why not a job by Martin Hayes

why not a job

to dedicate your life to

why does it always have to be

a man who died on a cross

or who disappeared under a fig tree

or who was the last messenger

to bring the words of an invisible and unreachable God to us

those words

don’t feed us or keep us warm

they don’t feed the homeless man or woman

but a job could put a pair of gloves on their hands

a job could put a hat on their head

why does a job not get sung out for in churches

have drums

beaten for it

why not a job that pays for the water and food that goes into the mouth’s of a family

wouldn’t it be better to stand up for our right to have a job

rather than our right to hold a gun in our hands

why not a job

to dance about in the streets for

to paint stars into the dark sky for

why not a job

that pays for a roof over our heads

feeds electricity and heat into our homes

rather than a bullet into a “raghead” neck

why not a job as our right

rather than these Gods

that we keep rattling our cages for

why can’t these jobs be our Gods

our way of earning a living

the religion

that we would die for

rather than the colour of a flag


the evil Cartographer’s hand by Martin Hayes

centuries old maps
rolling fields of red
hill ranges of bone
scale worked out
in sky sea star
the evil Cartographer’s hand
pulling nations
from rage to wall to war
trying to wipe out
all of the mistakes
he has made in his head
love empathy compassion
“any spare change, mister”
but he can’t do that
too late,
they’re in these maps of ours
unrolled out through our limbs
fluttering like flags
on a toothpick stuck in our big toe
a breastplate for our torso
two fingers up
the Cartographer’s shit hole
you cannot change the soil
that grew us
despite these new maps
you try to unfurl
they lie this land
doesn’t exist
these hands
of ours
just hold older
than any plan
you have

this job has us in its mouth and is shaking us about in its teeth by Martin Hayes

as we stumble from one bill to the next
just about managing to keep food on the table
and a roof over our heads
apart from the last week that is
because that’s when we have to start with the lies
the borrowing
the asking of favours
that all put together
hopefully will produce just enough
to get us over the line
and into the next month

this job has us in its mouth and is shaking us about in its teeth
as we stumble from one hangover to the next
trying to balance the drinking so that it has as little effect as possible
on the job
the woman
the kids
and our hearts
that seem to want to just pump their way out of our chests
as our minds can’t face anything else
other than another drink
another taste
of that freedom

this job has us in its mouth and is shaking us about in its teeth
as debt runs through us like streams of poison
debt: who takes us for walks in the park never letting go of our hand
debt: who always sits next to us on the bus even though it’s half empty
debt: who just wants more company
who just wants more attention
and more debt
on offer like a can of Coke
on offer
for us to slip our wrists into

this job has us in its mouth and is shaking us about in its teeth
as only our guts allow us to hold on;
those guts
that pull us up off the floor
that make us feel strong
and unbeatable
that we carry around with us
inside our stomachs
and our fingertips
that make us laugh
and feel lucky hold
glasses of wine and beer in our hands dance
with our women and children around in circles
as we all throw our heads up in the air
the entire Universe up there
on our side
with the sea and the stars in our eyes
and that unbeatable laughter
to prove it

last rites by Martin Hayes

the look of laid off 53 year old men

unable to stop the tears

welling up inside their battered eyes the sight

of their broken bodies

walking out into the sun

for the last time the stink

of death as they start to split mocking us

still employed controllers that at least

they are now free again the pain

ripping them up the three kids and woman

they haven’t told yet the nine years left

on their mortgage and endowment payments

the collection

handed over in a manila envelope and the hurt

and utter uselessness they try to block out

as they buy large tequilas for everyone

in the pub across the road waiting

for the last of the last bells to arrive

and everyone to walk away

from them this time

for good

smiles that keep the world up in the sky by Martin Hayes

the women who work in the call center at our work

know pain

at the last count

they had given birth to 24 children and loved more men who were drunks losers coke heads and gamblers

than any Mississippi whore had ever loved

the women who work in the call center at our work know pain because their men gave them it

their men who now sit in the cells of Wormwood Scrubs or Pentonville

because they didn’t have any other way

to get what they needed

leaving these women behind to harden into little bits of rock

to look after children they gave birth to

who taught them that if you didn’t want to disappear into the bottom of a glass the fuselage

of a syringe the loneliness

of the leper colony

the pain was something you had to endure

on the inside

that you had to work through

inside your guts


that never left you

unlike their men who upped and left

leaving behind mess kids dogs fog

the woman

fuming in pain


that would be so easy

just to let out

so that it could swarm around before swallowing you up

but which the women who work in the call center at our work keep

below the surface

with their laughs and their jokes and their camaraderie and those smiles

those smiles

that keep the world up in the sky

that pull shutters down on that pain

those smiles that form rackets of protection shields of refuge

that come from some indomitable place inside her

that will not ever be beaten

those smiles that help her work through it all keep

all that pain

under the waterline

so they can at least

hold down these call center jobs

and smile those smiles of theirs

that have enabled all of the families in all of the world ever

to at least


all of the drunken defeated men by Martin Hayes

all of the men in all of the alleyways
who once worked in control rooms or workshops
where they had to listen to 3 inch high supervisors scream at them
until they had pumped themselves up so that they could feel as though they were 8 feet tall
all of the men slumped in all of the shop doorways
too drunk to make it home who once tried to hold down a job
where they had to lump 25lb boxes of frozen lamb
into the backs of trucks for £8 an hour before tax
all of the men in all of the gutters who had to juggle 6 am drunks with clocking on at 9 for more years than you would believe
all of the men at the bottom of their rivers who now have to wash cars or move the contents of houses for men they consider not to be men
all of the men who needed to kill themselves to free themselves of the pain of being men but couldn’t because they were all too men
all of the men
angry and bitter that their principles and strength
were not enough to keep their women in love with them all of the men
who once batted their eyelids free of sleep and got up
feeling thirsty and invincible who now
find themselves walking around their bedsits at 4 am
unable to sleep
trying to work out why
they feel like they are the only ones left

