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Ron Berry

A Common Stream

‘Maintaining your domestic drain …’ warns the sewermens' boss,

‘… within your boundary, it’s up to you. Beyond, it’s down to us.’


In the trench, his mate, sealed against splashes and spills

by his stained coveralls, soiled boots, goggles,

and gloves besmirched with our waste,

unspools the cable, leads a camera into the place

where our effluent joins the common stream.

He taps a fouled keyboard, consults a smeared screen.


‘Old house. That trap’s an old structure from when it was first built.’


‘I tried rodding the blockage - didn’t work,’ I say, feeling some guilt,

because my body’s an old structure, too. (Some weaknesses there:

can’t avoid age and fair wear and tear.)


Shall I tell them what’s in my mind? An old house, drains clotted thick

by the rotted structure of our body politic;

where greedy egotists and liars betray the likes of you and me,

defame and persecute any who expose their partiality.


Is it fair to compare my drain with the talk-shop of the nation?


Abruptly, I blurt out: ‘They foul the stream for the whole population!

How would you fix that sewer?  We need more men like you, in soiled suits,

with stained hands and dripping boots!’


They wag their heads and turn to pumping shit from their redoubt,

smile back at me, over their shoulders, muttering, ‘What’s all that about?’

Ron Berry, born Gloucestershire, 1944.  Retired English and Drama teacher; became principal of a comprehensive community college.  Published poems in local poetry magazines in his 20s; has published nothing in recent years but has returned to writing, particularly about the injustices which attend the dominant economic and political ideologies.


A man’s frozen body falls from a plane approaching Heathrow Airport.  

The dead man, believed to be a Kenyan baggage-handler, lands a metre 

from a sunbather sitting in his garden in Clapham, South London.


How could I freeze by flying too near the sun?  I over-reach and find oblivion. 

Like Icarus, I ignore advice. I fall to earth, melting not wax but ice. 

Is my escape to a new life such hubris?  Does freedom come at too great a risk?

My labyrinth is pain and poverty.  I borrow wings and look for liberty.


Unseen, I climb through static landing gear, stow food, water and worn-out baggage near,

in the undercarriage binnacle.  I think of what’s behind me now and chuckle,

feeling free, knowing that above me, ranked in pairs, the tourists breathe the cool, conditioned air.

Travellers without oars, fair winds or tides, they sit like passive slaves at the vessel sides.


The jets whistle, wheels drum, then we fly.  I watch the earth retreat, I embrace the sky,

stay watchful while the giant wheel-bays close.  Now, all I’ve ever known I know I’ll lose. 

As we gain height the dizziness begins.  Like Icarus I gasp for oxygen.

A deadly, cruel cold at cruising height completes my metamorphosis in flight.


On our approach, near journey’s end, the wheel-bays open, launching my descent:

would-be immigrant of unknown birth, falling in clumsy spirals back to earth.

Under the flight path, bathing in warm light, under a bright sun shadowed by my flight,

an Englishman enjoys his English garden; oiled and at ease, he sees his pale skin darken.


He’s not been one for mulling the position of suffering within the world’s condition

until I fall like stone through summer air and land as a frozen block beside his chair.

In shock, he finds he cannot turn away; he wonders what my fall to earth might say

and questions how it is he can survive this stark intrusion of my death, my life.

bedroom tax
Sheriff Stars

thistles stretch their prickly arms afar

Black Triangle
Disrupt and Upset

Militant Thistles

prickling the politics of "permanent austerity"

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