cover size 210 x 148 mm (A5)
We receive an increasing flow of letters about "Voices", both critical and
laudatory, and would like to print some of them. The tussle is between cramming
in as much attractive prose and verse of a creative kind, on the one hand, from
a growing body of contributors, and widening the scope of "Voices" to include
criticism of this kind, book reviews, etc., on the other. We would welcome
opinions on this issue.
"Voices" continues to progress, though its movement cannot be described as
meteoric. We would welcome inquiries from bookshops, libraries, students'
societies, as well as from trade unions, political organisations, co-operative
societies, and individuals. Our chief advertisers are our dedicated readers. A
growing number of Labour M.P.s have recently shown interest in "Voices". We see
no urgent need to shake our begging bowl before readers' eyes. Our need is
always there, and the response is so .far modestly ample. we would give three
resounding cheers for a leap forward in circulation.
A London group was formed recently at a meeting held at Marx House to help
"Voices" in various ways. People in Greater London area interested might contact
Ian E. Reed, 58 Lenham Road, Sutton, Surrey SM1 4BG for details.
It was raining. Old Bill Arnold stamped his feet as he walked into the
warehouse, relieved to be finally in the shelter and warmth of this tightly
packed shed, after two miles of fighting the downpour on his bicycle. Still
thinking of the weather he clocked in, bent down, pulled out the cycle clips
from his soggy trousers and shuffled down between the well-stocked racks to his
cubby hole, without consciously thinking, his tired blue eyes peered out from
gaunt sockets and glanced with experience up and down the racks and along the
cracked concrete floor as he walked. All was in order. Not one box, not one
packet had been moved. All was just as he left it.
Having completed his subconscious appraisal of his domain, he arrived at his
cubby hole, a small hollow underneath the stairs that led up to the office.
Inside, on the end of a shelf, hung two coat hooks; opposite on the wall was
pasted a picture of a vintage car, cut out of the "Observer" magazine and a
photo of the 1962 'Hartfield's' Christmas dinner. On the shelf was an untidy
pile of old-type packing notes and a collection of 'Daily Mirrors'.
Bill took off his blue plastic raincoat and carefully hung it up, pulling out
the sleeves and removing from his pocket the 'Daily Mirror' and his sandwiches,
which he stowed upon the shelf. This routine completed, he proceeded to load up
his pipe, slowly turning round to face the rows of neatly stacked shelves. For
the past fifteen years since that extension had been built, he had shuffled,
each morning up between the racks, along the gangway that led from the
clocking-in machine to his cubby hole, in the same manner, always casting his
eyes up and down the racks and along the concrete floor, always turning his back
on that world to hang up his coat and unload the pockets, and finally, with the
air of an experienced golfer approaching his tee, turning and facing the warehouse.
Thirty years ago this warehouse did not exist. The two Hartfield Brothers had
started up their business then, with Bill as their only employee, they had
worked in the small cramped shed that now served as a garage, fitting together
the parts of coffee machines and sending them out to various customers, with
Bill helping to assemble and deliver the machines in an old beaten down Ford.
Those days had been hard. Many times Bill had stayed up half the night helping
the brothers complete an order, and arrived early in the morning to load and
deliver them. Bill chuckled to himself when he remembered how his wife had
moaned at the time, but he had stuck it and watched the firm grow: first the old
recording studio next door with half a dozen employees; next, the building of
this warehouse and fifty employees. Bill had then become a full time driver,
driving one of the five vans and would have been for a lot longer if it had not
been for his illness resulting in five months in hospital. But Bill's earlier
efforts had not remained unnoticed and Ron Hartfield agreed to let Bill continue
to work for him after his release from hospital. He was no longer allowed to
drive but Ron gave him a job in the warehouse, loading and unloading the many
components from lorries, stacking them in the shelves and making sure that the
girls had all the parts they needed for assembly, plus emptying dust-bins and
other odd jobs. Of course he got less money, but he looked upon the job as
having more responsibility.
Bill took a few more puffs at his pipe and wandered off to empty out the
rubbish and make sure that the girls had enough parts to get on with when they
came in. He always came in earlier than the rest. If the dustbins were empty, it
would give Mellors the foreman no excuse to shout at him. Mellors was an
unpleasant person at the best of times, a lot younger than Bill, only ten years
with the firm and already a foreman, and big-headed with it. If the dustbins
were not empty when Mellors came in, he would stand over Bill as he struggled
with one of them down the stairs from the office. "Come on Bill, pull your
finger out, they should be empty by now!" Bill grimaced to himself as he moved
through the racks, he had complained many times to Ron Hartfield about him but
Ron had been too busy to listen. Of course Bill realized that Ron was busy now,
so he did not usually complain, mainly just ignoring Mellors and getting on with
his job. "If it was just Mellors" he muttered, "I would have left this job long
ago." But it wasn't Mellors, it was the firm that counted, he would be childish
to leave on account of Mellors after having been with the firm so long. He had
been with it from the start and helped it grow, he had helped build it into what
it was and it would be stupid to let Mellors drive him out now.
Bill opened the side door and walked across the yard. It was Wednesday and
every Wednesday Bill would sweep out the older Hartfield Brother's garage. He
unlocked the padlock on the door and swung it slowly open. It was still raining
and large puddles had formed in the uneven drive from the gate to the manager's
garage. Bill walked in to the empty space that was usually filled with Ron
Hartfield's green Bentley. "Blooming good car, a Bentley," Bill thought to
himself as he swept off the cobwebs from the ceiling. "Not like most cars, it
has real craftsmanship built into it. Most things today are just thrown
together. Nowadays, people have no pride." Bill began to think of the new
labourer who would be arriving on Monday. "He won't last long," Bill muttered.
It seemed a bit silly that Ron lately had been saying that Bill needed help with
his job. Mind you, it would make it easier, but still, he could manage alone. He
would do his best and show the lad the ropes. It would be difficult, most
youngsters didn't seem to have the staying power somehow. Apart from Mellors and
a few of the women it was a pretty good firm. Ron has always been fair. That was
the trouble with most youngsters today, they didn't realise what was good for
Bill swept round the floor, sweeping out into the yard the rust-coloured
autumn leaves that during the week had blown into the garage, occasionally
straightening his back to ease his rheumatism, or just to peer across the rain
swept yard towards the gate. eventually, having completed his weekly task he
pushed shut the door and made his way across the yard back into the warehouse.
This was the most pleasant part of the day. Bill had the whole place to
himself. As he painfully made his way past the empty benches where the women
worked, he thought back along the endless parade of women that had worked there
through the years. Very few of them lasted, but in time the firm had built up a
hard core of regular women. Doris was the chargehand over the women, having had
thirteen years service behind her. She was okay but sometimes she got a bit
uppity. Her mate Silvia was a two-faced old cow. She would be very friendly with
a "Hallo Bill", and "How's your back today Bill?" The next thing she would go
running to Mellors moaning behind your back.
Bill had very little to say to any of the other employees. He had learnt
through experience to keep himself to himself. "That way," he would say, you
kept out of trouble." He would pass the time of day with the others, little
else. He paid his weekly dues for the football syndicate run by the blokes in
the packing shop, chip in a few bob for anyone who retired, or the boss's
Christmas present, otherwise he just came in, did his job and went home. Nobody
asked his opinion about anything and he never offered it. Life just went on and
that was the way Bill liked it.
His last labourer had been quite an exception. He hadn't stayed long though,
but while he had worked there, he had had plenty to say for himself. He was one
of those people who thought he could put the world right. Bill had met people
like him back in the thirties. They thought they had the answers for everything:
unemployment, homelessness and what have you. At first Bill had tried to be
patient with him and explain that it couldn't be changed, that things had always
been the same and always would be. "You see," Bill told him, "You have to face
it. There have always been bosses and there always will be, there are always
those that can make it, and those who can't. It's just a matter of if you are
prepared to work hard enough, you can make it." He explained that Ron Hartfield
had worked hard to build the firm. Now he could afford to have his big car and
all the other luxuries. But the youngster just didn't want to learn, he seemed
to have a really strange idea of life, but he would grow up and face facts one
day, the trouble is that he could get himself in trouble talking the way he did.
He got stupid once when Doris had said that Ron was buying a villa in Bermuda.
He started talking about Ron being a "parasite" and the girls got upset with
what he said. Bill had to tell him to keep his opinions to himself. "I mean it's
a free country, but you can't go round talking like that."
Next thing the chaps in the packing shop started complaining about him,
apparently he was trying to get them into a Union. Of course they would have
nothing to do with a Union. It was not long after that when he left. The trouble
with people like that was that they weren't prepared to work. He refused to do
overtime, then started moaning about how much money the boss was making. That
had been a very busy week. He could have earned himself some overtime. That was
the week that everybody else had been working flat out and doing overtime to
complete a South African order in a rush, all this because Ron had heard a
rumour that the dockers were going to " black" all ships going to South Africa.
