Ah, Palmyra

We care more for ancient ruins
And destruction wrought on tombs
By whatever means they may
Than for lives that end today

While the blood and flesh and bone
Leaving everything they own
To escape the latest purge
Travel desert, sea and gorge

Those who voyage only land
On their uppers, close at hand
To the help they sorely need
Yet the politicians plead

Not to have to break their word
To the xenophobic horde
Those whose votes they barely won
From the hardened right, anon

Thus with bottle-necks and fence
We corral and harry hence
Workers that we sure could use
Grateful, welcome, unabused

Skilled and keen to integrate
To prop up our ageing State
In permissive company
Knowing just who let them be

As the fight takes to the skies
And the waves fill up with lies
We would throw away resource
Inconvenient and coarse

With no tally of the cost
Nor of what support is lost
Though our leaders might feel tall
While our borders stand, we fall

Survivor

I am right there
Surrounded by cockroaches
Squatting in the ruins,
The wreckage.
Collateral, damaged
In the fallout
Of a truly
Decadent society
That looked up to its
Graven images,
Photoshopped.
Idols, now idle.
How they glittered
In their lame, sequinned
Lifestyles.
Just me – a bunch of
Bad habits
And under the rubble,
One drug-addled
Rock guitarist.
Perhaps if we put our
Heads together
We can try
To find words
To remember.

Humanitarian Crisis

I worked late today
In the usual way
Then stood long for a bus
While ignoring the fuss
All the placards and song
Of a protesting throng

When the first one came full
Joined the back of the queue
‘Til I hopped on the second
No wiser, I reckoned
To pressure or purpose
That brought out the workforce

I sat in my headphones
Absorbing through eardrums
The tunes of a playlist
Unchanged through two ages
And stared through graffiti
At people beneath me

Not knowing, nor caring
What fate we were sharing
Familiar landscape blurred
Into the sounds I heard
Hopped off three stops early
Finished one journey

I trudged ‘cross the common
To see if I’d find one
More bus driver’s hubs
Standing still by the pubs
Sure enough, there I saw
Not just one, but some four

When one finally, late
Put his pedal to plate
He pulled up to the tavern
Waved me past his cabin
For NFC, broken
Would not zap my token

I settled inside
Chose a tune for my ride
But two stops, no further
We stopped in a lather
Five kids, come from school
With no change to fare-pool

Tried to board, barter, beg
But compassion was neg.
As commuters grew restless
One woman, well-dressed, stressed
Their selfishness loudly
“Eff off!” she yelled, proudly

Some gentleman, small
Added footage to gall
Thus the youths took offense
At this lack of good sense
And a row quickly rose
As his phone met his toes

While we waited, suspended
To see what might end it
Some ran for the next bus
Some added their voices
And called for policemen
To make them see reason

It took three more stops
And a call to the cops
But not one among us
Could hit on the obvious
Tempers grew heated
As workers felt cheated

Ashamed, I forgot
Or I simply did not
Check I had enough money
Available, on me
To throw them a bone
So we’d all make it home.

Five to five

They’re dropping like flies
As the plague sweeps the ranks
Rows of workstations empty
While telephone banks

Ring loud through the silence
And gathering gloom
As Thursday-night callers
Take turns round the room

One lone operator
Soon pales at the noise
And grasps at the handset
With grimace in place

For over-mic’d trawlers
That given the choice
She’d give neither date
Time, directions, nor voice

It’s almost the hour
That her shift’s at an end
But one final nuisance
Is waiting to rend

The last of her sanity
Ripped down the wire
Complaining injustices
Crude, uninspire

No longer the patience
To handle such groans
She’s wanting her bed
And an end to all ‘phones

Insomniac

I stayed up hanging on the line last night
My eyeballs were putting up a terrible fight
With my lids defiant and the screen too bright
Skin so itchy in pyjamas, something wasn’t right

With the tablet scrolling, tapping black on grey
Skimming lousy fan fiction ‘til the break of day
Guilty pleasures to distract me from this state of play
Knowing all too well what he would have to say

I’ve been lounging round in bubble baths to help me snooze
With late night meditating, self-hypnosis, pills and booze
Relaxation seems an ever more elusive muse
Necking Nytol, chugging camomile but no good news

