It was the year our eldest was expected
and emerged on a late August morning
to the cursing of her mother and the miners
being kicked out of their pits. Everyone
takes turn to be the enemy within.
The water towers which had brooded
with such immense solidity, for a century
and more, were soon to be broken.
City streets would overflow with human flotsam;
we’d rediscover the meaning of asylum.
Gorbachev and Reagan were meeting in Geneva
to play stud poker with the planet
and in the Roundway Hospital Social Club,
any evening of the week, dominoes tumbled
like the outposts of an evil empire.
Some of us nurses occupied Beech Ward
to protest at its closure and relocation
in the profitable sector; we passed the time debating
the merits of Back to the Future, amid the odour
of urine and beds we dared not lie on.
We had so little sleep I almost nodded
when Thatcher claimed there was no such thing
as society - just men and women
and their children, in a house they owned themselves
and a TV that fanned the flames of Brixton.
We discovered we’d made a hole in the heavens;
from there it was one small step to seeing
that space might be a place to dig a trench in;
the defensive is always offensive
to those without their finger on the button.
Glasnost and perestroika pulled the rug
from beneath the feet of unbelievers.
So many Olgas landed upon their backs
and the free world felt the benefits
of zero hours and real time simulation.
I knew this schizophrenic patient, who thought
the water tower harboured listening devices;
when it crumbled the loss was like a bereavement.
His voices didn’t cease but only grew much louder –
how else to articulate the notions of the day?
If you have any thoughts on this poem, Raymond Miller would
be pleased to hear them.