Jacob’s Ladder

Poverty is hard to see
While growing up on toast and tea
I barely noticed its effect
We just got on with duties set

By those so practised to command
Unquestioning of task in hand
Until completed, so to bed
To rest our weary hearts and head

Yet catching toes on higher rung
While hearing others’ praises sung
I somehow over trod my groove
And moorings slipped, my mind did move

No longer cowed by sleight of birth
Unbending under weight and girth
I grasped this hook and pulled to see
What might be made with dignity

But not too far the ladder scaled
Before another turned and wailed
Unfairness at disparity
From what expectant they did see

As unbecoming in my stance
Though well-deserving of such chance
They wanted none with conscience there
Though they complained of life, unfair

With unchecked rage did rant and rave
Until they slipped, unseated save
For what was caught upon a nail
Until seams ripped and with a flail

Of arms and legs undignified
The other fell and so, he died
Unsettled, I, to see all eyes
So arid at this man’s surprise

I dared not breathe too long, nor loud
For fear they’d pick me from the crowd
Yet someone noted, by my air
I must have learned somehow to share

Instinctive camaraderie
Betrayed by actions that were ‘me’
Compassion at another’s fate
Too great my mercy, theirs too late

So shoved and pushed to halt my course
I stayed astride the ladder, worse
To know that I was caught, stuck fast
Between those who’d be first and last

In mind and stomach more than sick
To know such wealth might kill me quick
For feeling what they could not taste
Another’s worth and common waste

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Nothing So Special

There is nothing so special
Needing ribbon or bow
If a child is successful
On what merits they show

There’s no label, no button
Not a banner in sight
If they work for a living
Study hard late at night

All their limbs are still present
And their brain seems to work
They are dutiful, pleasant
And ignored by the world

No, there’s really no reason
We should praise to the skies
Every triumphal season
For a sharp pair of eyes

There’s no faculty lacking
That’s obstructing their view
So no need to start clapping
When their talent shines through

If we over-encourage
Then we risk that one day
They may pluck up the courage
To feel grateful and say

That their motive for trying
To improve on their best
Was the people believing
They would rise to the test