the 132 left by Martin Hayes

the 139 people that this man lied to
sat in that big boardroom
convincing us all that we were “the oxygen of this company”
only to shut down our workshop 6 months later
laying off 7 of us 139
has left the 132 that are left
wondering which one of us will be next.
132 people who have flesh
and teeth and bones to support
but who are now unsure
whether they will be able to do that come Christmas,
come the next electricity bill,
come the end of the month.
132 people who combined
have given more than one-million hours of their time
getting paid to inflate this company
into something strong,
who have the scars and addictions,
the lonely lives and debts
to prove it.
132 people who now know
that they were lied to by this man
in that boardroom,
on that day
when he came in and looked us all in the eye
and told us that we were
the “oxygen of this company”.

going long periods of time
without any oxygen
is ok for whales
and escape artists
but a little bit more tricky
for 132 men and women
who need to know for how long they will be allowed to breathe
if they want to continue paying their rent.

132 more by Martin Hayes

the new boss from the company behind the takeover

came in to give us all a pep talk

to ease the uncertainty and fears we all had

of maybe losing our jobs

and to paint for us all a vision

of the future


in groups of 10

we were all given a time slot

when we had to be in the boardroom

to listen to this man


this man who had never made a delivery to anyone anywhere

this man who whenever he got a parking ticket or CCTV fine

had only to make sure that it was entered correctly onto his expense account

this man who had never had to also hold down a weekend job

hauling 25lb boxes of frozen lamb into the backs of trucks

for £6.50 an hour after tax

just so he could afford to take his kids to the cinema

this man who had the charm and charisma of a politician

rather than the blunt edges of a worker

this man who smiled at us and looked at us straight in the eye

and told us that we were important

what he liked to call “the oxygen of this company”

which his shareholders had bought

and how it just wouldn’t make any sense

to get rid of any one of us

would it?


this man who 6 months later

made the decision on behalf of his shareholders

to shut down our workshop

laying off 7 mechanics

so that all of the repairs and maintenance of our vehicles

could be done by the new companies already existing network

of garages and service centres


this man who lives away in the country

off with the fairies

who is placed under so much pressure

every minute of the day by his shareholders

to increase the bottom line

slowly stripping away all of his humanity and heart

so that with one swoosh of his pen

he can turn upside down 7 people’s lives

and still sleep at night

and still play frisbee with his kids on a beach

knowing that he has lied

to 132 more

the employed poor by Martin Hayes

they have a car a job with no contract they work for a company that has
a zero-tolerance policy on sick days and non-attendance they have a
flat with heating and food they have a bottle of wine of a night
they cook a pasta dinner for their two kids they try to buy their
kids new clothes and a mobile phone but it’s never the right
ones always 2 or 3 generations behind they are healthy but
nervous strong but fragile they have nothing in their
hands or tucked away under their beds they
are only one withheld monthly pay cheque
away from disaster one bosses decision
away from hunger one unfortunate
accident away from annihilation
one unplanned bill away from
tipping point one illness
away from seeing the
whole edifice of
their lives come
tumbling down
with no one
around to
help put
any of it


as the poets write about the smell of their dead fathers’ tweed jackets by Martin Hayes

a crust of dry bread has become the dream of millions
running water and one bar of electric heat
amenities out of reach for a quarter of the globe
as CEOs stand in their kitchens
warming their feet on underground heated slate tiles while peeling an avocado
ripped from the earth by people whose hands have to squeeze the last drop of milk from a dead breast
wring a sleeping bag dry
so they can sleep at night without freezing their guts
people who have jobs but still have to queue in food banks just to feed their families
as their Prime Ministers and Presidents talk about nuclear wars
whole communities with an idea they had while playing a round of golf
people who once worked on a farm or in a call center or under the ground
who now have no jobs because of an agreement signed on a jet
30,000 feet above the clouds
people who are moved on from country to country
who have to live in makeshift camps for years
just because their God lost an election
and had His fingertips replaced on the trigger of a gun
people who can’t clothe or take their children on a holiday anymore
because the price of oil drained from the ground 5000 miles away shot up into the sky
and closed all of their factories
people who once worked in industries long ago shut by progress
who once used their hands to rivet together ships haul a piece of steel out of a blast furnace replace
the heart of a 12 year old girl hand over a cup of tea to a miner squeeze
tomato ketchup into a factory worker’s bacon sandwich
who now sit at home with nothing to do
using those same hands to put together 1000 piece jigsaw puzzles
or knit hats for their grandchildren who will grow up to be a number
on a list of numbers who don’t have any jobs

as the poets write about the smell of their dead fathers’ tweed jackets
are Forwarded £5,000 for a poem about the opening of a wardrobe
have enough time on their hands
to stand in front of mirrors
contemplating whether they exist or not
and books about wizards and bondage
sell millions