Ron wanted to get this order off before this happened. So he had no excuse, he
could have got the overtime. It made Bill a bit annoyed to think of it. That
week he took two days off and got the sack. "You see," Bill philosophised. "You
can't change human nature."
It was the same with the women. They moaned at him when he hadn't brought in
enough stuff for them, or they moaned saying that he had brought in too much.
"Bill!" they would shriek out. "Oh where is he, the senile fool. Hey Bill,
come on, take some of these boxes away. You've blocked up our gangway." Bill
would then move them. Very soon he would see Mellors staring at them and pulling
at his moustache. "You don't think you are going to leave them there all day, do
you? You better move them. But first I want you to unload that lorry, and don't
take all day about it like yesterday." Bill would just look at him. It wasn't
worth speaking to anyone like Mellors. He would proceed to unload, dragging the
heavy boxes off and stacking them inside the warehouse with Mellors watching and
still pulling at his moustache.
Bill was past retiring age but he believed in working as long as he could, at
least he was able to and he considered himself lucky to be able to earn the
extra money. Besides, after thirty years in that firm he didn't really like to
think of life without it, it had been a way of life, a way of life that kept him
going. It was all he knew and all he could know. Somehow he felt a part of it
all, it was somewhere he could do something and feel useful. He fitted in. Those
wooden racks piled high with glasses and components were like old friends. He
knew every inch of them. He knew where everything was and where everything
should be. It was a world so familiar to him after all these years, reassuring
and solid. Outside the world thundered on, all too fast for Bill to conceive.
Man raced to the moon, man dropped bombs, had revolutions, talked of pollution
and nuclear war, things and ideas changed and moved and Bill couldn't move with
them, it was all too strange, but inside time stood still, goods came in, got
sorted, shelved, assembled and then left in cardboard boxes, the "Junior" coffee
machine, the "Senior", the "4 square" model, yes models sometimes changed, names
came and went, people came and went, but the racks stayed the same, sometimes
empty, sometimes full, it was a world Bill knew well.
When the others come in the day will pass as usual; Bill will shuffle along
between the racks pushing a small trolley with components on, he will stack them
up beside the women, he will replenish the racks when it was needed. At tea
break he will sit on his own on a chair by his cubby hole, eat his sandwiches,
pull at his pipe and read the paper. Then back to the racks stooping slightly,
aching from rheumatism and coughing. To the others Bill was as much a part of
the firm as the benches they worked at, he was hardly noticed as he wove between
them stacking up the parts, just some shadow moving between the racks, some
means of replenishing their stock, no one knew how he thought and nobody
wondered, after all, it was only old Bill.
After the day was done and everybody had left, Bill would silently pull on
his coat and bicycle clips and walk slowly between the racks on his way out. His
hand would rest on the last rack, turning he would silently gaze through his
blue eyes along the racks before leaving. Everything would be in order.
Ian E Reed
WHY CARRY BRICKS?
'Why carry bricks?" said the labourer,
"Why carry bricks if you don't intend to build anything?"
"But I do" answered Fraud,
"I intend to build false idols
on swallowing clay, I intend
to build houses of crumbling sand
and urge my Brother along
the road to a dry desert wall.
I intend to build a morality
that serves as a blindfold,
and by doing so, convince people
that night is day and that the storm they
feel around them is only the senses
of some exotic experience."
"Why carry bricks?" said the labourer,
"Why carry bricks if you have nothing to build?"
"But I have" answered hypocrisy.
"I have to build sentiment over
the death of murderers,
patriotism with every spurt of blood
from the oppressed I have killed.
I have to build sweet words
that overturn the power of a dying child,
turning eyes in other directions
to feast upon my gentle loving whispers.
I have to build gilded domes across
the imprisoned and convince them that
the chains I have forged upon them, are human nature."
"Why carry bricks?" said the labourer,
"If you hate the idea of building?"
"But I don't" said the bigot,
"I have to build chains of silence
across the mouths of those who would speak.
I have to re-build the past
so nobody notices the changing weather.
I have to build a wall, so tall
that it will blot every drop of sunlight
that could possibly fall upon my world.
And construct moralities out of hatred
distrust and ignorance, make realities
out of all the slime I can find.
and build shadows over my children's lives."
"But these bricks are heavy" said the labourer,
"We know" answered Fraud, Hypocrisy and Bigotry,
"And we intend to knock them down." said the labourer,
“Oh” answered, Fraud, Hypocrisy and Bigotry.
Ian Ernest Reed
when our astronauts landed
on the ashes of Earth,
no cause could they find
for sudden death;
save for a signal sent
from a bunker far below
which being unscrambled read
"If we go, you go too."
Entering Reading General Station, holdall in hand, Terry began to feel the
nervous flutter stir in his stomach. It seems kind of adult, going to see your
girlfriend in Bristol for the weekend. Terry was seventeen.
wondered if he looked very much like David Jannsen in The Fugitive.
the platform, the three buttons of his Co-op bought sports jacket done up, he
took out a cigarette and lit it all with one band, the other hanging, with
deceptive looseness, onto the holdall in case he was forced to make a run for
it. Whenever the eyes of other travellers came to rest upon him, he would shift
his own nervously and sometimes cover one side of his face with his hand as he
drew on the cigarette. Then, as they passed by, he would sneak a closer look to
see if they had one arm - it was the one-armed man who had killed the Fugitive's
wife and put the blame on him.
There was a nasty moment when a local hard man strode over and confronted him
"What you starin' at? You wanna smash inna face?"
Deciding not to draw attention to himself by giving the lout a karate chop to
the throat, Terry drew his lip back over his teeth in a half-smile and replied
"Sorry, mate - honest."
kept up the fantasy for a while on the train, sitting erect and alert, ready to
hurl himself through the window and down the embankment should he be forced to,
and giving the woman seated opposite a sad, world-weary smile as she answered
the questions of her children, as if this scene produced an unbearable ache
within him as he realised that such things were forever beyond his reach, that,
until the one-armed man was brought to justice, he must spend his life on the
run. Finally, he relaxed and allowed his thoughts drift to Wendy, the girl he was
going to see.
They had met two weekends previously. Along with a friend, he had planned to
hitch-hike to Weymouth, but, as the first car which stopped for them along the
Bath Road had been going to Bristol, they had made a quick change of plan. Five
hours later, sitting in a village pub eight miles or so the other side of
Bristol they had spotted two girls reading a travel brochure on Boston,
Ralph, Terry's companion and his senior by eighteen months, thought himself to
be strikingly handsome and was a serious student of James Bond films, having
seen each of the three which had at that time been released several times in
order to study the action and technique of his hero down to the smallest detail;
he baffled barmen in the working-class pubs they frequented in Reading by
ordering outlandish concoctions and, whenever he'd put in a fair amount of
overtime at the bakery where they both worked, he would buy Egyptian and obscure
European brands of cigarettes from a tobacconist's in Friar Street. On this
occasion, Terry persuaded him to drop the Bond act and to assume an identity
more likely to snare these particular girls. They bought the girls a round of drinks and moved across to their table.
"You girls thinking of visiting the States?" Terry asked when they were seated.
“No - my sister's just gone out to Boston as a nurse," said the more attractive
"Oh, you're American!" exclaimed the other, a short, small-breasted girl who
was, Terry gauged, in the region of a decade older than Ralph.
"That's right, ladies, straight from the U.S. of A”
"What are you doing over here - on holiday?"
"No, we're training to be recording engineers.. We're with RCA in Nashville,
Tennessee, and they sent us to London to study techniques in the largest British
studios. We'll be over here for six months or so."
"Why, that's fascinating!"
suppose you meet all kinds of famous people."
"Well, just last week we sat in on one of Billy Fury's sessions and another with
... what was her name, Ralph?"
"Lemme think, now. There was Lulu and Kathy Kirby, or was it Lulu the week
"How come you're both wearing the same sort of sandals?"
"No, they're moccasins, ma'am."
"That's right. Last year we spent some time in the South-West. We bought these
moccasins from a group of Navajos we came across in the Mojave Desert. Bought a
whole heapa blankets too, didn't we Ralph?"
turned out, against all expectations, that Terry paired up with the younger,
more attractive girl while Ralph had to make do with her friend -at first,
anyway, because Ralph soon reverted back to James Bond, taking Terry's girl to
one side and putting himself forward as a much more attractive proposition for a
girl.. of her undoubted taste and sensitivity. He also threatened to ruin
everything as he now and then dropped his Tennessee accent to adopt Sean
The last laugh, however, was to be Terry's, as it so happened that the girl
pirated from him hated Americans and James Bond, and when they were invited back
to the plain girl's house, Terry was introduced to her younger sister Wendy. As
Terry and Ralph were about to leave the house and book into a hotel for the
night, Wendy's widowed mother returned from an evening out just in time to make
the acquaintance of the girls' two American friends, and she expressed the hope
that she would be seeing more of them.
