Shackles on the poor

Shackles on the poor
Hands tied by shadows
That come out of the wind
And takes them to the gallows

Shackles on the poor
Sealed up by man’s law
Miracles stand hopeless by
The tips of fingers sore

Shackles on the poor
Who are crying out for peace
Who hoped that their vegetable patch
Would become a golden fleece

Shackles on the poor
As Christ is taken away
The silver rain begins to fall
On another empty day

They have the power

They have the power
To destroy who they please.
All they do is meddle
In forms of democracy.

They don’t have the courage
To go and see up close
The body in the garbage
Wrapped in ragged clothes

The people with no food to eat
The children on the streets
The old who lose their homes
The running refugees

They do not seem to notice
How a change of law
Can lead to people dying
Behind institutional doors

They do not seem to feel it
The hunger pains they cause
As they tamper with man’s freedom
As they manipulate the law

They do it in the darkness
They do it overnight
You wake up in the morning
To realise too late your plight

Towns that you’ve lived in
All of your lives
The letter asks for rent
Is all you recognise

They tinker with the statutes
They tinker with the rules
They make themselves look good
They think the poor are fools

While some act so superior
That live such privileged lives
They think it doesn’t matter
When the poorest die

Hurricane 1997

In the year of the hurricane
I was ill, I was bruised, I was broke
I dragged myself down Mile End Road
As thin as a bicycle wheel spoke

I flapped in the wind like a moth-eaten curtain from a tree
That stood at the end of the street in the hurricane that freed itself
from my own disquiet soul
from my own empty heart

in the year of the hurricane
It was as if my own life escaped from me
Had wound itself up like a spring
And was released across the country
And flew into a rage across a sick world

She loves me, she loves me not

No help for him
He has to start again
Let’s sit and watch him
Struggle up that hill

This is his punishment
For having those differences
In his personality
For his skinny legs and glasses

The teacher hated him too
And punishes him every chance he got
For his buck teeth
For not wearing shoes

She loves me
She loves me not
He’s a have
He’s a have not

between the sexes
Mutual supportiveness

Of gender differences
Without advantage

She loves me
She loves me not
He’s a have
He’s a have not

I woke up this morning
Under a bush
Blood and paw prints everywhere

She loves me
She loves me not
He’s a have
He’s a have not


Seven Years of Unemployment

For seven years I’ve struggled up the hill
With a coal-bag covering my head
Breathing in the coal dust of my rearing
The poverty that clogged my swollen windpipes

From holes in the dusty part of coal-yards
I’ve shuffled and scuffled up the slag-heap slope
With the poor-men of the one-horse-town
Who spend the thousands of taxpayer’s money

The weekly landslide through the year
I graze like a horse on imaginary jobs
Wept with fears of homelessness and hunger
With hardly a hope of a change in the tide

Oh, how I longed to retread the bitter past
To cheat the policies that talked me down
To throw off the yolk of my poorer class
To feel my heart beat free of bit and the rein

My seven years of unemployment
Seem like seven years in a coal-yard
Each year I grew stronger with insight
Like a canary singing in the darkness

Throwing off the dirty sacks of doubt
The polls of an authority’s manipulation
The hundredweight years slung over my back
As I fought to be free of the cancer


Poetry & Poverty in Londons East End

(For David Kessel, poet, original member of Approach poets. About 1996 or so David Kessel asked me to write a manifesto, titled “poetry and poverty in the East End”. I’m not a political person and I wouldn’t know how to write a manifesto so I wrote it this way, unedited, never before shown to anyone, does it work, or does it not?

The Approach Poetry was fine poetry group meeting in the East End, that lost its venue due to local changes, and loss of the older east end community; with David Kessel, Steven Watts and others and presided over by Brehoney a very extrovert Irishman).

Litter, spit, dog ends, motors. Wind from the far corners of the seasons helping offering deities of bread and poetry floating down the drain of a grain of spheres (and televisions) in the sun gun fun of a woman with her hat in the soap.

