I wrote this poem a few months after watching the unnecessary but still excellent sequel to Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting, T2 Trainspotting, and I ended up enjoying it more than the original film.
This poem is based on the ‘Choose Life’ monologue that Renton delivers in a restaurant to Veronika after she says “what’s choose life?”
Choose social media: YouTube, Skype,
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp.
Choose books, I mean actual books.
Not that crap, you know Nooks, E-Readers, Kindles.
They’re shams of literature, like Instagram
for pretend photographers.
And I’d hate for my enjoyment of a good novel
to be reliant on a finite battery life.
That’s the strife of being a traditionalist, progression
is always snapping at my heels like the Devil.
And then there’s Little Lord Fontelroy looking dishevelled,
Donald Trump. Choose him. Actually, bad idea.
Don’t even go there. He thrives on fear and the
sound of his own voice. His happy hands
dropping bombs on lands I can’t even pronounce, but
I can renounce his ways – his racism, his treatment of women
and his use of Agent Orange – no this isn’t Vietnam,
it’s his suntan lotion creating media
commotion like Mrs May and her will to throwaway
human rights to catch maybe-terrorists.
It’s all a joke you know? Like the daily Politics Show,
everyone’s acting, on this “strong and stable” stage
performing magic tricks like a mage in World of Warcraft.
Choose the future, or what’s left of it after this deficit,
and I’m not just talking about the economy.
Choose the NHS. Choose the Public Services.
Choose government. Choose a zero hour contract,
choose student loans, choose halls of residence
despite those very accurate horror story tomes.
Choose reality TV; choose the Kardashians and their antics.
And the undecipherable semantics of the Big Brother house,
or the: mind-numbing, IQ-depleting, logic-defeating Love Island
that has taken the populous by storm, reality TV is now the norm.
And this is what society wants us to be. Stupid, docile – infatuated,
shot by one of those cupids with their mini bows and arrows.
Choose slut shaming. Too skinny, too fat, too tall, too short.
Not pretty enough. Choose 13 Reasons Why, Choose Edge of Seventeen. Choose depression, choose suicidal thoughts,
choose social anxiety. Choose made-up piety, as society goes
to pray then lays waste to streets. Day in, day out on repeat.
And then takes a seat as they tuck into a nice, tasty dinner.
And then choose the same for your children,
your mothers, fathers, sisters, younger brothers.
And then smother the pain with denial.
Take a breath; now you’re an addict, so be addicted.
Not conflicted. Just be addicted to something else.
Choose your loved ones.
Choose your future, just choose life.
I mentioned in my bio that popular culture plays an important role in my life. However, it’s found its way into my poetry too, as some of my poems are inspired from films and television shows. This poem is inspired from I, Daniel Blake, a film about the working class living under the welfare state and how bad things can happen to good people.
I named this poem Maggie: A Girl of the Streets after the Crane novella of the same name. I enjoyed reading that during my American Literature module last year and it holds similar themes to I, Daniel Blake.
In 2014, to commemorate a century since the beginning of World War I, Channel 4 hired British actors to read a number of British war poems. This included Christopher Eccleston who read Testimony (Seamus Heaney) which I posted on The People v. Michigan State.
During the summer of 2017, I tasked myself to write a response poem to each of the war poems on Channel 4’s line up. Maggie: A Girl of the Streets is in response to The Arms and the Boy by Wilfred Owen and it’s read by Gemma Arterton.
Wilfred Owen was an English poet and soldier during The First World War. Whilst in a hospital in Scotland in 1917, he met one of his literary heroes Siegfried Sassoon (I’ll talk about him later) who provided him with the help and the encouragement to write his war stories through poetry.
Owen was awarded The Military Cross in acknowledgement of his bravery but he was killed on November 4 1918 during the battle to cross Sambre-Oise canal at Ors.
Let Mr Rich dart down Maggie’s trench to see
what reality is, and pursue with hunger for loose
change. Eyes rancid with purpose like a dog salivating
at the mouth – thickly dripping like a leaking car battery.
Allow him to caress the blind, broke people under the line
who long to work to feed their families – or give the street
sleepers some food to warm their bellies and a bed for the
night– not left to die and claw for the white light.
For Rich’s life seems to be laughing around the needy.
Conscienceless in his neck’s snake, glittering gold.
Whilst politicians make speeches on human rights,
livelihoods sold – pavements crack and the alleys hiss.
This is one of the poems I wrote as a practice for a workshop on my Creative Writing degree under the designated theme of fire, and it’s based on Burning the Old Year by Naomi Shihab Nye.
Nye is an American poet of Palestinian and German-Swiss descent. She spent her teenage years in Jerusalem and San Antonio (Texas). Her experiences in growing up in a dual-nationality and dual-culture family has influenced much of her work.
Old messages down the internet haystack:
one-letter replies and niche emojies,
like you’re some kinda millennial
but you were born in 1972.
You threw lots into the flames,
your disease for starters –
when Scleroderma reared its head,
a blue snaking fire of ten years.
You were there and then you weren’t.
No more family stories, no more jokes,
only the ambient sound of the poker.