She did. They returned the next weekend, Terry to see Wendy and Ralph just for
the ride. It rained lightly and they went to Weston-super-mare, Terry and Wendy
walking along the front hand in hand with Ralph following somewhat
disconsolately a few paces behind. It was the one weekend in Ralph's life when
he knew the taste of humility and Terry was secretly' glad, avenged.
soon as they arrived that weekend, Terry had told Wendy that they were neither
American nor trainee recording engineers, that their moccasins had been
purchased in Freeman, Hardy and Willis's in Broad Street, Reading and that the
nearest that he, personally, had been to anyone famous was when he had asked for
Duane Eddy's autograph at the stage door of a theatre in Slough. Ralph had looked the other way and said
"It was his idea, anyway."
When they rode on the dodgems at Weston, the record being played was Elvis's
Devil in Disguise, arid Terry was glad because a girl down the Witch's Cauldron,
a dancehall in Reading, had once told him that he looked like Elvis. Placing his
arm around Wendy's shoulders and steering with one hand, he pretended for a
moment that she was Ann-Margaret. Wendy was tall and slim, small-breasted like her sister and, when she pressed
against Terry to kiss him, she excited him very much, and Terry wondered how he
would ever survive the five days and one hundred-and-something miles which would
soon lie between them and their next weekend together.
Now, in a couple of hours, he would be seeing her again, as she met him at
Temple Mead station. He was the Fugitive no longer and, as he thought back to
the ridiculous pretences which he and Ralph had put on, he decided that he was
better off being himself. After all, Wendy seemed to like him perfectly well as
an apprentice baker and confectioner, so what else mattered? Now that his
relationship with Wendy appeared to be becoming firmer, he began to wonder why
he had ever bothered to pretend to be anything or anyone other than what and
whom he really was.
But why do millions of people all over the country, all over the world, I
suppose, switch on to the Fugitive every week? It must be because he's so unlike
them, is so far removed from their experience, because they're not satisfied
with being what they are.
that's the case, though, why don't the people who control television and so on
put out programmes which make ordinariness out to be the most important,
desirable thing on earth, programmes which show that people who work in
bakeries, like me, are more important than people who run about the world
killing people, sleeping with everyone under the sun and drinking things which
are shaken, not stirred? That way, everybody would sooner or later stop chasing
after things which they can't have and they might even be happy. But it seems as if no one wants to do things that way. Someone's trying to mess
everyone up and there doesn't seem to be any way to stop him or her or them.
Wendy was wearing a powder-blue raincoat and no makeup except for a little
darkness around her eyes which punctuated her features, as she was fair and
plain in the prettiest, kindest meaning of the word. As
he caught sight of her face, she seemed different from what he had expected, but
it had been the same last weekend - ten minutes later, she would seem to snap
back into her old, familiar self. With no photograph of her, it was sometimes
difficult, during the week, for Terry to remember exactly what she looked like.
By the time they reached Wendy's house, a long bus ride, she was her old self
and they both felt comfortable and at ease with each other. After tea, the conversation turned to work.
"What's the first thing you do when you start work in the morning, Terry?"
Wendy's mother asked.
"Well, I usually put the first batch of sponges on the machine, lay out the flan
cases, then weigh the sponges off and take them down to the oven man. While
they're in the oven, I put the second batch on and put the fruit in the
flancases. By the time the second lot of sponges are out of the oven, it's
usually time for breakfast."
beg your pardon."
said I usually put the first batch of sponges on, lay out the .."
"Yes! yes, I heard you. But I thought you were a recording engineer." Bloody hell. He
threw Wendy a panic-stricken glance and it was clear from her all too-innocent
expression that she had not told her mother the unexciting truth and that she
was quite unprepared to help him out now.
"Well, I thought Wendy would have ... I mean, I told her last week that ..." Sponges. Flans. Baker.
That evening, Wendy talked a great deal about a boy she had known a few months
ago, an exciting daredevil who had been killed on his motorbike. In his
thoughts, Terry showed no respect for the dead. As she talked on and on,
explaining just how much the boy had meant to' .her, Terry was tempted to tell
her that he sounded like a brainless yob, a perfect pain in the arse; but,
although he saw by now what had happened, was happening, he said nothing, still
hoping that things might work out the way he had planned, that he might still
win her respect and, finally, her.
The lines of communication between them seemed, for the rest of that weekend, to
have been abruptly and, for Terry, painfully severed. Nothing he said seemed to
register with her - it was like trying to speak to someone through a soundproof
wall. Wendy seemed to be deliberately and quite cold-bloodedly constructing a
barrier between them, a barrier which became more effective as the weekend wore
on. You'd almost think she was afraid of catching dermatitis from me or
something. And it was all the more agonising because she didn't actually say
anything about not wanting to see him again - it was all done by her attitude,
making him feel that there were plenty of things she would rather be doing than
walking about the place with him. And all because I’m not a bloody recording
engineer from Nashville, Tennessee.
the Sunday afternoon, they went to see Taras Bulba in Bristol and afterwards, as
they walked to the station, Wendy gave him her eager and detailed evaluation of
Tony Curtis's charms. As he boarded the train, Terry remembered the look which
Wendy had given him the week before and, still hopeful that there was a chance
for him, said
"I've been thinking that it might be a good idea for me to move to
Bristol - our firm's got quite a large bakery here." The message in Wendy's eyes was quite clear: don't bother.
Later, as the train reached top speed, the wheels seemed to say: Ah'm goin' down
t'Florida... t'get some sayund iyun mah shoes ... Or maybe Californie ... An get
some sayund in mah shoes ...
girl of his own age walked along the corridor, giving him a brief smile as she
passed. Hey, lady! We soon be crossin' that ole Mason- Dixon line where any
woman knows bettern to mess with a man like me!
rubbed a pearl of moisture from his eye and swore.
Shot-up bodies hanging around,
Lying silently on the ground,
I hide them away for no one to see
Only their eyes are fixed on me.
Tanks, trucks all around,
Scattered about, making no sound
I hide them away from the world to see
Only one knows they are there, that is me.
I am fighting a war, a war of my own,
Of shame and evil, all my life I have known
I am hiding away for no one to see,
Perhaps they will even forget about me.
THE GREAT WIND
a sermon for today
"... and there was a sound of a mighty rushing wind"
The phenomenon, they say, started gathering
momentum along the Ho Chi Minh trail,
it wafted a cooling balm
to napalm burnt peasants.
Soon it gathered force sweeping the trail
U.S. Army helicopters Mark IV
were tossed off course,
out of control they fluttered
about the sky -
birds of eagle proportions;
urgent messages were despatched by radio
to the Pentagon,
top brass were soon planning
anti wind missiles.
It roared on through South East Asian
paddy fields across the Indian ocean
up the Arabian Gulf
scattering in all directions
Sheiks and their cadillacs.
As news reached Africa
tribal fires were lit, they danced
calling it the freedom wind
-there was much rejoicing.
In the east six hundred million flicked
through the little red book
seeking Mao's guidance;
in the west special prayers
were offered in the churches,
the Pope sent out a lengthy
encyclical, the Jews fasted
and beat the wailing wall.
The newspapers were full,
banner headlines read –
WIND STRIKES AGAIN
GONE WITH THE WIND
THE WORLD'S GOT THE WIND UP,
reporters hastily put together
hearsay stories of happenings –
how the great wind had
started up all the cottage
spinning wheels in India
now all working at umpteen
revs a minute, their economy
was booming - and
would soon outpace the west,
how it had blown open prison gates
in several countries releasing
Some reports - although little
credence at first was given to them
told of the resurrection power
of the wind, that Gandhi was
back in India and Prince Litullu
the new premier of South Africa.
Consternation filled western capitals,
thousands filed past Lenin's tomb in Moscow,
the Common Market met in Brussels
and in France prayers were offered
for the return of General Charles De Gaulle
from his village grave.
The Prime Minister had urgent talks
with the 14th Earl at Chequers,
the President of the U.S.A.
visited the Lincoln Memorial
and re-read the constitution,
when asked to comment on the wind
he said "it's worse than Watergate".
Rumour by now was rife
and even gossip columnists
were on to it, one dared
report that the wind
had attacked a royal garden
party at the palace and the
Queen's dress was blown over her head
a certain member of the royal family
was heard to curse for not
having his camera with him
later the report was denied - officially.
On the Stock Exchange
the brokers were collapsing like dominoes
some had fatal heart attacks
the shares went up and down like yoyos
as one account said -
"it was like 'bulls' and 'bears' in a china shop"
In the southern states of America - where
they heard from their African brothers
that it was a freedom wind
the black community paraded the streets
shouting "Luther King Lives"
and the Governor of Alabama
hastily took off to rehearse in a
Black and White Minstrel show.
An extra-ordinary Special meeting of the
United Nations was called.
All the world's leaders gathered
in solemnity and decorum.
Speakers declared ... 'balance of power'
'sovereignty of nation states'
the platitudes dripped on and on,
finally the great powers were in accord
the status quo must be upheld.
The atmosphere at UNO
was summed up as
against a common foe'
It suddenly became cold,
ice fell from the mouths
of several speakers,
delegates shivered in their seats
a great noise was heard.