Poetry and Poverty passes by the wind from the four seasons of hell and the soup kitchens of cemeteries where dead poets in foetal positions read to the worms who pass by their thoughts that have no breath. Sitting in the ground selling her eyeballs to the business men in red plastic suits who carry briefcases full of dynamite to the office. Shoppers leave a penalty area around the drunks who sit in the market where the dirt from the train stations create a latrine of lovely sanctimonious zipper sleuths who slipper the bottom of secretaries in the moonlight.

Poets under their blankets in milk bottles cascade through dormitories in hostels where v2 rockets hide the cupboards of Highlanders who crunch the legs of bulls in the midnight orgies of constables in vestibules of sin and the comets of Jazz monasteries in the fag end filled sleeping bags of a Sonnets mother.

Poetry and Poverty walk hand in hand like zebras by the libraries of the Jews who polished the grenades that tumbled down the stairs from the high offices of comedians who fly through the bricked up windows built by road sign workers who lie about the red lights that shine a million times across the fan damaged churches of oblivion.

This is the only manifesto possible, of the moment, one of a crumbling forgotten history in the gardens of gnome officials where I stargaze at the changing face of Blackfriars bottom rolling down Ludgate Hill.

I try to come up with a worthy manifesto of trial and error but all I see are rats with their testicles crushed by traffic jams that gush out the new air of poverty and where poetry sleeps like a man strangled by handcuffs in Whitechapel bar. The women on the streets are happy now that the college has polished the shield of the pilgrim knight and broken his teeth into gruel to give to hitchhiker who wander into the East End looking for lover boys on speed chain heroin bikes of stupendous speed alarm mysticism’s. Gone are the songs of the hippies and the black power panthers whose front rooms saw a whole generation waking up to the star that lulled the fish in aquariums of the Landlord who drove wellington boots across the bomb sites of Stepney.

Poverty is like a song of truth in the ever changing fashions of the tide that comes and goes like a policeman on his beat around Spitalfields where the wind blows eddies of litter in the stone washed denim sunlight of a dead dinosaur on the back of a Roman centurion who hands out white pebbles to the starving children of Britons who collect blue skies between copies of the Blue Star of Love.

Here is an attempt at a manifesto whose page begins in oblivion and ends in the bottom of the sea where gold and spices from the sailing ships are stained with the blood of the East End. That poverty is to become King Death in the dungeons of the music halls and that poetry should be loved for its shameless undercurrent of river ruined words of honesty.

What do you have in mind but the trampling feet of the masses collected in a police cell of materialism where so many now spend their time. What do you have in mind but the red flag fluttering in the knickers of Kremlin gremlins who adorn the dead churches of Bow. What do you have in mind, is it to ignite the youth into mass demonstrations in defense of the injustice done to poets by the fat cats of the industrial revolution. What poem, what words can help this world like a fat man clinging ot he fingertips of a child lying flat on a cliff-top.

Take a glimpse at this poverty that a poet in a roundabout of love on an island of dust in a network of bulls noise nose to nose from Parliament to the North Sea, that this poet dressed in salamanders, roses and corn grass on his sea of liquidation across the smoke of women and childhood in an eye of emergency services that appear like a pack of cards in the gutter afternoons of prayer and milk drenched sweet-singing to the prostitutes who are spent at the penny arcades of the gangsters and women constables who dance together on the deadened spotlight of the moon.

Here comes the bull from the dark universe there comes a letter between his teeth that unfolds and opens out so readable in the night. See how the poor poet collapses in a sea of tears as his grey hairs glow like neon lights. This manifesto is made up of chalk with words of black iron upon it, it reveals itself like a dream you forget to remember , it turns into sugar and salt and dissolves into your bloodstream. The poets manifesto of poverty rides the railways of summer through the train wrecks of yesterday, how you sense the smell of train engines on your blood, the steam and oil of that warm railway station on the edge of time.