(Apologies to Alexander Pope)
(In which our narrator considers a politician’s remark that voluntary support
given to a food bank shows a nation’s compassion and is ‘rather uplifting’).
Now elegant in polished shoes you speak
And praise all acts of kindness in the meek.
Through charity may man buff up his soul
Use beans and tea bags to achieve this goal,
For now that good may triumph over bad
Our haloes polish up with brillo pads.
Star-high we join the company of nymphs
And treat the undeserving poor as wimps.
Let them all work, you cry, employment’s best,
A perfect way to feather one’s own nest.
Man up, you Scroungers, leave your easy beds,
The likes of you might just as well be dead.
Our thanks to you, O rigid, strait-laced one
You banish fog and show us shiny sun.
Wasters and Idlers, to your gutters go,
Perchance from some rich table crumbs will flow.
Bags of rice, instant mash, a tin of meat,
A bar or two of chocolate for treats,
O praise the food bank, praise the man who gives,
Uplifted now, we learn the way to live.
She lets her eye wander from earth to the sky
welcomes the rain that falls on her face
colder than sin
Why, she demands, why
this lurch of shadow
this grace like sunlight reduced
Now she knows highs, knows lows
is manic one moment
a shattered fallen angel the next
Divorced from touch (that exquisite sentience)
she is her own landscape
and it’s endless
The cafetiere is elegant.
Aromas of dark coffee
tickle my nostrils, offer
The handle of the pot,
half-moon in shape,
is like a portal to some
a gate against
the city street
and the beggar’s rug
gulps a cache of coins:
On the rug
loose change huddles
as wet shoppers do
in a doorway in the rain.
Other coins, scattered,
who sit alone in cafe or pub,
always at the table
near the door.
Why do you halt at the edge of the field
and why is there blood on the grass?
A barbed wire fence is cutting my hands
and I am forbidden to pass.
What is beyond this barbed wire fence,
a welcoming face or two?
My eyes are blurred from the smoke and gas
and I can’t find any way through.
You must turn back from this spiky fence –
tell me, what do you see?
Only a line of cold sad men,
broken and bleeding like me.