Rachel Burns’ poem was shortlisted in the Best Single Poem category for the Disabled Poets Prize 2024.
The winners will be announced on 16 March 2024, during Deptford Literature Festival, in an online event.
© Rachel Burns 2024
After the phone call. After the police are called. After safeguarding datix procedures. After cancelled appointments. After stuffing leaflets into envelopes. Warm Spaces. The council’s bleak answer to prayer. After walking past a schoolboy. Panic etched on his face, as he helps an elderly man to his feet at the bus stop. Men smoking outside the High Crown. Haunted worn-out faces. After a day of it. Red letters. Rent arrears. Empty pre-payment meters. Bailiffs. Knife held to daughter’s throat. Poverty is absolute. After a day of unnecessary administration and the feeling, this is helping no one, except a bearded man, working in the DWP Department of Statistics. Moving unemployed to economically inactive like matchstick figures. Ticking box after box after box like a domino coffin run. After the working day is done. I walk around the frozen lake at dusk, under the orange glow of HMP Frankland’s security lights. The mud churned ground like frozen porridge. Swans, greylags, and coots barely visible. A grey heron buffed up against the sky, like a priest at a requiem.