Three poems by Miki Byrne

Joe Average.
..
There’s a need
for armour now.
To keep barriers high.
Slit fearful eyes at
inconsequential differences
as fear drapes like shrouds.
Holds in escaping smiles,
desire to do good.
Doors slam in the faces
of those less well off,
disabled, foreign, homeless
as Joe Average
hunkers down.
Carries a blade
of self preservation,
prepares to repel all borders.
Cannot see that they
are reflections of himself.
..
..
..
Those who are Wealthy.
..
The wealthy swim like sharks
through human shoals.
Brush away small fry,
who slip and slither through
societies net.
The rich perch like eagles
in mirrored palaces,
high above city centres.
See those below who drive them,
feed them, serve and supply them,
as inferior—mere ants who swarm
over pavements, sit  in buses,
or use cars that cannot pass
emission tests and carry no insignia
of high-end luxury.
The rich breathe rarefied air.
Do not venture into warrens
and ghettos.
Have access to private health care,
comfortable homes for their elderly.
The poor use the stumbling NHS.
Return to narrow streets, small homes,
illness, poverty, insecurity
and in these places, people die.
Day, after day, after day.
..
..
..
A Brief Note on Being Vegetarian.
..
No: To meat, fish, poultry.
face, feather, fleece, fur,
fin, limb or offal.
To: Crustacean, mollusc, shellfish,
scale or eel.
Eggs are acceptable-only if free range.
I am not Vegan, there is a difference.
Yes: To fruit, veg, root, nut, tuber,
legume, pulse, seed, dairy,
flower, herb, leaf and berry.
No, to assumptions of weirdness,
anaemia, communal living,
a tendency toward New Age dreads
and a longing for lentils.
Yes to the hope of your tolerance
as you will always receive  mine.

Poverty Makes Ghosts, by Miki Byrne

Pared down like whittled sticks,
on food bank tins, people bleed poverty.
Accumulated cold from unpaid bills
gives a pinched look and faces hollow
from knowledge that few care.
Signs of scurvy re-emerge, along with
depression, malnutrition. TB.
Dangerous ghosts that haunt the poor
like headlines of ignorant times.
Yet our time, these times, know more,
have more and the powers that be
place a wedge between have and have not.
Criminalise, demonise.
Dance in backward steps to a time
that so many worked so hard to change.

Austerity and the Average, by Miki Byrne

Austerity sucks life from us.
Brings an unseemly scrabbling
for pounds and pennies.
Debt is a blade on desperate necks.
That falls at the turn of an interest rate.
It consumes, is unforgiving, brings fear,
sleepless nights.
We queue at food-banks,
our diet of shame sated by the pity of others.
Dignity fades, rubbed thin by attrition
and interviews.
Where the chance of work is tiny,
the threat of sanctioned benefits
ever-present.
We develop a cynical shell,
loth to give our best to thankless pursuits,
or the minimum wage, on unsafe,
zero-hour contracts.
Absence of security pays lip-service
to a work ethic.
Public service deteriorates,
erodes through disillusion.
We have no value.
Significance, respect, are rare coins
that change hands infrequently.
Those on the treadmill run.
Lose hope with every step.
Whilst the powers-that-be court their money.
Smile at new accumulations.
Send back tax returns,
fiddled to within an inch of our lives.

Young Carer, by Miki Byrne

Megan does the washing and gets her own tea.
Makes Mum a cuppa when she needs.
Dad went away when Mum was diagnosed
and Megan misses him.
Tells her little brother what he was like.
At parent’s evenings teachers wonder
why they don’t see someone for Megan.
Pass comment on how tired she is
and sloppy with her homework.
Megan tries to work.
Clears the kitchen table but has to wash up first,
do laundry, help Mum to the bathroom .
Megan doesn’t get pocket money.
Mum’s disability benefit doesn’t stretch far.
On Saturdays Megan doesn’t play out,
or go to the park.
She has no dance class, swimming.
Only the TV for after school.
She does little any other twelve year old would do.
Megan works hard because Mum has MS
and Megan loves her Mum.

Good Men, by Miki Byrne

Good men do nothing.
While the welfare state crumbles
and politics drive wedges into life.
Good men stay silent whilst war-babies
crawl screaming  to our shores.
Then pry away their needy infant hands
because that is what voters want.
Good men turn away
when ex-servicemen sit homeless
in the streets and thousands
of disabled die from cruel assessments,
attempts to starve them back to work.
Good men wear good faces when the
mentally ill are stigmatised,
refugees demonised and neighbours
must use food banks to survive.
Good men agree to zero-hour contracts,
foster insecurity, fear of illness, absence.
Allow bosses to become overseers
and resurrect  Victorian values
that punish and demean.
Good men don’t rock the boat, even if
it’s called injustice and carries a cargo of greed.
When good men finally act,
when societies failures landslide
and push them against spiked walls,
it will be too late.
Evil is here and good men watched it
walk right in.

