Poetry Corner

What shall we do with a drunken government?

Illustration by Suzy Varty
 You can’t throw them in the jails,
 the cells are full of poor boys,
 the illiterati of sink estate fallout,
 the no mark, no chancers
 who never got to dance at
 farmers’ balls so quickstepped instead
 through dead ends and subways
 dimlit as deathbeds,
 straight up the court steps
 into the balsawood arms
 of brokendown barristers
 playing off-with-his-head tennis
 m’lady, m’lord, m’house in the country.
 You can take them to a judge
 but no one cares anymore
 about fingernails blackened
 from springs snapping tills shut.
 As long as sour butter drips
 from smiling lying lips on the BBC,
 they’re just ordinary guys
 just like you or me if we were
 sprinkled with magic dust
 by nanny at our cot.
 If we squeeze our lids tight
 it might almost be us.
 So we write our impotent verse,
 sing our make-believe songs,
 looking for a right
 in a world of wrongs,
 but you can’t start an uprising
 from underneath the floorboards,
 when you can’t see the words
 and you’ve forgotten all the chords. 

Harry Gallagher