In all my years – and there are a lot of them – I can’t remember an election where the lines between Us and Them were drawn so clearly. But the fault lines were always there, in my mind at least…
General Election 1992
picking paths across the polluted airwaves
our aspirant masters resquare the circle
making very clear
what they have already made perfectly clear
a last desperate loudspeaker
grates up from the street
calling the faithful to vote
Katie, aged 2 and 1/3
cuts through the evening’s recycled waffle
with the tersest political commentary of the day
[My daughter showed an early knack for turning exactly the right phrase. I remember her coming home from nursery, having been told there that there was a dinosaur exhibition at Alexandra Palace, and telling us “There are dinosaurs at Buckingham Palace.” Out of the mouths of babes…]
First published in Vertical Images Volume 10, 1995
Copyright David Harley 1992
Sleight of Hand
When I walk the high-wire,wobbling and wavering
as only the iron-nerved and stone-hearted can,
you giggle at my meticulous ineptitude
and gasp to my orchestration
as I threaten to fall:
but my safety-net is constructed
to rigorous specifications
and the highest standards
your money can buy.
Behind the motley
you fail to recognize
my other public faces: why should you recall the face
of the ticket-seller who allocated your seats?
If I cared,
I could place you
anywhere that suited my whim,
but seldom do such facile conjurations
distract me from my larger schemes.
Not for me, now, the commissionaire-crimson
of the Master-of-Ceremonies:
at present I prefer the red nose
and custard-pie-proof guise of the buffoon
while you gangle-dangle to any tune
I care to have you play.
Your names are of no significance:
your numbers are arbitrarily assigned
for my convenience.
are no concern of mine
and I deny your right to an opinion
that doesn’t conform to my programme
(which I passed among you to offer for sale
as though you had some option of non-acceptance).
I give you your reward:
I set my foot gingerly.
The wire trembles, and the breath clogs in your throats.
I stick out my tongue. You laugh,
confirming my contempt.
I scream ‘Fire!’
and you smother the flames with your bodies
while I rattle the matches in my pocket,
unheard above the martial music.
I allow you crumbs and spectacle.
You give me gold and obedience.
First published in ‘Poems for Hastings’, published 1986 by New Hope International. Copyright David Harley 1983.