the only ones

on bright winter mornings
we drove hungover along the seafront
last night’s disco ball now a low hung sun
a billion twinkling dance moves glinting
on every tiny ripple of a wave
and through it all the beat of our lives
ebbed and flowed with every tide
racing – pulsing – floating onward
not that we had anywhere to go
except perhaps to the end of the pier
where the fishermen cast their hopes
and the drunks dreamed in gathered shoals
like driftwood drawn from the north
they too had nowhere left to go

we used to park at the end of Madeira Drive
and make out in the car when the clubs had closed
we weren’t the only ones

orange beetle

under a Brighton moon

in our palatial bedsits
punk posters on the walls
we stared into the smoke screen
can’t tell what we saw
can’t tell what we saw

and down the street
at the end of the street
between the sky and dirty gutters
is where we used to drink
is where we used to drink

we drank to get drunk
we got drunk to forget
we forgot why we’d even started
until the time was spent
until the time was spent

and down below the pier
on the dead and pebbled beach
the tramps all licked their wounds
just like they were dogs
just like they were dogs

yet still we wanted more
a line from a song or more
any something more we could score
to take our breath away
to take our breath away

under a Brighton moon
the glow of cigarette butts
stars safety pinned to the night
it’s all so long ago
it’s all so long ago

it’s all so very long ago
much longer than a lifetime ago
now it’s pulled out from under your feet
oh such a cruel fate
oh such a cruel fate

Petunia knocks

Petunia knocks
on The Good Fortune door
she wants to be a lap dancer
on the bar room floor
but first she must pass
the casting couch test
by pulling up her skimpy
pretty purple tight vest

white girl
trash girl
dirty little slut girl
pimp girl
pimply girl
Mummy left her little girl

the words on her chest
say she’s DADDY’S GRRL!!
yet he’s the ****
who made her life unfurl
now she’s doing it again
just like she was told
that day when her childhood
was first bought and sold

it’s just a blow job
so what the heck she thinks
but he’s fat and hairy
and his groin fucking stinks
she remembers sitting screaming
with abdomen pains
blood and baby stuff flushing
away down the drains

Petunia Petunia
she doesn’t know her own name
it’s a flower a flower
with colours aflame
reds purples pinks
they all look the same
bruises abuses
give away the sad game

you do strip or poles
and favours or what?
sign here young lady
on these blackened dots
you can take your time
here snort a line it’s fine
it’ll make your eyes shine
now go make the men say
you’ll be mine oh mine

white girl
trash girl
Mummy left her little girl
pimp girl
pimply girl
dirty little slut girl

Petunia Petunia
she does what she does
’cause you just have to work
and god knows it don’t pay
to be a shy lazy shirk
she’s got debts and rent
and men to pay
there’s never a good time
in any shit day

late in the night
on the top attic floor
when all of the punters
have been kicked out the door
she curls like a foetus
tight as a ball
the sound of the night
infiltrating the walls

white girl
trash girl
dirty little slut girl
pimp girl
pimply girl
Mummy left her little girl

the words from her Dad
echo in her head
she can’t stop his yells
even though he’s dead

but look – it’s ok
she’s ok – ok?
she’s got someone to hold
a black girl who’s older
goes by the name Marigold
her nails are like petals
painted reds purples pinks
she’s her surrogate mum
well that’s what the kid thinks

they’re two flowers them two
two flowers no more
and there’s no going back
to their lives long before
or when Petunia knocked
on The Good Fortune door
for life is what it is
and what it is
is no more

you’re a man

you’re a man
you’re a man
you can’t understand

you do
what you do
it’s all underhand

you’re a man
you’re a man
you won’t understand

the pain
the strain
to be secondhand

you’re a man
you’re a man
you’ll never understand

coz a man is a man
is a man
is a man

after

with eyes closed
I watch clouds move across the sun
a lighthouse beam sweeps in a segment
now moving away to the north
warning of what?
stars form and grow and burst
filaments of unknown origin
illuminate electrified cells
multiplying through a microscope
dissipating before my eyes
fading out of sight
darkness forming
enveloping
and

after our lovemaking
we stay close to share our warmth
listening to the rain on the window
steady and straight and determined

Servant

On that big kitchen counter there are no stains
the antibacterial cleaner has wiped your conscience clear

On that big kitchen counter there stands the coffee pot
perspiring aromas of Africa, Asia and Latin America
the sweat of darker skins percolated out by distance

The coffee beans have been gathered
cherry-red like your lipstick smeared mug
the united colours of coffee culture love

The colour of your labourer’s blood

Ask any of your friends
rushing to work with a takeaway cup
in the warm air of the underground station

It is all of us waking early to commute
It is all of us buried inside our phones
carrying our cares and insecurities
overburdened by deadlines and diaries
a bad boss, a backstabbing colleague
competition to look the best
performance everything

But who?

Who is the servant
that grows the orange flowers in your vase?
– and who?

Who pays the wage to buy your clothes
your home, your car, your overseas vacations?
On whose head falls the true cost?

Someone, somewhere, makes it all possible
someone, somewhere, fills your belly
But who?

The songs in your earphones
the trains that take you to your destination
the warm air in the underground stations
drown out the answer:

– Servant . . . !

Oh, at the least let them climb out of servitude
Let them taste the freedom of ownership
and forget in perpetuity the state of poverty

Servant . . . !

 

I am currently reading The Penguin Book of Modern African Poetry (New Edition – published 1984).

This poem is an attempt to echo back to the poem Monangamba by Antonio Jacinto from Angola which was originally published in 1961. Monangamba means servant in Portuguese.

How many of us in rich countries owe our high living standards to the cheap toil of poorer people in less well off countries? Climate change, corruption, violence, economic poverty and the persuasive power of people traffickers and drug gangs is fuelling the rise of migration from many of these poorer nations. It’s a great shame that people feel such a need to leave their native lands for such reasons. Richer countries need to do more to ensure such vulnerable people feel safe, have meaningful employment and stronger human rights. One way that this can be achieved is through fairer global trading practices and one thing we can all do is to seek out products that bear the Fairtrade or similar marks.

My poem takes the form of the original poem but flips the subject to the wealthier consumer. It questions the assumption that we no longer have servants in the 21st century and that our lifestyles have been made possible by only our own hard work. The reality is far from simple as much of our prosperity is still gifted to us by the invisible poorly paid and educated workforces around the world. We have much to be thankful for and perhaps rarely do we acknowledge the privilege of our good fortunes to have been born in a rich country.

To read Monangamba by Antonio Jacinto please follow this link:

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=_8u7ww42gXQC&pg=PT44&lpg=PT44&dq=antonio+jacinto+monangamba&source=bl&ots=h2bcYJjLJh&sig=ACfU3U03oa-NeqGGCGBxLjFR2baQLrtKQQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjZq7vJmNnlAhWBQhUIHTWUDS4Q6AEwC3oECAgQAQ#v=onepage&q=antonio%20jacinto%20monangamba&f=false