Mentalist

(there’s a video of this poem here)

I’m a mentalist.
I’m a ventriloquist and this fake smile’s my dummy.
Behind the guile I know I’m scum,
I’m hungry, desperate for your crumbs,
I’m broken by the years that no one spoke for me,
I’m choked beneath society’s conceptual thumb.

The thing is, if I’m cheerful
You think I’m well enough to work for free
And if I’m not then you’re unreasonably fearful of me.
The last boss I told I was bipolar said OK, but please don’t stick a knife in me
While I sat there silent, stunned
Thinking you think I’M the violent one
Just because I have an illness
That the media exploits for thrills
Because they haven’t got the skills to see beyond the pills
That someone else’s taxes paid for,
Someone wealthy for no other reason than that they happened to be born healthy.
But their hard work must not be squandered
On dropouts and shirkers,
On the berserkers lurking in the social undergrowth.

So now the government can force us into slavery
Without protection from the rules that gave us dignity
Or made staying alive in the cold and hostile environment a workplace can be
Anything close to a possibility.
With every decency they steal
They feel their backs slapped
By the so-called cash-strapped hacks in suits
Whose stacks are packed so tight
No cracks of light
Can leak out and disturb their sleep
With the sight of the smacked-up jacked-up lives
Of those whose dice fell on the wrong side of the tracks

And all this is sold as a triumph of slashed bureaucracy
A victory for democracy,
For a people poisoned
By years of drip-fed filth
And casual hypocrisy,
By myths of laziness and hazy memes of craziness
Dreamed up on whims on days of bliss and Pimms.

And here’s the thing.
People will comply.
People will try.
They will try so much
No matter that it takes an act of heroism just to get out of bed,
No matter that their eyes are red
Because they cried so much
And kept on trying
And held their heads high so much
Their tears were washed away by the saliva from the bile
That people piled on them.
People will die
Their voices will fall silent
The iniquity will not be heard.
Their indignity will have the final word,
But still those who are left will smile in the face of tyrants
Still they will cling with grace to the ideal of non-violence.

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8 thoughts on “Mentalist

  1. Dan, power to you, mate – I keep fighting the fight every day on Facebook along with thousands of others. People are still asleep to the fascism that is going on now in our time – they began with the disabled and the governments have pedalled of lies and propaganda behind via the slow drip-drip from the Daily hate Mail et al.

  2. Kate, you are tireless. And that’s a lot of the problem as the terrible aftermath of the Spartacus Report and campaign against the Welfare Reform Bill show – it is those whose energy levels are most precious who put in so much work always, and at huge expense. When she was working (about half time), no matter how many ways my wife explained it to people they could not get their heads beyond “but you’re here, and I’m here, and I still have energy to do xyz as well therefore so do you”, What they never saw was the fact that just from getting herself to the office, even when she was able to do very little once she got there, she would collapse, physically, the moment she was in the door and the rest of her life save those 19 hours was lost completely. I am so lucky to be well enough to work at the moment – I know that could change any time – I want to make the most of that health to do what I can whilst I still can.
    I’ll be performing this at a number of events in the coming month – Oxford International Women’s Festival on March 7th as well as an arts event in Gloucester on March 4th – and I’d love to read it loud at any rallies that would have me.

  3. Hi Dan, you should read it rallies, sometimes powerful poetry reaches the parts that other ways don’t reach! So many illnesses are invisible like bipolar and ME/fibro etc. The air is invisible but people wouldn’t be alive without it! I take heart from the fact that many more people ‘seem’ to be aware of what’s going. There is even someone from the Daily Mail online who is fighting our corner and that is amazing :-) Good luck with your performances

    • Yes, the fact the Daily Mail is speaking up against the Tories is about as ringing an indictment as you could get!
      Poetry can be like music in getting people to listen – I’ve been inspired by poets like Pete the Temp who does lots of readings at Occupy, and Davy Mac, author of The Homeless Oratorio (who’s going to be coming to read for us at Not the Oxford Literary Festival)

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