Whatever

Whatever gives us closure
Whatever sets it right
Whatever helps to soothe the fear
Or make it through the night
Whatever little gesture
However small or shy
Is what provokes the beast in you
And pacifies the “Why?”
Whatever covers hunger
When anger slakes our thirst
Whatever makes us wonder
Who came up with it first
Whatever files the edges
Not sanding us too raw
But reinforcing boundaries
Well-tested from before
Whatever is an answer
Whatever doesn’t hurt
Whatever leaves us calmer
A sprinkling of dirt
Whatever takes you over
With every nasty prod
Until whatever’s left to see’s
Between yourself and sod.

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Leadership Training

Welcome dear, to the asylum
Where the grown-ups are not in control
Mummy’s out chasing a rainbow
Daddy is home but not whole

So what do we do with our brother
Who needs to be petted and fed?
Just sisters supporting each other
When parents don’t get out of bed

If you grab a hold by one ankle
Then I’ll take the other and try
To tease out the worst of the tangle
Then soap, rinse and powder him dry

I’m sorry your tummy is grumbly
There isn’t the money for S’mores
I’ll find what I can if you’re hungry
And we’ll have a picnic indoors

I guess we’re not going out playing
While youngest’s a hole in her shoe
I’ve mended the bits that were fraying
But darning the rubber won’t do

Besides which it’s no longer summer
And coats are too short in the sleeve
So even the common’s a bummer
With chilblains it’s better to leave

The exercise video’s starting
We’ll all sit together to stretch
Now reach for your toes if you’re hurting
And think of the rich and the wretch

If we can just keep it together
As family’s good for the soul
There’s almost no storm we can’t weather
To pursue an impossible goal

So try not to pick up your plimsolls
Don’t want anybody to know
If they catch a glimpse of the cardboard
When walking along in the snow

Then mummy and daddy are over
They’d ship us all out to a home
And though there’d be food there forever
We’re better off here on our own

I Dun No Public More a Lie Tee

Make your mark
Then make them pay
For the joy
And for the peace

Of you trotting
On your way
Buoyed with cash
Of slow release

One might struggle
Protest long
Keep spinning out
An oft-tried ruse

That this moment
They are wrung
Well out of readies,
Truth, Good News.

But this just means
There’s something there
That’s worth the trouble
Every time

So do, persist
Without a care
For what was theirs
Will soon be thine

And groans, protesting
Empty purse
Aren’t like to foil
A seasoned pro

Imagination’s
Always worse
They’ll come around
Before you know

And where it seems
A stalemate stands
Increase the pressure
Of your grip

Upon their senses
Underhand
It’s no great trial
To play a trick

The argument
That less is more
Impress on them
Who’s number one

A pocket finger –
(Pen-knife-gun?!)
Will trump their greed
And you’ll have won

A Capital Man

Our bold Mayor of London
In spite of his burdens
Has chosen to cross
To the North bank again

The party political
Must have been calling
For stickier wickets
Inside number ten.

Conservative tastes
And the right education
Would make him a candidate
Proud to display

Strong family values…
Unchecked dedication
To national causes
That brook no delay.

He plots to return
To his life in the fast lane –
Trade in the bike for a
Chauffeur and Jag

No skimming the fine print
For that would be cheating
And soon on the map
He’ll be planting his flag.

Alas, the election
Requires some sacrifice
Two hefty titles
To shoulder at once

But that shouldn’t be hard
For a Machiavellian
Spinner of dreams
Used to acting the dunce.

So he’s setting his cap
At those hard-to-reach voters
More mums on the run
Far too busy to check

If this scruffy buffoon’s
Just an overgrown schoolboy;
The first among men,
Or a knife to the neck.

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

Hiatus

The Ugly Thought Spider
Squats on the ceiling
Above my head
Mocking my efforts
At pest control
Weaving strings of coincidence
Swapping hunger pangs and saliva
For absent-minded insects, the buzz
Of fast food suspended
With sticky strings attached
Out of reach
I cannot swat him
Though the news today was heavy
I endeavour to ignore his whispers
Cleaving to my sanity
As he to lunch

Eden

The first time we went hungry
Early in the morning
We dared ourselves to do it
Anticipating anger
We crept downstairs
And unlocked the back door
Standing on a chair to reach
Our guilty secret
Forbidden knowledge buzzing
In our childish brains
My sister was always the first to find
Where mum kept the key
Grumbles of rumbling tummies
Drove us over the dew
Chilly on our bare feet
Toward the wall
Where brambles grew
But all we found there to feed on
Were thorns
We searched in the pot
Which in summer held strawberries
Stepping carefully to keep
From squashing the snails
On their slimy journeys
But though the eggy flowers
With their yellow-white faces
Nodded at our eager fingers
Their greeting bore no fruit
Next year, I said to my sister
I shall plant a carrot tree
Planning our menu
We rummaged in the greenhouse
For something to snack on
Old sunflower seeds
Dandelion leaves from the lawn
But the rabbit had been there before us
And climb as we might
Even the sour cherry tree from next-door
Had buried all of its fruit in the ground
Hoping for an early spring
Until our secret garden
Was ashamed to see
Its children shiver
In the empty-bellied dawn

A breathing space while waiting

I take a breath, to clear my head
My stomach sings a hungry tune
My eyes are tired, my legs like lead
Freezing here beneath the moon.
I wish I could awake my mind
Some beauty I should love to find,
But closed-up shops
And ticking clocks
Are all the night will offer me.