Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Baby, Baby

A young acquaintance of mine,
and she types the words,
but I can well  hear
the outrage in her voice,
says she cannot believe
this kind of thing is allowed.
She is, herself, not much more than a child,
a young life, like this one,
yet she has been sick;
she has battled to live;
she has suffered;
she has survived.

And I, I am glad of it.
I see her photographs
proliferate on Facebook:
young, laughing, lovely;
silly, sometimes wild.
I did not know her then
but, when she was a child,
she must have been
a pixie, a darling –

You must have been a beautiful ba-by
because, ba-by, look at you now.

I think of my own daughter, smart as paint,
at seven or eight years old.
She had pink ribbons in her hair;
her eyes were full of light.
What if this had been her, what would I have done?
I like to think I might have killed him.
But then I think: what next, what next?
How would life limp on?

Beautiful baby, beautiful baby,
you were a beautiful, beautiful baby.
You grew and grew, more beautiful.
You grew into a wonderful child.

Now I think of this child,
who is neither my acquaintance nor my daughter,
who will never grow to womanhood
and the mauling of a mother's great love.
I think of her terror as much as her pain
and the horror of it all defeats me.

You must have been a beautiful ba-by
because, ba-by, look at you now.

Abigail Wyatt

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Things I Have Dreamed of Since a Recent Birthday

Having lumbered back home with a dead white swan;
and, for it, being blamed and shunned;
not being served with tea and fruit scones
so waiting, hungry, at table all night long;
then the tea pot being drained before it came to me
and the jam pot being scraped all but empty;
a grey rabbit, ears pricked, silver on the frosted lawn.

What is the swan I may no longer ride
whose orange beak dangles and bobs;
and the the few pale crumbs on the empty plates 
of those who have already been served;
and the empty jam pot, turned on its head;
and the rabbit picked out by the moonlight;
and what is the talk that goes on and on
and buzzes like a blowfly winding down?

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

The Little Match Girl or A Tale for Our Times

A poor little match girl cast out on the street
has little to hope for and nothing to eat
so she shivers and lights up the sky,
burning matches the rich man won't buy;
and with every quick breath she expends,
this match girl draws closer her end.
She knows it is useless to fight
to stave off the cold of the night.
Then this child, who can bear it no more,
lays down in her rags on the floor
where she sees, as her heavy eyes close,
an image she fancies she knows:
all aglow in the heavens above
is the face of the grandma she loved;
and her gloom is dispelled by this star
that will lead her from all her dull care;
thus happy, she drifts off to sleep 
but what of the lesson her tale bids us keep?
All that's gained by the ills the poor bear
may be sought on a wing and a prayer.*

*This piece was the result of a writing exercise undertaken at The Lost and Found Cafe with the members of Penzance Writers' Cafe.

England, My England

Grew up a child of the Welfare State,

got my free school milk
and had plenty to eat;
had the doctor come calling
with his black bag and hat;
had him sit by my bed
and thought nothing of that.

Didn't know back then
just how far we had come
since they handed out votes
in exchange for our guns;
didn't know how my grandma
blacked grates and scrubbed floors,
with half a day off one Sunday in four;
or how my old grandad,
a boy of fourteen,
survived the Great War
to be packed off again
to fight for his country,
to keep Britain free;
or how, in the end,
he was fighting for me.

I never suspected
when I went to school
how lucky I was
to be going at all;
or how much depended
on me being bright.
'Just do your best,'
was what they said,
'and everything will turn out - alright'.
But, on the day,
I knew they'd lied
and I was sick with fright.

Grew up a child of the Welfare State;
have to admit that it's true:
I did have the world on
a paper plate;
the family silver still belonged to you.
I had my eye-sight tested, yes;
and my teeth were drilled and filled;
the nit-nurse came to check my hair,
and not one drop of my blood was spilled.

I didn't scrub; I didn't fight;
and it's true I didn't die;
but I did take and cherish
the dreams they dreamed,
believing I understood why -
why they scrubbed and scraped and bowed,
and why they fought, and why they died;
but now they are dead and so are their dreams.
Someone somewhere lied.

© Abigail Wyatt

Beveridge report: From 'deserving poor' to 'scroungers'?

This poem was first published by 'Poetry24' on Thursday, 29th November, 2012. My thanks to the then editors.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

8.15 am, August 6th, 194

Another morning, another flight:
the same procedural checks before departure;
in the brisk dawn, a tuneless whistle,
the routine exchanges of the day;
was the take off unremarkable in every way;
did the flight itself pass without incident;
was the talk about baseball and weekend leave
and time spent playing with the baby
till that moment when their faces fell
and a terrible insight was theirs?
Another mission, another dawn,
another long night ending.
Later, the captain would lift his pen:
'My God, what have we done?'

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Naming Names

When peace still wore its newest gloss
and a nation's sorrows had rinsed it clean,
as rationing ended and fortune smiled
a girl child was named for a Queen.
Quite why her parents named her so
she would later find it hard to tell
unless they thought 'Elizabeth'
could be uttered like a spell
when its syllables might conjure forth
that brave new world they'd dreamed,
a fairer world, and kinder, too
in the rule of a fairy-tale Queen.
Now the bedtime tale is ended
and the embers in the hearth burns low;
greed and grief and lies grow thick
where an old crone flutes her woe;
and, safe behind that castle wall,
a milky princeling stirs and moans
while all the courtiers sweep a bow
to pay homage in this Game of Thrones.