From the personal to the political
“Assured, funny, angry, exhilarating … A triumph.” – Alan Moore
2B Or Not 2B
2B or not 2B: that is the pencil:
Whether it is nobblier in the line to scuff up
The springs and marrows of outmoded representation,
Or to take snaps upon the digital,
To sketch up the dawn of a rosy hue
Or to take lines of sea and rubble
And by Photoshopping, amend them? To dye:
To scumble the surface no more
But open a window on the world.
Depths and planes, impasto and light,
Vision and perspective.
Aye, there’s the rubbing out
For in that ghostly haze what dreams may bleed through
Our pixellated grasp of a sigh:
Who would facets bear in the lens of someone else’s eye?
Anna Chen – May 2009
“… a strange rendezvous of language, wit, and the imagination. … She fully integrates the movingly personal, the vibrantly social and the diabolically political. Burning words, full of life and truth.” – Chris Searle, MORNING STAR
Kicking a Dinosaur
I kicked a dinosaur in the tail one day
I didn’t have to run away for five whole minutes.
It’s like when you stub your toe and you have time to smoke a fag,
read a paper and murmur,
this is really going to … OW!!!
Or like the time I undid the zipper of the new cushion,
expecting a sensible inner stocking of filler
as the existence of a zip implied.
A removable case, cleaning for the purposes of.
Teeth disengaged. Guts disgorged.
I sat for the best part of a Jurassic era before the shock struck,
an electrical pulse crawling like wet cement
along the spinal column of lizard-girl,
stretching time til synapses fired their shots into basal nuclei
and words and pictures materialised,
juddering and sharpening
and melding into one Hallelujah revelation
had funnelled thousands of tiny grey balls
the size of dinosaurs’ brains
straight into the gaily patterned cushion cover
and they were now spilling all over me.
It was lucky I was wearing knickers
or I would have been pumping out
polystyrene pellets like ping-pong balls in Patpong
and there would be another cruel stereotype reinforced.
A bit like the picture taking shape in your mind’s eye
around about … now.
Anna Chen – 23 February 2011
“Anna Chen’s talent is rare yet what she writes is in a long-standing tradition: as a poet she blends commentary on both the social and the political in sharp, vibrant, often cuttingly funny verse. Highly recommended!” – Jack Womack
Margaret Thatcher Died at the Ritz
Margaret Thatcher died at the Ritz.
It fits. Her blitz on the poor,
national assets thrust into the mitts
of corporate bandits.
Wealth trickled-down like a horse shits
undigested grain for birds that flit
round what it is its rear end emits.
Compassion deficit, dried out tits,
the country in bits, run by greedy gits.
Her fans omit the price of crimes
her class commit.
Her legacy is the pits.
And she closed them as well.
Thatcher’s blue touchpaper stayed alight
til the nation was run by her acolytes.
She took a look round at pauperised Brits,
said, “My work here is done,” and called it quits.
Anna Chen – 8th April 2013
“Superb. … Anna Chen’s poetry wears wet leathers, red lipstick, stilettos – and is heavily armed.” – Greg Palast, VICE MAGAZINE
Credit Crunch Suicide
I could have been a banker
Sitting on a ledge
High up on a skyscraper
Coz someone clipped my hedge
I could have been in business
In the city making bids
Take a shotgun to the wife and dogs
And then I’d do the kids
But I’m just a daily worker
About to lose my home
Savings all depleted
Can’t even get a loan
The bankers got their billions
The doggy got a bone
The millions got the wankers
Whose hearts are made of stone
I can cry into me drink
I can curse the gods above
I’d like to give that banker
A bleedin’ great big shove
Watch him splat upon the pavement
A human pizza pie
Coz that’s where I’ll be living
Until the day I die.
Anna Chen – 29 Oct 2008
“As a poet Anna Chen is brilliant and dangerous … she operates one wild-ride roller coaster that soars to altitudes of unfettered wit and then plunges with a startling and implacably knowing anger, stripping away pretence and pretension and targeting both ancient oppression and contemporary crime.” – Mick Farren
Tinderbox PLC: a poem for Grenfell Tower
At the hot point
Of the turning world
A spark lit the flame
That caught the cladding
That burnt the facade
And threw a light
On the burned-out shell
Of the state of the State.
By Lucifer’s light,
A glimpse of hell
Roiled and erupted.
Two pounds of flesh
Per shake of dice
No values known,
Just the cheapest price
In modern Britain plc.