Been a long time now since I couldn’t sleep
Keeping busy, feeling dizzy ‘til the clock goes beep
Waking dreams so crammed with thoughts that slither dark and deep
Just keep walking through the daylight feeling ready to weep

When your brain won’t slow and your ears won’t close
And you’re feeling sort of coldy from your head to your toes
No hot toddy makes you noddy, as the restless grows
Squirming prone beneath the duvet in your sleeping clothes

But the minute you stretch to find your feet again
He starts complaining in his sleep and clutching at your hem
As his snoring fills your senses and you pray for REM
You’re still stuck playing teddy while you count to ten

Sick of sheep that wander wooly through your neural net
As you lie caught between ‘it’s bed-time’ and ‘not-breakfast-yet’
Swearing blue streaks in the curtains trying to forget
It’s been an hour since you last visited the cabinet

Essential oils to make you sleepy getting in your face
With the stink of lavender all over the place
Singing whales offend the cat but buy you no more grace
He steals the pillow, sprawling fur in every inch of space

When the sun comes sneaking through the soggy dawn
You’ve given up on any rest; just put your knickers on
Stumble downstairs grumbling looking pale and wan
Bag grabbed, you’re lurching to the bus stop with the zombie throng

Examining Results

For once, I don’t know what to write
I’ve spent so long on call today
Informing others’ diktat soundbyte;
All my thoughts have flown away
Abandoning ‘mid dullest prose
And figures fed statistic’ly
Capacity of rows and rows
Of unexamined history
I’m homeward-bound and wish the best
To all whose numbers came to list
May you stand out among the rest
And never know this mill needs grist
I’d lend you wisdom of my years
If I were still bent on belief
But knowing such pearls find no ears
Would offer senses such relief
As may be had from silent smile
Of stranger truth than may be said
For soon enough you’ll have your milestone
Broke by others’ heavy tread

Vocational Draining

Hereditary traits
Insomnia, for one
With poor examples set
By siblings, dad and mum

A workaholic way
As conscience trips and taunts
The child that cannot play
At unproductive sports

The tendency to take
On tasks as yet unbid
Anxiety to shake
With tired limbs and head

It dulls the senses well
Self-medicated, thus
Until few feelings spill
To interrupt her thoughts

Her duties, she won’t shirk
It marks her one of us
She drags herself to work
Eyes closed upon the bus

M-B-D

Metro – boulot – dodo
Mais ce tri-rhythme ne fait pas
Mention aux heures passees
Entournee de la foule des sots
Les inanites quotidiens
Qui font partie du vague
De violences et d’impuissances
Qui me pervadent
Quand on se trouve fermee
Comme un veau, sous le sol
Dans le foutu metro

Et au bureau – faisant boulot
On bosse, point. Et pourtant
Le chef, il dort dans son cabinet
A sentir couler du robinet
L’eau de vie et du passe
Vos esperances; amours frustres
Pendant qu’on fasse ses devoirs
Comme si on se trouvait toujours
Au lycee, devant un mec aine
Qui s’est convaincu – c’est pas a lui
De faire ce qu’il faut de quoi qu’il soit
Et tout ca commence avec un mot
Son bonjour-argot ”pret, le cafe?’

Alors, qu’est-ce qu’on fait
Au moment du rentree?
Mais dormir – c’est ca
Apres chaque journee.

——————————————

Tube – desk – bed

Tube – desk – bed
But this triple rhythm does not
Make mention of the hours spent
Surrounded by the crowd of fools
The daily inanities
Which make up the wave
Of violence and frustration
Which seeps into me
When I find myself enclosed
Like a veal, underground
In the fucking tube

And at the office – beavering away
One slaves, full-stop. And meanwhile
The boss, asleep in his cubicle
Listens to the tap dripping
The water of life and of the past
Your hopes; frustrated loves
While one does his duty (for him)
As if one were still
In school, in front of an older boy
Who has convinced himself it isn’t for him
To do what he ought, of whatever it is
And the whole thing starts with a tiny phrase
His greeting-slang ‘Is the coffee ready yet?’

So what does one do
When one reaches home?
But sleep – that’s all
After every single day