The President announced –
At this moment in time
the wind lessened in intensity
soon only a whirlwind at the rostrum
slowly personified as a child –
A hush descended as the child spake
"this is the wind of change –
the meek shall NOW inherit the earth"
At once peace broke out
and delegates dancing in the Assembly Hall
were seen exchanging presents
and H bombs, polaris and ballistic
missiles were given and received
for the museums in their respective capitals.
and a little child shall lead them"
Vincent P Richardson
FIRE AND BRIMSTONE
The flood is away, I'm coming,
Only an hour downstream.
Strong, primitive, taut thuds
Urging me forward.
Screams echo distantly,
Birth cries, not death cries.
Bubbles of gas and air froth past
All ready, breathe deeply
Force open the lock gates.
Breath again, pant, push again,
It is sure, I'm knocking.
It is certain I am here,
This time heave with the tide;
But the waters are boiling, on fire -.
Wait for the next wave and I'm through.
Fire, brimstone, tighter, stretching, fire -
Like a salmon into the cool sea ...
I lie washed up on the beach
Opening blue new eyes, shouting in air.
TRIBUTE TO A UNION MAN
For all the times we worked with you,
We seldom dared to wonder what would happen
If ever the Big Man were to fall.
I often thought that to the Laings and Wimpeys
You must be like Captain Hurricane to the Japanese,
Always larger than life,
While some of our officials barely show signs of it
And then only when someone kicks them.
An agent once asked you if you were an official.
"Official? Do you know who you're talking to?
There's no-one bigger than me in this Union!"
Small consolation to a deflated agent
When he found out it was true.
It's not easy being the Big Man.
I remember one Saturday in the Co-op Hall.
Inside the air was close,
Men's concentration slackening,
Mentally playing draughts on the chequered ceiling.
You were determined to build an army
To free the Shrewsbury lads,
While they - the little trendies of the left –
Were bickering about what should be the rallying cry.
Long ago, in a child's picture-book,
I remember Gulliver as the Lilliputians tried
To hold him down.
And when I heard the news
How you finally buckled under the weight,
I thought, "God protect us from our friends!"
But you never were one to waste time complaining
Except about the acoustics.
Just told us to replenish our glasses
So as we could fight the next round.
Some men of energy keep climbing, alone –
To take the foreman's job or emigrate to South Africa,
Looking always straight ahead
Towards some half-remembered goal,
They turn aside for neither man nor beast,
But the tracks of your life are like a sheepdog's
Foreover turning back on itself,
Guiding in the furthermost strays.
Crossing from flank to flank of the sheep's vision,
Returning for more of the endless flock.
Some say a Big Man should be like a spider,
Drawing after him the strands of his work,
So that if the man is lost
The web remains.
Perhaps it is true we lack this web.
We stand as on the edge of a great void,
Stunned and staring at the hole you have left.
And yet something unseen has held us together,
Perhaps a web in the darkness
As we work on and wait
For daylight to return.
NOVEMBER POEMS -1
a complex surgeon
cut a caesarean section
in swollen reality
extracting a half-formed truth
(being prone to clutching at straws)
he pinned the jiggling nerves
to a broken tree.
the crucified foetus
spat upon by hordes of fans and admirers
screamed into the desolation
till, finally, mocked by echoes
it hung torn, bleeding, limp.
PROPHECY OF REVOLUTION
While realists and wise men talk only death and doom,
We who are working men look from the workbench gloom
And with keen eyes see dawn's golden needle light
Pierce the black factory to banish hungry night.
The ray thaws icy brains, promising us the earth.
The heart sings without pains, aflame with hope of birth.
Working men and women shall break the iron lords,
Throw down bane-lipped statesmen and holy maggots' frauds.
We shall tear asunder the fabric of today,
Shall roar vengeful thunder with lightnings fire the way,
Arid we shall plant the seed in ashes of despair
Of a world that sates need where Man shall have no care.
Though now we are not free, and the morning sun's low,
We know these things shall be, for we shall make them so.
"Seamen won the battle of Trafalgar not Bloody Angels"
With such words Able Seaman Todd had so often proclaimed his scepticism. He
asked no favours of providence but an even chance to meet the challenge of this
relentless monster where he stood. "On the brink of eternity."
Able seaman Todd stood at the entrance of H.M.S. Tallons after-flat, a scowl
clouding his weather-beaten face,, as through a curtain of falling snow, his
eyes measured the rise and fall of the destroyer's stern. Their first day out on
patrol and they were running into heavy weather.
Eight bells had just struck. Time to change the watches. His relief should be
here by now. It was practice to turn over the watches a few minutes before the
hour. Todd was anxious to get forard to the messdeck before the weather
deteriorated further and while there was still time to eat a meal in reasonable
"Come on Dodger". He almost groaned his relief's nickname. The thought of the
discomfort ahead. The long hours, perhaps days, battened down. The foul air and
monotonous swish of water across the mess-deck added fuel to his impatience. He
walked around the lee-side of the after super-structure and looked forward, but
there was no sign of his relief. He
returned to take up his former position at the entrance to the after-flat. The
stern was dropping more steeply he observed with growing anxiety.
"Where was that fat slob?" he muttered ungenerously as he blew some warmth into
his mittened hands. "It was alright for Mr. Bloody Long, he'd eaten and drunk
his rum ration ... and someone else's he'd wager?"
The thought of an extra tot of rum slipping down Able seaman Long's receptive
gullet, while he waited to be relieved was too much! He kicked out at the
ammunition hoist in front of him to relieve his feelings. Caught for a moment
off balance the roll of the ship threw him heavily against the after-flat door.
He winced with pain as the sharp comin bit into his shoulder. You B…!" The air
was blue as he regained his balance.
new concern now gripped his mind. "What if Dodger had one too many." He'd be
stuck aft until the weather worsened and the order came from the bridge to
abandon after-positions. lie was in communication with the bridge and could
report the failure of his relief to show up. A practice laid down. Not without
sound reason. A man could be washed overboard unnoticed and minutes wasted could
seal his fate. But even such a possibility he could not weigh seriously against
the betrayal that the action of reporting a shipmate to that bastion of
authority represented in the eyes of the lower-deck. To argue the alternative
risk involved would carry no weight with his mess-mates. The interests of the
class struggle was served even in the King's Navy.
pair of gloved hands appeared around the edge of the after-superstructure
followed by a wet face with balaclava swept back from the forehead. Todd
breathed a sigh of relief. Then fixing the cause of his anxiety with a stony
look he said sarcastically,
"So you have come! hardly before time."
Able seaman Long anticipating what was to follow decided to get a word in before
relationships between them became too strained for calmer explanation. He waved
his hand in a gesture of impatience as he mustered his breath to speak. He was
edgy himself. It had been a struggle to get aft and he was in no mood for
"You're damned lucky I'm here at all" he said. "It's blowing up fast
and as treacherous as hell. I near went over reaching you!" Having gained Todd's
attention, he continued. "You'll have to watch it going forard." Then, almost as
an afterthought he added, "Digger's looking after your tot."
Faced with this concern for his welfare Todd found it difficult to preserve an
unfriendly attitude, and there was something in Dodger's tubby figure,
emphasised by an oilskin too small to allow the centre to button across that he
found disarming. And although he would not admit it even himself, he had been
seriously tempted to communicate with the bridge. A strong feeling of
apprehension with regard to Dodger's safety had created a conflict in his mind
that Dodger's appearance had resolved. A smile flickered at the corner of his
mouth as he said,
"You look like a drowned rat. There is a towel inside." He
pointed into the after-flat. "Better dry yourself, I'll be on my way." He looked
with apprehension seaward, it was getting rough. He'd be glad to be for'ard out
waited for the ship to come onto an even keel then gripping the hand-rail, which
ran the length of the superstructure, started, hand over hand, to work his way
for'ard. The ship was now heeling over to starboard. He took the weight of his
body on his arms as he watched the sea coming up towards him. It swirled above
the gunwale and around his feet. If he let go now he could slip under the guard
rail into the sea. Although conscious of the danger he was strangely exhilarated
by it, experiencing much the same pleasure he got, when as a lad, he had hung
out from the roundabout at the fair. But there was no time for such comparison.
