Hail to the team leader
Hail to the supervisor
Hail to the manager
Hail to the boss
Hail to the scourge
Of bad timekeeping
Hail the god emperor
Of the early swerve
Hail to the clamourer
Hail to the dodger
Of escalated problems
Hail to the judgementalist
Who conducts appraisals
All hail the office’s
Hail to the cynic
Who questions sick leave
Hail the opportunist
Working from home
Hail to the networker
Hail to the bully
Hail to the backstabber
Hail to the profile-shower
Hail the boardroom sycophant
Hail, O hail to the chief
Strong and lukewarm and you unleash
a small avalanche of sugar into the mug,
stir till the spoon’s about to dissolve.
Coffee. It gets the taste of the precinct
out of your mouth. It’s a substitute for food.
It keeps you sharp, keeps you awake.
It’s a black hole, staring back at you
like that thing the fella who died mad
said about the abyss. It’s cheaper than heroin.
QUEEN OF THE POOL TABLE
And more than anything, her ease
of movement: graceful, confident,
lithe as a ballerina. But in her eyes
and the challenge of her smile,
the earthy experience of a girl
practiced at the bar, not the barré.
No pirouette or pas de deux,
the wall-stretched shadows
of red shoes and black swan
erased in a puff of chalk dust,
a grubby, much-applied blue
staining fingers, baize, tip of cue.
“Welcome to Matewan. This here’s
a company town, and the company
is your benefactor and your god,
your pious mother and stern father.
Boys, think of yourselves as tools,
implements for the extraction of coal.
“We pay ninety cents per ton of coal,
but listen up: your train ride here,
your housing and clothing and tools—
them’s a debt you owe the company:
honour it like you honour your father,
pay it from your first wages, by God!
“There’s a meeting house for God
and prayer. But hear me, boys: coal’s
your cathedral, coal’s Your Father
who art in the mine, ninety cents, here
in the darkness as it is in the company,
ours is the profit and thou art the tools.”
You son of a bitch! Men ain’t tools,
doesn’t matter if they’re lost to God
or chosen to sit in His company
come the day this dark pit of coal
and all the corruption that’s here
on earth is the fuel for Our Father’s
prophecy: the last shall be first. Father,
deliver us. That, or give us the tools
to do the job ourselves: now, here,
in the face of men whose only god
is the ledger book written in coal-
black ink and tallied by the company
accountant. Deliver us from company
enforcers with clubs and guns. Father,
deliver us from the price of coal.
Or shelve forgiveness, give us the tools
and look away. In some places God
and man work differently. Like here,
in this company town. Down tools.
stand with father and brother. God’s
absent where coal is. In Matewan. Here.
THE NINTH DAY
On the seventh day, he rested.
In the cold light of the eighth
he compared the finished product
to the original plans, ran through
the snagging list, wondered
about sustainability. Had his doubts.
Best trash it now: insurance
write-off. But think it through;
make it look like an accident.
A vision: war and hunger, ruined
landscapes, brother against
brother in a climate of hate;
austerity in peacetime, nothing
to strive for. Make it look
like he’d left them to it; blame
the screw-up on the human condition.
On the ninth day, he created politicians.
I would like to take your hashtag
and use it as a cheese grater
until I’ve flaked away everything
that’s trending. I would like to
reshape your hashtag, make a TV aerial of it
and see if I can find an arts documentary.
I would like to snap off one upright
from your hashtag and use it
to air-conduct next time I listen to Wagner.
Then snap off the others to leave a square
and use it as a frame for a photograph,
in black and white, of someone
surveying a landscape where fields
and horizon have their own idea of distance.
The kind of place where there’s no signal.
Our thanks to Neil Fulwood from across the pond for today's poems, and to Katy Brown for her pix which were taken on one of her trips to England. Neil was born in (and still lives in) Nottingham, UK, in 1972. His poetry has been featured in Art Decades, Nib, Uneven Floor, Section 8, Full of Crow Poetry and Dissident Voice. He's married, holds down a day job, and divides his time between the pub and the cinema. Welcome to the Kitchen, Neil, and don't be a stranger!