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

 

they burned women in the 15th century

they burned women in the 15th century
thank [god?] we’ve moved on a bit since then
but those at the bottom of the pile down here
are still controlled by the same kinds of people up there

the Monarchs, the Merchants, the Bankers
the Politicians and Military Generals
and yes, those Old Men of Faith

with the world now taking its last breaths
isn’t it time for us to stand up and resist
their wicked profiteering at our expense
their wicked profiteering at the planet’s expense

they burned women in the 15th century
slaughtered their men too in the trench graves they dug
sent their kids under their mutilating spinning mules
all of their lives spent scavenging for the dregs

from those Monarchs, Merchants, Bankers
Politicians and Military Generals
and yes, those Old Men of Faith

with poverty rising and bombs still falling
isn’t it time for us to say enough is enough
their obstinance is alarming and offers a warning
we need a new way of surviving these oppressive thugs

they burned women in the 15th century
for thinking and dressing in ways that wasn’t ‘correct’
and yet equality now is still only skin deep
the leap of change needed still out of most people’s reach

held back by the Monarchs, Merchants, Bankers
Politicians and Military Generals
and yes, those Old Men of Faith

and yet again we vote for them and pray with them
and hope they deliver us from all their evils
and never do we once realise they’ve sold us their lies
and things haven’t changed much since the 15th century

when they burned women for no justifiable reason
made weapons and wars for no justifiable reason
kept men, women and children destitute
for no justifiable reason

Monarchs, Merchants, Bankers
Politicians, Military Generals
those Old Men of Faith

now residing in hiding behind security you pay for
on the profits from products that you consume and pay for
with your low wages and long hours that you pay for
with your health and well being in tatters and tears

they don’t give a fuck about you and your friends and families
or whether women were burned in the 15th century
or whether whales choke to death on their single use plastic
as long as their profits make them fucking billionaires

Monarchs, Merchants, Bankers
Politicians, Military Generals
Old Men of Faith

I could go on but long poems about politics get less likes
whilst short ones about moons and cats go viral
it’s an internet black hole spiral and yes you guessed it
they control you and own that beast too

subscriptions paid for by you and yours truly, the less unruly
the underclass underwhelmed disengaged underbelly
that needs to start remembering all those women
they burned in the 15th century

with the collusion and knowledge of Monarchs, Merchants
Bankers, Politicians, Military Generals
and yes, those Old Men of Cloth

the same polluted minds that lynched ‘niggers’
whose ancestors were ripped from Africa’s womb
their opiate pills that keep you comatose most days
able only to process the fakest and simplist infotainment news

this has to stop – here the poet sighs
both the poem and the rot
listen to those around you
not those above you

the Monarchs, the Merchants, the Bankers
the Politicians, the Military Generals
and yes, those Old Men of Cloth

the-extinction-rebellion-collective-organized-the-rebellion-day-on-saturday-november-17-by-kevin-j.-frost-shutterstock.-1

image from popularresistance.org

 

them women

them women bring water
from distant wells
them women gather sticks
make fire spells
them women pound grain
bake them breads
them women carry bundles
on them heads
them women cook meals
fill mouths with meat
them women hoe plants
grow food to eat
them women bear children
them live or die
we men hunt and smoke
and tell them lies

Insides Outsides Upsides Downsides

I put my shirt on inside out
That’s nothing much to shout about
I put my left shoe on the right
Wondering should I flee or fight
My words come out in mangled shouts
You may think I’m a simple lout
But truth be known I’m ordinary
It’s just my brain’s wired differently
It’s just my brain’s wired differently
But truth be known I’m ordinary
You may think I’m a simple lout
My words come out in mangled shouts
Wondering should I flee or fight
I put my left shoe on the right
That’s nothing much to shout about
I put my shirt on inside out

Listen . . .

I’m not a migrant
I’m not a vagrant
I’m not a benefit claimant
I’m not disabled
I’m reasonably abled
I’m white not brown or black
I’m in no minority or shanty shack
I’m not female or shemale
I’m not neutral gender
I’m not a crossdresser
I’m not young I’m middle aged
I’m middle class not disadvantaged
I’m of no fixed religion
I’m in a privileged position

but I won’t complain
when I see others campaign
for more share of the attention
or even a mention
because me and my kind
well it’s rather slipped our minds
that we’ve had it really quite good
for longer than I dare to remember
each January through December
so I’m happy to sit and listen
and hope we can be forgiven
let others with fewer choices
stand up and find their voices
it’s time to hear their stories

of how and why and when
life became this way for them . . .

only takes a haiku (or four)

only takes one drink
to drown a thousand sorrows
so you take one more

only takes one voice
to drown a thousand others
so you shout some more

only takes one hand
to slap a thousand faces
so you want for more

only takes one word
to say you’re truly sorry
only takes one word

A Solitary Star

a solitary star once burned bright in his eyes
it was the light that had kept him alive
it was the fire that stoked his imagination
it was the little boy left behind inside him

waving from the past as if from a photograph
the one that never got picked for the team
the one that pressed flowers from the park
the one that collected old postage stamps

making his way through life as best he could
dodging the verbal bullets of school bullies
dodging the beliefs that might tie him down
dodging false accusations from those who wrongly judged

perhaps the hardest lessons he never learned
that people could be so cruel to each other
that people thought only of themselves
that people cared little for the welfare of animals

dolphins and killer whales kept captive for entertainment
he joined the ranks of the angry minorities
he spoke out against injustice and inequality
he turned and walked away from confrontation

ever, ever, ever, would the world change?
time was running out for that little boy
time was catching up with his tired bones
time was mocking him with deafening silence

until one day it would all be deadly quiet
and he would sleep the sleep of all men gone before
and he would hear only birdsong and distant waves
and he would no longer be remembered

thankful would be his prayers
warm would be the sun on his face
peace would be his at long last…

Poolside Views

beautiful tattooed curvaceous views
sunlounger tanning without a care
washed up dripping rock lobsters
spit roasted and sun blushed grilled
barbequed holiday reading fodder
chick slitted with cellulite sinplicity
these all inclusive packaged wives

there is barely a cloud in the sky
the distant mountains are never climbed
only glimpsed through fake Gucci eyes
flip flopping thru on a Bacardi breeze

beautiful poolside tired bikini mumsies
making the most of this vacation time
cock sucking their beer bellied behemoths
loudmouthing males in sports bar dives
multi screened ashtrayed eyeliner nights
lolita daughters pouting ice cream lies
coach tripped out and sun lotioned thighs

beyond the no go perimeter nature stalks
sentient beings watch from dry river beds
fresh scented sheets are delivered daily
local widowed brides in starched white suits

these beautiful multi colored international turistas
skin toned graduated flesh potted palms
homogenised in aquamarine chlorinated waters
aerobic volleyballed under San Miguellified skies
eat all you want and go back for more gluttons
buy a sun hat buy a sun hat buy a sun hat
their hotel towels claiming favourite hot spots

Poseidon sea grass mulches the strip of shoreline
kite surfers trick out on azure boarded waves
see through sexy lace summer clothes
the stage tonight set for flamenco shows

her fingers play with the hairs on his leg
his mind undresses and fucks her from behind
entertainment laid on for the evening’s foreplay
you are beautiful people each and every one
you have all earned the right to be here
equaled out under this Mediterranean sky

IMG_20160704_223247-EFFECTS