The ship was coming back. He felt the strain go from his arms and his feet more
secure on the deck. As she levelled off he went forward again, hand over hand,
until he reached the end of the screen. Here the handrail terminated. He was at
the beginning of the Waste. The deck widened here and a long four-inch rope
hawser life-line was rigged its full length. He traced it with his eyes to the
break of the for'castle. There was his objective ... the entrance to the canteen
flat and the messdeck. It seemed a long way measured by the slow progress he was
making - though in actual distance it was some yards. He remembered pacing it
out one day for a bet.
waited impatiently for the ship to right herself again so that he could safely
transfer his hands to the lifeline while she was on an even keel. The lifeline
was too slack, he observed with apprehension, his critical faculties sharpened
by the awareness of danger. He'd have something to say about that when he got
for'ard. No wonder Dodger nearly went over the side. It wasn't good enough. He
felt angry, as a man would feel in the face of an injustice. "Shipmates they
called themselves. A man's life could depend on how taut a lifeline was
The ship was coming back; he had no time for further moralising. With one hand
still holding the rail he reached out with the other and grasped the lifeline,
then with a quick swinging movement he transferred his other hand. The ship again passed the even mark and started to heel over. This time he knew,
due to the slackness of the lifeline, he would be swung close to the ship's
side. He was in for a soaking. The sea, he gauged, would come above his knees
and may well force him off his feet. He pulled himself forward a few paces
before taking the strain again on his arms. The sea crept above the gunwale
covered his feet and then raced to his knees. He felt it pushing his feet from
under him, but managed to hold against the pressure until it subsided. Each time
the degree of roll was increasing. He would go deeper next time and the pressure
would increase. Back on an even keel, he went forward again quickly. He must make the under-side
of the gun platform before the next roll to starboard, so that he could hold
onto her supporting angle irons against the increase of pressure he
Her roll to port now forced him against the starboard screen and pinned his
hands painfully between the lifeline and this wall of steel. The ship was coming
back. His eyes were smarting with the salt spray. He forced them open to gaze
seaward. As he did so a chill of fear gripped his heart. From off the quarter a
great mountain of water had built up and was bearing down on the ship. Todd knew
only too well what this meant. In a matter of seconds it would hit them and
sweep aft carrying everything before it. He had seen such waves flatten
guard-rails, one after the other, like so many skittles and leave seaboats
smashed like matchwood in their wake.
God! What chance did he stand? For a moment, stark terror took charge of him and
he half turned to run back to the shelter of the after-flat. How far he thought
he would get he did not consider. He just felt impelled for one mad moment to
attempt the impossible. Then the hard logic of his position forced itself upon
him. He knew that his only chance was to fight this relentless monster where he
stood. On the brink of Eternity. But there was no prayer on Todd's lips as it
hit him. He asked no favours of Providence, only an even chance.
Life had not been generous to Able seaman Todd, but on balance, it had not been
unkind either. An orphan, he had graduated from Dr. Barnardo's Homes into the
Royal Navy at the age of fifteen and a half years. Following the pattern of so
many before him, with no great enthusiasm other than the desire to keep with his
mates. Todd was blessed with great physical strength - a legacy from his father,
a docker who had met an untimely end under a crate of machinery that had slipped
out of its strop. His mother, her resistance lowered by the shock, had died not
long after with pneumonia, leaving Todd, a strong bouncing baby mercifully
oblivious of the fate that had befallen him.
spite of the kindness of the staff of the orphanage, Todd was not unconscious of
his lack f family bonds and had often felt his aloneness in the world, which had
developed in him more than his measure of self-reliance. A strong spirit of
independence, coupled with his great strength, made him a man to be reckoned
with. A natural leader. These qualities he combined with a com- passion for the
underdog whose cause he had championed, not only with his great fists when the
occasion demanded, but with an inquiring mind that had never accepted, without
question, a status quo.
was not favourite with authority and had often aroused jealousy from officers
not so naturally endowed. But he was a very capable seaman and a good man to
have around in an emergency. They therefore put up with what they termed for
want of a better word Todd's idiosyncrasies. The war had found him still an able
seaman after two demotions from Leading seaman and the loss of his only good
conduct badge, for drunkeness insubordination, and absence over leave
Todd had not taken the peacetime navy very seriously, although enjoying the
travel. Taking an intelligent interest in all he had seen, but particularly
after the Spanish Civil War, he had serious reservations as to its Imperialist
role, which his contact with those who had joined the Navy from the ranks of the
unemployed - with whom he found he had a particular affinity -further
strengthened. Though he did not accept their generally held left-wing opinions
without serious questioning. He was too much of an individualist.
The war came as something of a relief for Todd, a resolving of doubts. He knew
now where he stood. Britain had come down on the side of right as far as he was
concerned and he began to feel for the first time that he was doing a job worth
while, although his change of heart did not bring him any recognition. He had
stayed an Able seaman, he suspected because promotion would bring draft to
another ship. And there was a tendency for Captains to keep experienced men.
Like a kite before a gust of wind, he felt his body lifted horizontal with the
lifeline and his arms being wrenched from their sockets. Only his hands surging
along the rope saved them from dislocation. He was being pushed back along it
like a curtain along a rail. His great strength had so far served him well.
Although momentarily stunned by the impact of this tremendous volume of water he
held on. He would not be thrown over the side like so much garbage. F... the
bloody sea! His mind spelt out the obscenity that became the symbol of his
defiance thrown into the jaws of Death itself. His arms were weakening and he
knew that he could not hold out much longer. Then his feet touched the deck. The
pressure was off. The Great Wave had passed ... but not the danger.
The ship was heeling over to starboard. Forced by the weight of water, it
ploughed deeper below the surface. Todd, with a superhuman effort, forced the
lifeline down to rest in the crook of his arm, gripping his wrist he forced his
head and shoulders above the surface. The pain in his arms was excruciating and
only his perilous situation gave him the strength to resist the almost
overpowering desire to relax his grip. It was a moment when the strength of the
will to live was balanced evenly against the physical and mental power to do so.
Only a change of circumstances could alter the balance on the side of life. But
Todd's luck held. He felt an arm grip him around his shoulders and a voice,
heard almost as a whisper above the howl of the wind. "Hold on mate, Dodger's
got you. As the ship levelled off, a feeling of relief, such as he had never
experienced in his life before, surged through his exhausted body. Then he saw
Dodger's other hand was holding the after-superstructure rail. He was back again
where he had started.
Able seaman Long in the shelter of the after-flat had felt the impact of the
wave like a shell exploding against the bulkhead. He had been thrown from one
side of the flat to the other and sat for a moment where he had fallen, stunned
more by the unexpected than the impact of the wave itself. Then his thoughts
turned to Todd. "My God! He couldn't have survived that one." he gasped. He
picked himself up quickly and rushed for the door, tripping over the comin in
his haste. He cursed but did not feel any pain, so agitated was his mind with
fear for Todd's safety. "My God!" he kept muttering. "My God!"
turned the corner of the after-superstructure to look for'ard, gripping the
handrail to prevent himself being thrown towards the ship's side, for the ship
was now heeling steeply to starboard. As he did so he became aware of Todd's
huge frame just ahead. It hung on the lifeline, half submerged in the sea.
Something in the almost grotesque position of the body told him there was no
time to lose. He pulled himself to the end of the rail, then leaned out and
gripped Todd's shoulders. He said something that he could never recall
How he got Todd into the after-flat he counted as one of the miracles of his
life. He had never experienced such dead weight before. He pulled and tugged at
Todd's great, inert frame. Racing against time, for he knew that unless he could
get him around the corner of the superstructure and into the shelter of the
after-flat before the ship rolled again all his efforts would have been in vain.
He could never hold him against such pressure. He doubted whether he would be
able to save himself.
But he had managed it and now, aching in every fibre of his small round frame,
he stood looking down at Todd, who lay semi-conscious at his feet, his jaw still
set in a grim line of defiance. "You tough old bastard", he mumbled. But there
was a look of great affection, combined with admiration in his warm brown eyes
as he knelt to loosen Todd's clothing. "The Devil looks after his own."
EPITAPH FOR MAGGIE
'Twere an archway o'mops when our Maggie passed on
Ay'n it rained pure sops on t'day she were done
'n Hand-me-down shuen 'N' cast-off clout
Did a dance macabre to speed 'er out.
("I could sleep for a week")
Now she'll sleep forever.
Cross the dishpan hands
C' real cracked leather.
T'clubman's been 'n he's paid us out
She rode like a queen on t' last bus route
They said the words and all were over
For once, in her death, our Maggie's in clover.
Now when the wind's through the trees
With a Hoover's wheeze
'n' snow as it shakes
Is best soap flakes
Our Maggie don't care
She's no longer a slave
Away from it all
She's found peace in t' grave.
She lies still
Cradled in a cocoon of blankets
Shrivelled with the years and sorrows that visited her
Her transparent skin lies in folds
Over the bright blue of her veins
The pulse shows in each vein
Each strained breath draws a sob from her
She is past pretence and bravery
Her death sits on the bedposts counting out the unspent hours
On the abacus of her sobs
I hold the bottle
The precipitator - the key
I turn the top and see her nod gratefully
Then I turn away in the knowledge that it is my suffering I seek to end
And not hers
She must look for a greater love than mine
To open the door
Not knowing whether I have pre-
pared myself sufficiently, no
longer caring, concerned only,
as the wave of my fortieth
year breaks over me, that I try -
what I am not sure, but the thing
that I have dreamt of, and dreaming,
long longed to bring forth, tumbling
in its harness, voluminous
in its rude grace, and sufficient,
that that energy, neither mine
nor yours, but ours, abide with us,
presumptuous and insistent,
the deliberate gaiety
of the nail driven, and driving, home.
When they kill a man
Do they unfold his flesh
Do they open him like a book?
