the drunken Polish labourer, homesickness, and the 529

if there is god thinks Piotr
then this bus will not stop
at sentchiles sick tempull
places which he cannot name
places which all look the same
bus will not leave him in darkness
on dog-shit chip-box puddle pavement
cold flat waiting

if there is god, bus will drive through night
head south, east through towns
villages neon cities lit by rain
will fall idle only on boat, engine cooling
Piotr will swig at beer through sunrise
turn up music on his phone
see autobahn and kirche
from top deck front seat window

if there is god
bus will deliver him to dark bread,
barszcz, kielbasa, kopytka,
wódka, wódka, wódka
Piotr gazes out into blur of noo slain
knows bus will deliver him home
if there is god
if there is fockin god

(St Giles, Sikh Temple, and Noose Lane are stops on the 529 bus route from Wolverhampton to Walsall)

© Steve Pottinger

runner-up in Prole poetry competition 2019


I did not know you.

I did not know you and I was not there
when Tuesday morning burst in upon you,
kicked down the doors and stormed
into the flat, when a dozen men with guns,
– policia doing the work of the cartel –
dragged you to the cars that waited,
idling outside, dance tunes on the radio,
drivers tapping their fingers, humming along.

I did not know you and I was not there
when they drove you to a nameless faceless place
built of breeze blocks, nightmares, fear
of hours that stretch forever
and the death of strangers
I was not there and when they did to you
what men with brutal minds and guns
have always done to women
I still didn’t know you. I still wasn’t there.

I did not know you and I was not there
when they set you free
when you stumbled back home
I was not there and I do not know
if you leant chairs against the broken door
to close out the world and its guns and its hate
I do not know if you curled up on the bed and sobbed
or stood under the shower for dripping hours
hoping to wash away hurt and sin and shame
I was not there when you sat at the table and shook
when you smoked one trembling cigarette after another
when you cursed the god who lets these men
– these malditos culeros – run free
when you prayed to our lady,
to anyone who’d listen.

I did not know you and I was not there
when they came back
when they came back
and took you away again
when the car waited, idling outside,
driver tapping his fingers, humming along
when they wrote your name in sand and blood
in the long long list of desaparecidas

I did not know you and I was not there
and it’s not enough, it will never be enough
but I write this poem
to keep alive your name
to light a candle of words,
a small but steady flame
that burns bright in the howling dark
and remembers you.

© Steve Pottinger. 21 Jan 2019

over 26,000 people have gone missing in Mexico, victims of drug cartels, the police and state authorities who often work with them.

published on Proletarian Poetry. 6th March 2019

the tipton jedi

at her terminal in the library
of a small, forgotten planet

she wonders who the others are
and how they made it here

when it closes, she walks to the stop
finds the 42 left a long, long time ago

sees the young girl chattering on her mobile
hair up, Princess sequinned on her T

the warrior monk striding to the bookie’s
firm hold on a can of Tysker and his staffie

and the delivery driver who steers his truck
through a hold-your-breath gap

as the school crossing lady parts afternoon
traffic with her lightsaber lollipop

he’s a heart-stopping whisker from disaster
grins, drops his payload, motors on

when the bus comes, she boards
for the far-off galaxy of West Brom

and a date with a man who claims
he’ll take her places, has a pal

who knows a Wookiee or two, gal
she stares through the bus window

passes the young lad as he downs another pint
tries to get his head around the news about his father

In the 2011 census, fifteen people in Tipton put their religion as ‘Jedi’.

This poem is taken from ‘Tipton Tales’, commissioned by Multistory and featuring work from ten Black Country poets.
You can buy it here.

the royal mint rides again!

Production’s stopped at JLR
the workforce isn’t making cars
the order book is looking thin
for Landrovers and Jaguars
but we’ve got stale bread and circuses
hip hip replacement hip hoorah
you can buy a rusted Ford Cortina and point it at the exit
we’re gonna get a special 50p for Brexit!

Calm down dear don’t make a fuss
that simply wouldn’t do
those whopping great lies on a bus
were the opposite of true.
What? Ireland’s got a border?
I hadn’t got a clue.
Look! Here’s a rusted Ford Cortina, just point it at the exit
we’re gonna get a special 50p for Brexit!

