by a week of illness
Can hardly perform the small gestures
That maintain us both.
Your smile on waking - eyes green and alight -
Makes the first small kindling.
I' t' double bed an' hapt wi t' wife -
B'r aw've a cubby-'oile i' my yed
Wheer aw slive to a double life,
Tother woman, an' th' unkert bed.
hapt, under the covers; slive, creep off; unkert, strange.
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
Have you seen such beauty as the child?
Some day it will. grow up and kill one
just as beautiful.
The hand that can caress sending
shudders of joy through us can
squeeze or thud the life from us.
That lovely brogue lilting loveliness
From a land green and old as time
That has endured ages of sad days
Has even now its quota of misery
A people that kill each other and us,
To quiet the raging beast that would
be still and compose again as
O'Casey and as Synge.
Calm and doting fathers everywhere
And mothers too
Yet in the name of preservation of peace,
For good, for progress for Humanity
Destroy its members, even babies
and declare war on love
An atheist's prayer is that
We should love one another
And we shall not kill.