Do they choose the exact spot
Where the bullet will sing
Like a bird?
Before they napalm
A woman and her child
Do they go up to her
Do they kiss her fluttering eyes
Do they tell her
What a moment
After they have decimated a city
After the fires have licked their lips
After the inferno has curled up to sleep
Who puts up the easel
In the rubble
And paints a tired Phoenix
Marx's ideas gain
must be content
to topple his effigy.
is not uncommon in our society for those in positions of power to determine the
form and content of our everyday lives. Put simply, such people will seek to
determine the nature of our reality, i.e. the way in which we confront and
comprehend our existence. In pursuit of this goal their weapons are varied and
numerous. Perhaps their most formidable instrument of control is the use of
language. As ameans of communication the usefulness of language is based upon a
precise double coincidence of meaning, i.e. that the word used to describe a
particular aspect of reality has a shared common meaning between two people.
However, those whose function it is to control others for the purposes of
preserving the present relations of production have denied this basic use of
many of our leading politicians, industrialists, journalists and broadcasters
the function of words has become to construct and maintain an elaborate
illusion, to weave a complex web of half truths and superficialities. The
purposeful ambiguity of language is deliberately sought after to create a false
reality, a mere appearance of life which is profoundly ideological and deeply
committed to the preservation of an elitist culture and society. Perhaps a
common tale of working-class life may serve to illustrate this principle.
And thus it was that Jack, a short, thick-set young man of twenty made his way
to work. Out and into the miserable narrow streets which were only dimly lit in
the early morning. He walked quickly, clasping his black jacket around his
throat to ward off the chill. Approaching the bus-stop Jack's eyes confronted
the unkempt waste land which once supported the meagre, but proud homes of a
people now long since banished to the bland anonymity of the city's outskirts.
The area was now the temporary habitat of the advertiser. He had set up
residence in the form of five rather large wooden hoardings. One such hoarding
periodically provoked concern in Jack's not too nimble mind. The vision of a
sedate, rather benign looking woman interested Jack immensely. She contrasted so
vividly (and so meaningfully) with her surroundings. The accompanying slogan
also perturbed Jack, he could decipher a number of words as he quickly passed by
-'Britain', 'Affluent', 'Freedom', 'Fairness', yet his understanding of them
appeared inadequate in the face of his immediate surroundings. He hurried on to
the bus stop.
Standing in the bus queue Jack had time for a moment's reflection. He found it
difficult to reconcile the assurance of affluence afforded by the poster and his
own perceptions of life around him. He concluded that the comfortable looking
lady of the hoarding was either blissfully unaware or deliberately ignorant of
the mean streets of his squalid town. Certainly these grim terraces could not
accept any labels of affluence or prosperity. Simultaneously many thousands
joined Jack on smoke- filled double decker buses making their way to the
factories and mines of the area.
Gradually, and despite the bronchial coughs and depressing shroud of his fellow
travellers, Jack became aware of the newspapers and magasines around him. As if.
attempting to deliberately shun each other, the passengers on Jack's bus were
intent on absorbing the puerile delights of the daily press. Jack, without a
newspaper of his own, tried to steal a glimpse of his neighbour's. Immediately
he became aware of the promise and prospect which the future held for him. The
newspaper was running a special feature 'Habitat 75'. This was certainly the
world for Jack, sleek, modern furniture in a luxurious home - this was what he
thought of as 'real' living. Jack dreamt of the future, of finishing his
apprenticeship, of marrying and inheriting the fabricated delights of the
'ad-men'. Yet he thought again of the trouble at the factory, of rumour of
redundancies, of troublesome shop-stewards making the situation worse by their
irksome one-day 'token' strikes in protest. He wasn't going to let the unions
spoil his future. Jack had watched the television news, he had read the 'papers.
They had established beyond doubt the existence of a 'crisis'. What's more, Jack
had become convinced of 'right' and 'wrongs in the issue, he knew the 'unions'
were at the root cause of the problem, they were causing trouble.
Jack soon had these views confirmed when his mind wandered to the condition of
his own factory. Mr. Peacock had explained that it was only fair to expect some
're-organisation' if the firm was not selling what it had produced. Certainly
the words the personnel manager had used had sounded as he had put it himself,
'reasonable' and 'fair'. Besides, Jack was soon to become a skilled man, he
would always be needed, and anyway the management had talked of something called
'rationalisation' not 'redundancies
now, Jack's bus had reached the factory gates. Simultaneously other buses
arrived, and cars too, their passengers pouring out and' into the waiting
factory. The multitude of men and women made their way past huge, throbbing
machinery, over rusting pipe-work through the entire labyrinth of metal and
steam to their respective places of work.
Jack followed the others towards the fittingshop. As he approached, he saw and
heard the rising murmur of a group of men standing before the notice board. Jack
joined them and read the printed sheet:
'IN THE INTERESTS OF RATIONALISATION AND
EFFICIENCY THE COMPANY HAS HAD TO ENGAGE
IN A SERIOUS RE-DEPLOYMENT OF LABOUR. THE
FOLLOWING ARE THEREFORE INVITED TO
ACCEPT THE TERMS OF REDUNDANCY AS
Jack remained for some minutes staring vaguely at the notice and the list of
names underneath. He could not believe what his eyes perceived. Jack would no
longer be required once his apprenticeship was completed in six weeks. He was
receiving nothing after being promised so much.
Where were they all now? Where were all those fine words that sounded so well
only ten minutes before? 'Affluence', 'Prosperity', 'Fairness'. Of course they
had melted away, they had ceased to exist1 they have no meaning save their
opposite. Jack had been their victim, deceived by those who had used such words
to sustain their own private good. Jack wouldn't be taken in again. He went back
to his bench, picked up his jacket and left.
Nursing a scorched wing
The moth returns to the flame.
Poor dumb creature,
too dumb to curse the creator
that taught it to fly into the light,
into the endless night.
If all the holy one man bands
That splinter off the
Or are exorcised from
Were somehow to fuse into one mass,
They would form a solid block of teak
So large and heavyThat it could stopper up the sepulchre
Of the common man. for ever.
But no, they are mutually retro-pulsive.
They wander through the world like troubadours;
Colourful marauders, pinching an idea here,
A policy there,
And somebody else's girl.
They sting like wasps, and flutter like butterflies
About our dusty heads and earthbound feet.
They are sawdust motes in a light beam,
The tang and scrunch of new shavings,
And the tinder that sets other men ablaze.
Connie M. Ford
THE COLD WAR
How did we escape in the fifties and sixties?
A hair's breadth from destruction, nuclear annihilation.
We did not see how near the scimitar was swinging
Now, looking back, we shield our eyes and shudder.
What tipped the balance? What but the people of
the world, above all, almost alone at times The people of the U.S.S.R.
Their policy, their self deniel, in order to build
the new order in Europe, Cuba, Africa,
Help them with their science, knowledge;
They had taken such blows, they could take more, stand more;
No one else could have saved the day and us.
DAUGHTER - SOME RECOLLECTIONS OF HER GRANDFATHER
father bought me two volumes of Jane Austen when I was thirteen. At that age he
had left school, top in mathematics and geography, and no one bothered any more
about his mind until he lost it forty years later. Literally, it was lost. The
surgeons were able to pass air bubbles through the cavities in his brain, so
they told me. They didn't understand why this was so but seemed glad to have
done it. Meanwhile, my father smoked a hundred cigarettes a day until he died of
lung cancer five years later. Mindlessness, sadly, is no reason for dying.
When my father bought Jane Austen for his only daughter, elder child, he knew
nothing of literature; merely that the stories had been serialised on the radio
- some sign of status -but more that I had listened with absorbed delight. This
delight he had noticed. It has taken me twenty years to be aware of this loving
observation. He had so few loving words or gestures and it is for this that the
child in us awaits, even in memory, even from the dead.
also bought a book-case to enshrine the books he so respected, the
encyclopaedias, his school prize, Barnaby Rudge. and a dictionary I once bought
him as a birthday present and which over the years became more worn than any
other book in the house. The rest of the space he left for me to fill which I
quickly did for a while, until I took my books and myself from behind glass and
left home, so I thought forever, at the age of twenty. We never quarrelled again
after I left home, my father and I, but then we rarely spoke after I left home
until shortly before his mind disappeared, when he discharged his memories at me
without pause, urgently, as if seeking some other place to keep them when he no
longer could. So I have his memories and never really got away after all.
father read his encyclopaedias; sometimes he read them to me. He was able to
help me with homework until I was fourteen, when the rows of figures became too
complicated for him, too. This sounds as if we got on well, my father and I, and
perhaps it was really better than I remember. I recall being at Brighton with
him, sitting on a wall and watching the sea for what seemed hours. Precious
seeds to sow on this dead, waste soil; precious threads to bind and join that
long black rift that the war made and he was away. Separation, I have since
learned, is part of the texture of life, its warp perhaps. Young as I was then,
I mistook it for the whole fabric and now I pluck at the past in search of
disconnected, connecting strands.
planted and grew flowers and fruit in what we called the back-yard; roses and
runner beans; blackberries entangled with everything, regardless. Later we had a
garden and with endless patience in a hasty, restless man he again planted and
grew beans and roses, white phlox in the borders; asters and sweet peas
particularly he loved. There grass grew too. The roses and grass still grow. In
his days of vacancy, my father used to wander and stand in the middle of the
garden, as if bewildered by its growth.
feel that my growth, too, must have bewildered him, and the shape it took; my
constant waywardness as I opposed his every arbitrary command. Truly his
daughter, I too would stand my own ground. If I could not have the sort of
father invented by the story books he encouraged me to love, neither would I
have things his way. His were not fatherly ways, which for many years made me
think myself fatherless. A man who had headaches and often shouted inhabited my
home, lived on in my memory long after he had no more reason to accuse us.
these last days he would stand at the door waiting for me as I paid my
occasional, fleeting visits, having the instincts of an animal for my arrival,
welcome recognition in his foolish smile. "Patricia", he always called me when
he called me anything at all. There was this formality between us always.
