John Short was born in Liverpool and studied Comparative Religion at Leeds University and Creative Writing at Liverpool University then later spent years in Europe doing different jobs. His poems and stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies in Britain, France, Spain and the USA most recently in Frogmore Papers, Dream Catcher, Prole, Black Market Review, Message in a Bottle and Algebra of Owls. He reads at venues around Liverpool and at Vintage Radio, Birkenhead.
Safe in a tower somewhere
a woman is writing about anger
while on ground level a woman walking
home from work gets a police check.
Made to produce papers, abandoned
for three days in a cell, bedroll and blanket,
no chance of a phone call either.
But egotism rolls around the tower
she paints it beautifully with blackened rage,
scars of privilege unfold across clouds.
Back on ground level, the boss
will not pay the other her days in jail
though she is tired from years of paying
for rights to exist; for the right to pay more
and if she had six thousand pounds
she wouldn’t spend it on a tower
she’d take a plane to the distant family
last seen twelve years ago.
Civilisation falls apart
because of people like us,
we’re in competition with it.
We live inside these walls
saying this is society now.
The arcades with the cash machines
and shops are on the outside
open 24 hours of course.
We don’t advise you to go there
as there really is no point
but excursions to the seedier parts
can be organised and then
you’ll see that we were right.
We’ll consumer them to death
until they come scratching around
begging us like slaves.
thistles stretch their prickly arms afar
When times were good
the university would send
out optimistic magazines
praising education; the wonders
of technology and science.
Their bright new mind-set
laughed at the ragged figure
who sold Marxism Today
on the far edge of the campus.
He never did convince us
of the class struggle, they said.
We live in exciting times now,
with opportunities for all.
But these days they send me
letters pleading poverty,
say I should donate so others
might have an equal chance.
I tell them I’m broke, well
I’ve enough to eat and drink
and pay the council tax
but I gave it all to Africa
and really they were right –
there is no class struggle
just class massacre.
I have it from the horse’s mouth
they mean us no good, hate our guts;
perhaps they’d like to see us drown.
The drainage expert makes a case,
exposes in detail this recipe for disaster
then the developer’s vacuous spiel
elicits some dissent from the crowd.
The council officers pass it anyway:
they cannot afford to live in this town,
think the streets are paved with gold
they mean us no good and hate our guts.
I ransack my head for a sane response:
civilised at the tail-end of civilisation,
poetry and anger in a dark orbit.