. Taking the Shilling | London Progressive Journal
A non-partisan journal of the left.

Taking the Shilling

Mon 3rd Jul 2017







There must have been a moment,

unbidden, sudden, like a fork of light,

or maybe moments, as in the opening

of an eye at the end of a long, slow night

when each one in his time thought,

“I know that this is right,

this call to arms”, or, “I have

this opportunity to go to fight

and do my demons down in alleyways

or sand-dunes”, or simply, “Times are tight.

No job, no prospects. I need a ladder

out of here and maybe this might

see me through”. And so it goes,

where chance, despair or appetite

combine, we embrace each one

in his time. For each the bright

shilling, for each the brave

companions, for each the height

of passion, the glorious possibilities.

But for some, for many, for most, it’s blight,

decay within the shrinking circle of the self

in street or pub or kitchen. Just dynamite

shoved into a wall by kids –

a mobile phone, so simple to ignite

and shred in a second where a bullet

might accommodate. Or maybe something sight

unseen, the scar inside: your best mate grinning,

high on hope and then he’s meat. Or a wound so slight

because invisible, a bomb amongst the ganglia.

Either way, who’s counting? The world is a white

room with no doors or windows. This is

your acknowledgement: so ignominious, so trite.

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