Formality and strangeness made up our relationship, with shy gifts of books and
sharing of knowledge. All intimacy we angrily denied.
Now, according to his unwritten will, I call myself working-class still, despite
my accent and the uninformed denials of my friends. And I love his London
ardently. Out of this fatherless wilderness I am trying to clear a space for
some-thing else to grow, something planted long ago. The gift of mind to mind.
TO DAME MARGOT FONTEYN
'Dancing, not politics, is my business'
Dame Margot - every turn and pirouette
Of your performance there that night
Was so superb - and yet -
You'll never now be quite exempt
From Chile's working men's contempt:
How their cause was so abused,
Arid you yourself were so well used
To lend respect to Pinochet.
One day God were looking down
From his home atop the C.I.S.
And as he looked down at Ardwick he started to frown;
"Oo; look what they're doing: they can't be: they're not: they are, Oh bloody hell, yes;
We can't have this sort of thing."
So sent out St. Peter to have a look.
He flew out over Ardwick upon angelic wing,
Writing it all down in a book.
In Ardwick Green, they were having nude frolics,
Drinking and singing; it weren't at all right;
There were unclothed gentlement revealing their knees,
And old age pensioners playing strip monopoly all night.
St. Peter were getting it all down on paper
As they drank evil intoxicant liquors;
He saw Gladys Murgatroyd incite a busguard to raper
Then choke him to death with her niquors.
There were leather-clad lollipopmen getting their oats:
He could sell all this to the Sun:
Then he spotted old Noah Ackroyd playing ludo and reading a book about boats;
He were a miserable bugger and didn't like fun.
St. Peter went back to God and told him all this.
God said he'd turn the world to a watery ball.
He told Noah to get a boat for him and his missis,
And they could take a few animals an' all.
So Noah went out to Belle Vue Zoo
Though it certainly seemed at bit odd
To take all the animals out two by two;
Still, he could send the bill to God.
There they were in a line on Hyde Road,
Camel and Antelope, Elephant and Chimpanzee,
Hippopotamus, Crocodile, Rhinoceros and Toad,
Sea Lion and Platypus all waiting for a fifty three.
Well, the fifty three's service ran like it usually
After two hours they sat down at the bus stop for lunch.
At about half past two they all saw a bus
Followed by thirty nine more in a bunch.
The bus driver were upset and looked in vain through all his regulations
For a rule about pythons or bears,
But it said nothing about them or pigs or dalmations,
So noah took them all for a smoke upstairs.
At Wilmslow Road they disembarked
(Except for the Unicorns who went to Old Trafford by mistake);
It were time all the animals were Noah's-arked
So they went to the hut by the lake.
Noah slipped the parky a thirteen pound note
And made it understood
That he wanted to hire a rowing boat
Three hundred cubits long, made of gopher wood.
"Right," said the parky, "I'll just gopher wood,
I'll be back again in a tick."
They got the animals aboard just in time for the flood,
All hung over the side being sick.
The storm-lashed fury of Platt Fields Lake was bad for both man and beast;
The spirit of mutiny had them all in its grip
As they sailed North-east-south-west along Moss Lane East
And both kangaroos tried to jump ship.
Noah ended this marsupial unrest
As for days they floated round town.
There was a cry of "Avast Behind" from the crow's nest
But it was just Noah's wife bending down.
One day they saw the parky on tiptoe, underwater save
For his head sticking up like a mine;
And he said his last words as he seemed to sink to a watery grave
"Your time's up; come in number nine",
Eventually it stopped raining; there was sun everywhere
And the water level started to fall,
So Noah dropped anchor in Albert Square
And tied up alongside the Town Hall,
As the water level gradually fell, oh
They saw a wet policeman appear,
With a salmon in his hand, he said "'ello, 'ello, 'ello;
You can't park your ark around here."
Noah tried to escape: the policeman looked pained:
He blew on his whistle and cried " 'alt";
But God sent down one of his great balls of fire and all that remained
Was a helmet and a pillar of salt.
It seemed about time to go home;
Morale was fast sinking lower
The Elephants hadn't taken to life on the foam
And kept being sick over Noah.
At Platt Fields they met the parky in snorkel and flippers
Stood impatient at the park Late.
He slapped Noah in the face with a handful of kippers
And said "That'll be two and six more, 'cos you're late."
All day long she packed cream-centred slimming biscuits into white card boxes.
The biscuits approached her along a shuddering chute that wound its way past the
metal sculpture of wheels and rollers to her right bcfore it ran straight and
level past her towards the next stage. She couldn't see where they came from and
didn't know what happened to them before she saw them. All she knew was that
they arrived in nudging groups of twelve between clicks and jerks of the chute
all through the day. They were square biscuits with a trellis-work imprint on
their out sides and a thin lemon coloured splat of filling between them. She was
allowed to pick out the broken ones, but when she did she had to make up the
missing one from the subsequent sets of twelve and this disturbed her working
rhythm, so mostly she let them go unless they were undersized, when a weight
check further along the line tipped its rejects onto a desk where her outpout
was docked according to their number. Once she'd asked if she might have a box
of spare biscuits to make up shortages but they'd said it wasn't part of the
system, it would mean extra paperwork adjusting the job specification and what
was it to her anyway? So she fiddled it on her own. She bought a packet of each
flavour from the supermarket and used them. It cost her but it allowed the job
to fade into the part of her mind that kept her fingers' memory and after that,
the only ripple in her routine was the twice weekly flavour shift. Lemon to
chocolate, mint to vanilla, a fortnightly cycle that rolled invariably around
and carried her with it in a haze of warm biscuit smell and small mechanical
noises. The screen showed a coffee cup being filled, the picture slid away from the cup
and onto a plate where two familiar biscuits were being caressed by a female
finger. The man's voice was confiding.
"Jennie thought that after ten years' marriage she would be shapeless and her
husband would have lost interest. So she decided to include "Trimmicles" in her
calorie-controlled diet. They've been married for fourteen years now and this is
what her husband thinks...."
The screen showed a couple in a body-touching kiss, then the man's hand drew
away and dropped a curtain over them and the blank picture bore the overprint. "
"Trimmicles" keeps the inches where they count" and some muted music played the
commercial out. She upended the iron and nudged the man .in the chair. She pointed at the
"That's them, that's my biscuits' she said. "They put that silver paper on and
the fancy wrapping round the box where Lilly works, but I put them in the
Her face was bright with interest. It was the first time that the television had
seemed real to her even though the biscuits looked different sitting on the
fancy plate and the young couple were far removed from the impatient monotony of
the factory. Just the same, it excited her to see something she was a part of
important enough to be on the television. It made her feel important. The man
"Well, you should try eating the ruddy things instead of packing them. You're
Her face collapsed and quick angry tears trembled on the full curve of her cheek
before they pitched and ran over them. She was suddenly aware of the overall
stretched in circles between the buttons down to where her thighs made double
hips under her skirt. The fingers on the iron looked rough and podgy and she
knew her legs were fatter since the children.
can't afford them. They're dear, you know. Dearer than ordinary biscuits and
they taste dry... she stopped before the tears were in her voice and he sighed
and said no more, only diving into the newspaper that laid on his lap until she
would recover herself. A little later he said, "Are you getting tea... ?"
hadn't really hurt her but she couldn't get it out of her mind the next day at
work Each time the biscuits were at her hand she thought of the thin china plate
and the couple kissing, and then looked at her own wide lap and her knees that
seemed like large anvils to her. On impulse she took a pencil up and wrote
across a slip of paper. IT'S ALL A LIE. She tucked the paper carefully between
two biscuits in the packet in front of her, being childishly fussy over wedging
the biscuits together again over the folded paper. She knew the weight check
would miss it and it would be sheer bad luck if that packet were the one out of
a hundred that was picked for a final check. The packet was well out of sight
before she remembered her blind oversight. The biscuits had to be wrapped.
