Maggie: A Girl Of The Streets

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.


Sunday League

This is another 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 Fire Season by James Galvin.

He is an American poet and novelist from the state of Illinois, born in Chicago. Much of his work is centred around the realities of the American West.


The Caribbean batsmen are on fire,
burning brazen like Satan’s eyebrows.
Assumingly, the English are still bowling, slinging
Molotov cocktails at them from twenty-odd
yards away. Fine, this isn’t the
Bay of Pigs but the islanders are in the
smokescreen of a big bad superpower.

You got me, I lied.
There are no Molotovs or superpowers.
Perhaps it’s the look of the ball,
appearing like a shuttle burning up on re-entry
or is it the subtle scorch marks on their helmets?
There’s an orange ring around the pitch.
They call it a boundary, and there’s a pavilion
with a bar not far away with a dragon inside.

But that’s beside the point as batsmen
beat the embers back, real hot.
Bowlers scorch the hallowed turf.
Stumps turn to ashes, and
actually, there are no embers or
scorch marks. Just flashes of brilliance
and the smoke from the barbeque.

Last Hearth

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.

I’m Mad As Hell And I’m Not Going To Take This Anymore: or We Have Come to This Great Stage of Fools

I have two titles for this poem: the first is taken from a line in Sidney Lumet’s Network (1976) and the second is an excerpt from a longer quote from William Shakespeare’s King Lear.


Is any of this real? Look at this
fantasy. We have synthetic
emotions as pills that spur on
health-depleting ills.

The mind is assaulted through advertising.
Chemicals melt our brains through food.
Mind-numbing lectures as media that
tap into our thoughts through Facebook.

Reality is gone. Whilst munching on GMOs
we became plagued with warfare and foes.
We turned off the power and removed the batteries,
as we went to work in internet factories.

“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore” is the main line from Network (1976)
(Network, MGM)

We bought into the corrupt like FIFA and Amazon
and Apple with their methods (at least morally).
There’s something shady going down!
All built on the blinking numbers sprawling
through the serpentine woods of Wall Street Town.

I hate all the contrived facades and ludicrous lies,
like how the masses glorify Steve Jobs a good man
as he made billions off the backs of children
in far off lands I can’t even pronounce.

Our idols are simulations. Earth itself is a lie, a hoax!
A narration of rubbish disguised as insight, as Facebook
claims our thoughts and likes, while Twitter wizard
Trump tauntingly tweets Korea’s Kim on a daily.

We’re in this culture of junk, due to our
unwavering favour of the question, “how much?”
All over human welfare, and then we had the
Chilcot Inquiry’s affair with Tony Blair.

If justice was done properly, ex-prime minister Tony Blair would be in jail for war crimes
(The Chilcot Inquiry, bbc.co.uk)

We all know why we have opted for this life.
We like living in denial, putting others on trial,
under the sedation of newspeak, living in this
Orwellian reality. And Big Brother is watching!

This is a kingdom we’ve lived in for far too long.
It’s ridiculous, selfish, ghastly and wrong.
A comedy of errors and as I read this
in high street-bought clothes,
I’m as real as the 100% Beef meat at Maccies.

Walter

I wrote this poem specifically for a performance at Northants Black History Association. Focusing on local history, I decided to write a poem about Walter Tull.

Walter Tull was a footballer who played for Tottenham Hospurs and Northampton Cobblers. He was also a soldier during The First World War, being the first Black British-born man to reach the rank of officer in the British Army.  His father was from Barbados and his mother was a Kentish white woman. Tull’s grandfather was a slave and Walter was killed in 1918.

My poem, Walter, is based on Mulatto by American poet Langston Hughes and on Checking Out Me History by John Agard. Both poets are known for critiquing and discussing racial politics and culture in their work.


I am like you white man, British!

European dusk
in a graveyard nation.

“You’re not British.
Just a yellow bastard!”
Like Hell!

Walter Tull. His grandfather, a slave.
His father, black, his mother, white
footballer turned soldier
in Footballer’s Battalion
and first Black British-born
man to lead white men
to fight in battle. 

White moon over No Man’s Land.
French frosty night,
full of stars,
massive yellow stars.

What’s war but a game?
Bodies of flesh
and bone.
White, blue, brown and black
men blown to bits.

Tull signed at Tottenham in 1909, making him the first black player in English top tier football 
(Walter Tull, edition.cnn.com)

The scent of rotting flesh stings the night air.
“Who are your parents?” a voice asks.
And there Walter lingers in his mixed-race mask.

Another yellow sunrise.
Half of a yellow sun
and his comrades drop one by one.

From Barbados, his father
travelled far and Walter to war.
He volunteered to go,
trading football for France’s
bombs, bullets and bayonets.

The French sky is full of stars.
Massive yellow stars as light as
the dawn, showing these white
men he was no pawn.

To them he was nothing but a toy.
A yellow bastard boy.
He went out into the night, showed
the English how to fight.

The SlaveTrade was a rotten business that even the descendants of slaves today are affected by
(The Triangular Trade, BBC Bitesize)

Walter, forward-thinking
black man of big ambitions
moving boulders over white river
rapids to freedom street.

And when he died in Spring 1918,
stars were seen dancing through the air.

A British night,
a British joy.
I am British white man!
Yes, a man, not a bastard boy.