Came with the night; screams...
Men with broken arms,
unable to lift their razors
to slit their throats,
are banging their heads against
walls and crying.
A Civil Servant saw them
and wrote a report.
A Politician read it and
casually misfiled it.
2 July 1977
I’ve never considered myself a political poet. June Jordan said, “Poetry is a political act because it involves telling the truth.” I’m not sure that’s enough. But then I don’t think I’ve ever understood the word ‘politics’. I know what the dictionary says it means. In its broadest sense then:
Politics (from Greek: politikos, definition "of, for, or relating to citizens") is the practice and theory of influencing other people
I always thought that’s what religion’s goal was. And isn’t that the aim of art too? And big business. And even science. I’m trying to influence you now. I’m doing it through reason but I am doing it.
I wasn’t brought up in a political environment. I lived in a Labour stronghold and my understanding of political parties extended to: Labour is for the working man; the Tories are for the rich. I didn’t even understand terms like left-wing and right-wing.
When I wrote this poem I remember struggling over the word ‘casually’. I couldn’t decide if it should be ‘carefully’. I like them both and they both work.
‘Concord’ has been published but I didn’t keep a record of where and I don’t have a copy of the magazine or the acceptance letter.