A giant with his fiery sword
Sliced and smote from the flash at four,
He slashed the night to twenty-three,
Dividing the world, rich and poor.
He made his mark, he slashed the dark
On the bias to the roof and higher,
Earth to sky, sheer cliff of fire
Sliced the tower to light and ash
On one side life, the other a fire of flesh,
A cash-fuelled slomo waiting-room of death,
Each poisoned breath counting down
Lives extinguished but not the flames
Blackening air with soot and cinders.
That is my neighbour, this is a mum,
There is the artist, those are children
Unto the last babe in tormented dreams
Such horror wreaks and wrecks.
This is the state at the top of the heap,
What power sowed, the weakest reap.
Another slashed and burned for years
And turned a world upon its head,
A bonfire of red tape set in motion
A cascade of events, invisible, minuscule,
Each piling onto each in spidery increments.
Action group Cassandras screamed murders in waiting,
Grievous bodily profit with intent.
Lift a rock and see what crawls,
So many in the frame, your head spins,
The shitlist lengthens with every trawl,
Cash is cruel, cash is king:
National Grid gas pipes, the council, austerity,
Stay Put, politicians, the construction industry …
Even Maggie Thatcher takes a bow
Her dishes are all cooked by now,
Her high rise cladding on simmer the year the miners struck,
No law now, just luck and the gift that keeps on giving,
She slashed and burned faster than the FR60
One-hour fire-hold rule she flamed,
Halted building, sold off social housing,
Health and safety not gone mad.
* * * *
Aberfan, Hillsborough, Grenfell Tower,
Who had the cash also had the power
To wrap Babel in plastic, for the view palled,
No thought for the living when the opera calls,
A class event, a bagatelle paid for with Grenfell rents,
Rip off the poorest, the system’s bent.
Gas pipes up the stairwell, smoke in the vents,
Alarms on the fritz, saved a few pence,
Water pressure failing, too little spent,
Retrofit sprinklers too high an expense
And on ignition, stay put was their best advice.
Two pounds of flesh per shake of dice
No values here, just the cheapest price.
The giant scrawled in smoke and flame
Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here
But firefighters came in all the same
Through Bosch’s vision, the scorching Hotpoint near,
Over bodies they clambered, up clogging stairs
Barely three feet wide, on a wing and a prayer
And an underfunded gulp of air.
The sullied air chokes but the horror is pure,
Breathe deep and inhale fury and fear,
Cyanide, asbestos and your neighbours.
Which is the most toxic?
Down in your lungs even now
The death clock ticks, reset.
* * * *
Time was the enemy.
Fire was the enemy.
Mammon was the enemy.
The council was the enemy.
The management was the enemy.
The industry was the enemy.
The government was the enemy.
They sprung a trap, a trap was sprung.
Yet still we lived. Watching from an outer circle,
We were resourceful in those hours.
In our heads, at least, perhaps a car could provide a landing.
Could a mountain of mattresses soften the fall?
For these were no princesses on the pea
But cheeky, boisterous boys and girls.
We wished a man could fly.
We wished for Superman, iced chunk of Thames in tow.
We wished a child could bounce,
That they weighed a quarter of an ounce.
We wished we could put gravity on hold
Stretch this moment til an escape was found,
Slow down damn time til they reached the ground.
A thousand people prayed a million wishes:
For a Star Trek transporter to beam them away,
A fakir’s rope dropping as the gentle rain from heaven,
For wings to sprout, something miraculous to get them out.
A ladder! A tall ladder, a platform with a high pressure hose,
No, too fanciful when the giant slashes and fire stations close.
* * * *
Did those knotted blankets lead someone to safety
Or a dead end?
“I had my whole life ahead of me,” Gloria Trevisan told her mum.
And it was.
Six and a half minutes with Rania Ibrahim
Is to take a trip to a dark side,
Her voice rings out truth everlasting.
Walk with her, it’s the least she deserves.
Walk with the Grenfell dead and soar with angels.
A bonfire of people followed the bonfire of regulations
As surely as night followed night followed darkest night of the soul
Cry cruellest murder, the tower can never be put right.
Over the main route into London from Heathrow,
Looms a burnt-out colossus:
A coked-up Tory wideboy in a cheap suit with a pocketful of loot.
We all learnt the meaning of metaphor that night
In Tinderbox plc.
Anna Chen – 12th July 2017
“Fucking brilliant. I couldn’t put it down.” – Wilko Johnson
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