Perhaps Lilly would get it. There were only two wrappers. Half a chance then,
for Lilly would surely bring it back, have a laugh about it, maybe at her, but
she'd bring it back. She didn't know the other girl at all. Yet she was
strangely unworried about it, as if it had nothing to do with her at all. At
heart she felt it had not been such a foolish thing to do and the feeling stayed
with her all through her nervous afternoon. By the end of the day she was
expecting a foreman at least for the biscuits must have been packed, wrapped and
dispatched by now, but the hooter sounded and nothing extraordinary happened and
she went home with the incident puzzling her. Lilly was her usual self on the
bus, and Lilly would have said something, she was like that, but Lilly did talk
about the day's work, about getting cellophane wrappers too small for the
packet, about the heat- seal not working but she said nothing about the paper
Lying in bed that night she thought about it carefully. The slip couldn't have
fallen out and since each biscuit was wrapped individually, it must have been
seen when it was wrapped. She was left with a warming conviction that the other
wrapper had received it and for some reason had chosen not to mention it, either
to Lilly or to herself. She might even have let it be. She might have actually
sent it on for dispatch with the paper slip still there. She was surprised at
her own desire to believe her speculation but with the morning, she was surer
than ever that the possibility existed and more, she wanted to find out.
She went early and waited in the wrapping area. There was no-one about and she
looked through the refuse bin under the chute quickly but there was no slip
there. Then the other wrapper arrived. She nodded to her and felt suddenly
uncomfortable. What was she to say? There was no way to explain its importance
to the other girl who was setting her bench up for work to begin.
"Do you like it here?" she asked on impulse. The girl looked up and smiled.
"It's all right. Same as anywhere else. Nice
company. You're a friend of Lilly's aren't you?"
'Yes, we knew each other at school. Er What do you think of the biscuits...?"
she blurted it out, one eye on the approaching Lilly who would want to know why
she hadn't been on the usual bus and the other trying to keep the girl's face in
focus. The girl laughed.
"I've wrapped aspirins, biscuits, sweets, batteries, Durex and oh, I don't know
what else in my time. It's all the same. A bit of pretty paper and a fancy box,
I got so I never thought about it. It's just a game, isn't it? A way to earn
money. The biscuits are just biscuits, it's this stuff that's important," she
said running a finger over a pile of cellophane sheets. Then Lilly was upon them
and there was nothing more to say between them. She made quick excuses to Lilly
and went to her place. Almost immediately the chute shook into motion and the
first set of biscuits appeared in front of her. She dropped them right into the
waiting box and smiled to herself. All day she wondered who would receive the "Trimmicles'
with her message, and wondered if they would be angry, puzzled, surprised or
merely indifferent as they munched their way towards love with the aid of the
dry expensive biscuits. She felt a suffusing warmth towards the girl who had
sent her packet on its way without betraying her foolishness and she did not
regret her action, impulsive as it had been; she felt as if she had done
something honest, something in defiance of the mocking television. The biscuits
jerked towards her, the first of the chocolate batch and automatically she
reached for the deeper boxes, for the chocolate ones were packed differently.
The woman emptied the packet into a plastic tub. She threw the packet, wrapping
and the paper slip into the waste-bin and took two of the biscuits from the tub
and placed them crosswise on a thin china plate. She poured coffee, lifted her
diet card down and checked off the calories she was about to consume. Her
reflection in the glass door was dark enough to be part silhouette. She patted
her stomach while holding her breath and smiled at the reflection. Her teeth
clamped over the dry biscuit and shut. Perhaps he would kiss her tonight
You children playing in the dusty; street,
or running, not unwillingly, to school,
or turning homewards on light stepping feet,
each moment lived and savoured to the full.
You cannot guess that you may be the last
of all man's generations come and gone,
through all the fervent seasons of the past;
the sap of life in torrents flowing on
till now - in your fine veins the blood
may thicken with the toxins of the age
and dam forever the once endless flood
of glorious life. None will survive to rage.
You are not doomed by God. We are your fate
and if we saw, it might not be too late.
My flaming eyes still burn to hate you;
you and your fenced-in little world.
My jaded hands just ache to stab you,
to push in deep the blade of truth.
And in your trimmed back-garden land
I see the hungry picking worms,
and in your smart, fat children's faces
the flattened colonies of ages.
Yet when I raise a blood-drop from you
your daughter's slender hand persuades me
that I can't bear to see you bleeding
nor to feel you breathing.
NO. WE DON'T LIKE TO BE BESIDE THE SEASIDE
the slapstick cream trickles
down the red face of another fool
parted from money
blackpools funny that way
mucky jokes poke fun
like fingers in a fat man's belly
jelly babies cock lack
a slapped back and laffs in the lav
ring like mad bells
for the desperate near dead
newly wed fed up wrinkled uncles in deck chairs
time to crunch another sand sandwich
to watch waves the colour of flat beer
beat the pier legs
kids cram spain
into mouths made to suck rock
the floral frocks of sunnier swish
in a gale force wolf whistle
and the promenades promise of pleasure
threatens loud the leisure of a lazy day
girls and boys burst into easy tears
in the glaring light of parental leers
"I won't tell you again'
"when do they open then"
the men leave for liquor
"language lads - ladies present - don't fancy yours
kiss her quick - i should cocoa - call me duggie
beer for bugger all - laugh a minute innit
no we dont like to be beside the seaside
as drunks like driftwood on the time gentlemen tide
pour like puke from the overfull inside out
to shout shoot shit and mess about
pick narks about nowt
we mustn't go down to the sea again
the kids cant constantly be bought
with lyons maid bucket and spade sport
no its naples next year
the sugar pink false teeth of time
take mouthfulls of magic
from a golden mile of cheap chipped gilt
the tower shrinks and sinks
in the silt of a forced laugh
the lack lustre lingers like a bad cough
as blackpool lights are
John Cooper Clarke
Oh Peace, Thou precious hope of all mankind.
Can'st Thou not suage and calm the troubled mind,
Let dove and olive branch and healing palm,
Rid fear of bursting bomb and war's alarm?
To distant realms in life's too short a span,
The poor bemused soul can scarcely scan
Who is the faithful friend or ruthless foe?
Who builds for peace or strives eternal woe?
From pilgrim's suppliant knee, devout and meek,
Rise up with vision clear your purpose seek.
Peace is no Goddess from Olympian Heights
To succour all the weak and helpless wights.
Seek out and keep the truth, man's own estate,
Nor gain nor servile press turn you to hate,
The will of each and all to banish war,
Is more than all the gods enthroned afar.
A WARM admirer of Voices magazine I very much appreciated Rick Gwilt's review of
Voices No. 2 (Morning Star January 8), but I was puzzled by two of 'his
observations: "With each new issue you can see quite clearly how Voices has
progressed, what- problems have been solved, what new ones have .arisen." - I
wonder it, he could say what problems he has in mind?
And again: "The latest edition more than any before is a vindication of the
editorial policy of encouraging collective rather than selective development of
working - class and Socialist creative writing, without laying down any strict
guidelines." As a declaration of policy it, is splendid, but its precise meaning
escapes me. Can he help please?
Signs of change
EARLY impressions of Voices suggested anything but unity in the style and
content of contribution. The main factor common to the contributors was their
social background, and yet there was an awareness that this did not in itself
define working-class literature.
However, there were important signs of change, not least in the writers
themselves. This was summed up well in a line by Ted Morrison: "I discovered
that the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists— far from being, as I'd speculated
they might be, a band of altruistic tramps or a society for hard-up
humanitarians— were well known to me . . . I'm one of them!"
these early days there was little attempt by the editors to restrict or
influence subject matter, but /this increasingly gravitated toward working-class
But the next two issues did contain pieces of criticism in which the problems of
Socialist realism were explored: how to strike a balance between didacticism and
naivety, simplicity and complexity.
Even if Voices seems to have neglected criticism in the last two issues, the
problem itself is obviously emerging with increasing clarity.
The committed artist tries to show us a world we may already know, but in such a
way that we begin to see it differently. The1 temptation to insert commentary
into narrative is obvious and, as I have suggested, it doesn't work very well.
The writer must not only show the universal in the personal, the significant in
the commonplace, but must integrate them into the fabric of the story.
The problem has been solved in full-length novels like "The Ragged Trousered
Philanthropists" and "Quiet Flows the Don" by placing among many workers one who
is politically conscious.
But with short stories this remains much more of a challenge, which is what
makes many of the recent prose contributions to Voices so interesting
(especially those by Ian Reed and Ken Fuller) as part of the struggle for a
practical grasp of Socialist realism.
don't think Voices should be primarily a trailer for poetry readings or
anything-else readings, although, as the ideas of Unity of Arts spread I would
hope to see Unity Theatres in cities like Manchester, including poetry-and-folk
evenings, writers' circles, etc. and, of course, strong links with the labour
Apart from a desire to see more criticism, I think the present mix of two of
prose to one of poetry is about right—especially given the widespread
working-class aversion to poetry, which is understandable considering the
content of most published verse. But I think the sort of poetry in Voices must
go a long way to combat this aversion.