from Kilpeck Voices

The Dancers


A piercing cry upon the pipe;

A scream of anguish from the strings;

The dull, insistent throbbing of the drum –

We’re dragged to dance, though our legs ache;

Though every arm feels stretched to breaking-point –

We’re dancing out the story of our lives:

Jigging with joy, shuffling off sorrow –

A leap, a twist, a twirl – and the final tumble.

Peasants

We: the bent, the bandy-legged, the broken-backed, the bowed:

Limpers and hobblers, knock-kneed foot-draggers:

Coughers and wheezers, snifflers and spitters.

We: the belted and beaten, cursed and lip-lashed.

We: who began thin and ended thin –

You catch us in the short glance of your eye

Observing the ground, not looking up – except

To see a bird’s wing slice the sky.

Cap-doffers, forelock-pullers, yes-sir men –

We will do what you tell us to do;

Thank you gruffly with a nod of the head;

And hate you from the bottom of our hearts.

The Green Man Speaks

"Here comes another toff with notebook and binoculars –

Professor Squint, and his lady, Bored.

Hold your usual poses, and try not to laugh.

Sid – Look fierce, bare your filed teeth.

Sheila – Gape as wide as possible, even if it hurts.

I love to watch their puzzled mugs – as odd as ours!

Crease-browed, cross-eyed, dropped gobs gawping.

They’re trying, in their clumsy way, to work us out:

Too earnest to understand a joke;

Too dull to recognise themselves.”

Peter Holliday