Militant Thistles

polemical poetry to prickle the politics of "permanent austerity"

atos Poor Doors Sheriff Stars spikes

thistles stretch their prickly arms afar

Black Triangle bedroom tax Disrupt and Upset

Alan Morrison

Salted Caramels

Garthwaite, K. (2014) 'Fear of the brown envelope: exploring welfare reform with long-term sickness benefits recipients.'

Over 91,000 incapacitated claimants died between 2011 and 2014



The DWP –Department for War on the Poor –

Deploys a plethora of paper weapons on the unemployed,

Origami games galore down at jobcentrepluses these days,

Administrative harassment of claimants, “disrupt and upset”

Is the sport, managers cutting out cardboard sheriff badges

To pin on employees’ lapels who manage to hit their targets

Of sanctioning sundry jobseekers for missing post-dated

Appointments too prompt for the post –but there’s no

Excuse for poor clairvoyance among the “scrounging” classes,

It’s just another type of avoidance of work or looking

For work (even if most posts advertised are fictitious!),

Or taking up unpaid placements; there’s Customer Compliance

Appointments elliptically phrased in sterile-looking letters

That leave much space for doubt and worry for recipients

As to what to expect on turning up to ‘tape-recorded’ interviews –

Piano wires? Thumbscrews…? Nothing so three-dimensional,

For it’s a game of malignant origami the DWP plays,

It prefers paper weapons –O, ink can kill as well: an average

Letter from this Department can work a pretty lethal spell

Of unsympathetic magic, like black spots to Black Dogs!

But of all the paper weapons deployed none can compare

To the terror of brown envelopes, ubiquitous brown envelopes,

Lying in baiting wait on doormats of a morning like paper moths

Or flattened praying mantises to greet indigents’ lockjawed

Yawning; and these brown envelopes can paralyse on sight,

As soon as claimants spy them in hallways they get dreadful

Frights, muscles tighten, throats turn dry, hands go clammy,

Brows perspire, hearts start thumping, pulses racing –such

Symptoms these simple shapes inspire, mere brown paper

Alan Morrison's poetry collections include The Mansion Gardens (Paula Brown, 2006), A Tapestry of Absent Sitters (Waterloo Press, 2009), Keir Hardie Street (Smokestack Books, 2010), Captive Dragons (Waterloo, 2012), Blaze a Vanishing (Waterloo, 2013), Odour of Devon Violet (, 2014), and Shadows Waltz Haltingly (Lapwing, Belfast, 2015). He edited the two anti-austerity anthologies, Emergency Verse - Poetry in Defence of the Welfare State (Caparison, 2010/11) and The Robin Hood Book - Verse Versus Austerity (Caparison, 2011/12). He is founding editor of The Recusant and Militant Thistles. Poems, polemic and monographs have appeared in The London Magazine, The International Times, Stand, The Morning Star, The Communist Review, The Penniless Press, The Journal, Red Poets and others.

His seventh collection, Tan Raptures, is due out with Smokestack Books in February 2017.

Rectangular envelopes with windows of glaring white sitting

On lumpenproletariat doormats, simply petrify, sealed

And pressed with spite, vituperative envelopes, primed paper

Weapons, packets of seeds to excite nervous dispositions,

Hypersensitivities, trigger anxieties, panic attacks,

Fight-or-flights, make grown men quake over cornflakes –

There’s no escape from brown envelopes for recipients

(Except, perhaps, suicide -how many more suicides

To be swept aside by tampered DWP statistics, while

Particular cases still come to light, like Reekie, Clapson,

Salter...?), as long as one’s unemployed or Incapacitated,

Day and night they’ll be stalked by these vicious missives,

Razor-sharp verdicts, tan fiends, buff furies, beige pugilists,

Brown plebicites, salted caramels, interminable brown

Robins with stark black and white insides of menacing Implicatures paving the way to disinfecting sunlight

Like shards of burnt glass, to snip at and grate away

Fragile minds; and some may choose to eat them, so pretend

They haven’t received them, but those who do will taste

Manila gum on gluey tongues and the bite of sodium chloride,

For these are spiked repasts, unjust desserts laced with darnels –

The DWP slowly poisons claimants with salted caramels…