Poverty

Poverty

You are the crushed cans of Foster’s
On the steps of Jobcentre Plus.
You’re pornographic graffiti
On the back seats of the school bus.

You are the laminate flooring
Appliquéd to resemble pine.
You are the cigarettes I quit
So I could afford better wine.

You’re the comfort of this metre,
The contraction that fits the bill,
The media through which my words
Must pass to cerebra from quill.

You are relativity itself;
You qualify all that is worth.
You are life expectancy,
And rate of survival in birth.

You are afternoons in Asda
When I’d rather be in Waitrose:
You are that inky cancerous
Cell that even the sultan knows.

You’re aspiration’s damnation:
The graveyard where hope’s laid to rest.
At home as much in Abertawe
As you are atop Everest;

For you stalk Homo sapiens
From cradle to hospital bed,
And you care not for pentacles
Because you do not live on bread;

You thrive on fear and obedience,
And you feast on our apathy:
You’re a weapon wielded by the few,
But they’re tools to you, poverty,

Because they don’t know how to be free of you:
They don’t understand how you work;
They strive to shrug off your influence
With every chore that they shirk,

But all that they make of you that way
Is a black rod for their own bare backs;
And the longer the night through which they sleep soundly,
The longer the knives for their backs.

You’re a culture that sells off its libraries
For a bucket to bail out its banks,
You’re the message that learning’s a luxury
Hung from the barrel of a tank;

But you won’t have your way with us, this time,
Because we won’t be left in the dark:
We have candles to hand out to the vandals
Who would sit and sing songs in the park

Warming their hands round the campfires
Built with the timbers of Rome;
For you may have a mortgage in Sandbanks,
But we call the whole world our home.

And you can’t call us poor with a straight face
When the third world shifts closer by the day,
In spite of the spite of its tyrants
Who, like you, are poor in their own way.

And you can’t stop us reaching our deities,
With your language of indecency,
And you can’t put a price on our piety,
Because art is all that is free.

Appears in:
Mistaken for art or rubbish [2013]

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