We’re standing proud and waving flags
we’ve taken back control
we’re digging for bally old victory, chaps
we’re digging a deeper hole
the growth in foodbanks warms your heart
and if you need a goal
sit in your rusted Ford Cortina and point it at the exit
we’re gonna get a special 50p for Brexit!

The government have made it plain
no magic money tree
unless of course they need your votes
and you’re the DUP
no deal no plan no problem
it’ll turn out fine, you’ll see
you’ve got a rusted Ford Cortina now please point it at the exit
we’re gonna get a special 50p for Brexit!

I need a hit of hope right now
please make it intravenous
they’re knocking out a brand new coin
I think it’s just the one between us
if you go to America
a Johnson is a penis
so fire up that rusted Ford Cortina and point it at the exit
we’re gonna get a special 50p for Brexit!

Yes, fire up that rusted Ford Cortina and point it at the exit
we’re gonna get a special 50p for Brexit.

© Steve Pottinger. 30th October 2018

on hearing of the financial difficulties of a peddler of hate

This morning, you have forgone
the sullen trudge to work,
spring – two at a time – up bus stairs,
whistle as you settle into a seat
at the front with the world’s best view.

The grey skies are wonderful,
the traffic a joy, one long beautiful
bless it!
nose-to-tail going nowhere
a symphony of horns
and idling engines.

The city has been washed brighter
overnight. You smile at strangers, cyclists,
policemen, wish chuggers a cheery good day
offer your breakfast pastry
to a figure curled in a shop doorway.

Cackling, you play hopscotch
the length of the high street,
vow to laugh at the boss’s lame jokes.
Vow to try.
Some days, you tell yourself,
are truly magical. What times,
what times, what times to be alive!

© Steve Pottinger

published in Morning Star’s ‘Poetry on the Picket Line’ column on 11th October 2018

the trials and tribulations of Ms Amber Rudd

Amber’s star is burning bright,
and then the Windrush generation
kick up a fuss, instead of just
accepting deportation.
If they’ve lost homes and benefits
Amber agrees that it’s horrific
but Amber can’t be held to blame
because Amber is terrific!
She’d no idea that this was happening
Amber’s just looking after borders
Amber was on holiday
Amber never gave the orders.
This is all news to Amber
and it causes Amber pain
to learn that Amber was in charge
of putting people on a plane
to meet with Amber’s quotas
and expel them from this nation
because Amber said they didn’t have
enough documentation.
It’s the first that Amber’s heard of it.
What? It’s been going on for years??
Amber’s shocked to Amber’s core
Amber’s on the verge of tears.
That memo sent to Amber?
Amber hadn’t read it.
Targets for removals, guv?
Well, Amber never said it.
Amber’s in a hole and digging
Amber’s almost disappeared
the environment’s so hostile
it seems Amber’s end is near.
And Theresa keeps her head down
which comes as no surprise
there’ll be no help for Amber there.
Goodbye, Amber. Goodbye.

© Steve Pottinger. 27th Apr 2018

on that day

on that day
when we can barely hear ourselves think
for the pealing of church bells
the cheering of crowds
when the pubs are full
and the street parties last
till every bottle’s empty
and the sun is crawling over the rooftops
for the third time

when we wake on strangers’ sofas
on buses and in parks
face down on tables in the kitchen
of houses in towns at the other end of the country
clutching the keys to someone else’s car
with no idea how we got there
praying to god for alka-seltzer
muttering we’ll never drink again

we’ll know we were there
wherever it was
whoever we were with
whatever it was we did
(or didn’t do)
on that day
that blessed day
when Donald Trump learned to love himself

the late-at-night-behind-closed-doors self-loving
in front of the laptop
not the live-streamed-from-a-Moscow-hotel-room self-loving
where the girls do that thing he loves
make the right encouraging noises
and never draw attention
to his tiny desperate hands

not that
cast that image from your mind

cast it further

on that day
that happy day
the stars and the planets find some new alignment
butterflies flutter in joyful formation
over the last patch of rainforest
and the gods of all the major religions
pause from their eternal game of paintball
shrug their shoulders
decide to toss us a bone

and so it is
on that glorious day
locked in the bathroom with his morning stink
Donnie pauses before the mirror
as he washes his hands
and sees for the first time ever