Homeless by Miki Byrne

In a cardboard city,

where streets are paved

with polystyrene and chip papers.

Leavings of others gain value:

Nub-ends split and re-rolled

eke out a few drags.

Bins at the back of supermarkets

make good hunting.

The soup truck  is serendipity

on a cold night.

Now and then, a clean bed.

Subject to someone else’s

charity, warmth,

sense of good citizenship.

Mostly, we stand invisible.

To turned heads, walls of indifference.

Some drift in their own world.

Some fly on Thunderbird.

Dream of a safe home.

Most of Us by Miki Byrne

Most of us live in boxes.

Shared walls bleed noise, won’t hold a screw

for the mirror that shows a million tired faces.

There’s a cream-cracker yard or a plastic pot

for colour.

Graffiti’d walkways skein between flats

where old folk stay indoors after dark

and mothers cry at children’s choices.

Bad company and fear.

There’s a shabby row of maudlin shops

a cut-price supermarket and an offie.

A bus stops nearby for a trip to the town

that frowns over its barnacle estates.

Most of us work, casual and quiet-or through

job-centre hoops, that pin dignity to our sides

offer rules, prising questions.

Most of us would love a little bit more.

For the girls wedding, school uniforms,

a night out with mates.

While the twist in our gut grows every day

of doing without and the only chance

is a lottery ticket that never comes up but we hope.

Always hope.

Most of us know wrong from right.

Can respect, respect.

We might blur the edges but don’t big ourselves

into crime for a sharp reputation

but mind our own business.

Persevere day after day and we’ll stay.

Right here. Forever.

Most of Us by Miki Byrne

Most of us live in boxes, in a line.

Horizontal, vertical.

Shared walls bleed noise,

won’t hold a screw for the mirror

that shows a million tired faces.

There’s a cream-cracker yard

or a plastic pot for colour.

Meagre grass grows sour.

Or graffiti’d walkways skein

between flats where old folk

stay indoors after dark

and mothers cry

at their children’s choices.

Wring their hands at bad company and fear.

There’s a shabby row of maudlin shops

a cut-price supermarket and an offie.

A bus stops nearby, for a trip to the town

that frowns over its barnacle estates.

 

Most of us work at what we can.

In the black and the red.

Casual and quiet-

or through job-centre hoops,

that pin dignity to our sides with rules,

prising questions.

Most of us would love a little bit more.

For the girls wedding, school uniforms.

A night out with mates,

who play the same game.

While the twist in our gut, grows every day

of doing without and the only chance

is a lottery ticket that never comes up

but we hope. Always hope.

Most of us know wrong from right.

Can respect, respect.

Though we might blur the edges

but don’t big ourselves into crime

for  a sharp reputation.

We mind our own business.

Persevere day after day

and we’ll stay right here. Forever.

Speech Impediment by Miki Byrne

It sticks in your throat.

A lump too big

to be chewed down.

No spit mustered

for this unpalatable gulp.

I see it occasionally,

flitting through your head.

Banging at the back of your eyes

when you think of what you did.

You got close once,

began a short hiss.

Snake like,

sharp in its nipped-off syllable.

Then the word died.

Couldn’t be forced

from the airless cavern

of your mouth

into the atmosphere that hovered,

like a glass wall.

Impenetrable from your side,

open from mine.

You never tried again.

Never wanted the forgiveness

I would have wrapped you in.

If only you had said ‘sorry’.

Waiting for a DWP Disability Assessment by Miki Byrne

The night before,

I imagine their questions.

Expect interrogation.

Picture the suit, laptop,

eyes full of speculation.

He or she will not be a friend

and inside my stomach

a few hornets buzz

and will swarm  tomorrow.

I wonder how the state

expects me to prove a disability.

Their eyes cannot lie.

Nor medical evidence,

yet I must parade myself.

Become an exhibit,

fit under their  microscope.

I won’t sleep.

Can’t pre-guess them,

know their findings.

A sense of outrage simmers.

Who are they to doubt my word,

integrity, breach my privacy,

enter my home?

They call it convenience,

procedure.

I feel assumptions,

unsaid accusations,

coming toward me like trains.

Worry about income cuts,

poverty, cold winters.

Hate their power

to change everything:

My future, my health and sanity,

my whole, fucking, life.