not the coward who dodged the draft
not the braggard who has no friends
not the mediocre businessman
propped up by daddy’s money
not the misogynist who lacks the balls
to make amends
not the climate-change denier
not the birther
not the racist
not the instinctive liar
who tweets bullshit with no basis
not Putin’s little puppet
not the purveyor of fake news
not the most inadequate of presidents
unable to fill others’ shoes

he sees the lost child he once was
the dreams he once harboured
the readiness to see the best in others
the happiness and innocence and hope
and Donald drops to his knees
by the toilet bowl and sobs
among the splash stains and the soap
picks up his phone and types


and across the planet
the party starts
seven billion people giving it large
on the terrestrial dancefloor
pensioners necking more booze
than you could ever shake their stick at
gangsters loved up on pills and purple hearts

on day two, things got so crazy
we even let Theresa May join in
and as the pair of us sat round a fire
doing tequila slammer
after tequila slammer
after tequila slammer
after tequila slammer

with the stars twinkling overhead
she took another crafty toke and said

comrade, be realistic
about what this does
and doesn’t mean
– I leaned in to hear her
above the din of marching bands
let’s not forget
it’s one very small step

but it’s still bigger than his tiny hands.

© Steve Pottinger. 29 Nov 2017


in another city
or another part of town
one of them would be filming this
on his Go-Pro
the slo-mo catching every leap,
the light just right,
camera passing over the designer brands
casually-worn because they know they deserve them
a montage of smiles and high-fives,
boyish bravado
set to a soundtrack of edgy music
by guitar bands too cool for you to know

it’s just a gang of scallies
in trackies making a din
clambering up the scaffolding
shrieking at the top of their voices
calling each other wankaaar!
shattering the silence
of a sunday afternoon
like someone else’s windows
raising a little bit of hell
before the rain returns
or recreation turns to need
or the cops roll in
too bored of this for sirens

doing the old dance
same as the new dance
same as the old dance
par for the course

© Steve Pottinger 18 September 2017

In Which The Tory Election Strategy Is Found On The Back Of A Fag Packet Stained With Lynton Crosby’s Tears.

Make her the Vera Lynn of kitten heels
with the flag framed in soft focus
while cameras ignore or airbrush out
the casualties and corpses.

Bang on about strength and stability
and keep your fingers crossed
if the voters see through this charade,
we’ve lost.

© Steve Pottinger. 2 May 2017

keytown xmas

is Kevin dressed as Superman
sparking one up at the front door
is frost sparkling in the scrapyard
on the serried battlements of cars
is cheap plastic toys in poundland paper
value vodka and a singalong
is Sharon smiling through the bruises
wondering how it all went wrong
is the factories with shattered windows
machines now inches deep in rust
is the beer cans piled inside the graveyard
full to empty, dust to dust
is piebald ponies on the waste ground
pigeons circling the church where the travellers sing
is christ and salvation and battered transits
and the silent night of no trains running
is kids in the skate park and the smell of ganja
the sparrowhawk that no-one sees
is the dog fox growing fat on take-outs
sunlight tumbling through the trees
is Jamal skinning up in his Fiesta
bass the soundtrack to his haze
is sirens always wailing somewhere
zero-hours and hi-vis days
is hope bought on the never-never
the TV on for background din
sprouts and spuds and jokes and crackers
laughter loud and full and high and thin
is the alarm that rings and rings unanswered
is tinsel blowing down the road
is waiting till the pub is open
money missing money owed
is dreaming of the winning scratchcard
the lottery of luck come good
you tell yourself you couldn’t leave
but deep inside you know you would
is the place you’re born its roots inside you
friends and kith and kin and more
is walking the dog by the last of the pit bonk
loving and hating and loving it all
is the history of coal and steel
of locks and keys and graft and skill
the thundering ghost of dropping forges
for better for worse for good or ill
is the prayers you make but can’t believe in
a drunken carol tattered pride
is too much of one not enough of the other
always the bridesmaid and never the bride

and it’s Kevin dressed as Superman
carrying too many pounds to get away with lycra
but not letting that stop him
and he’s sparking one up
squinting into the sunshine
sucking the life out of it
taking a deep breath
squaring his shoulders
stepping back inside
and leaving trouble for tomorrow

like super-heroes do.

© Steve Pottinger. 24 December 2016


(with apologies to Lewis Carroll)

‘Twas Brexit, and the slithy Gove
did frottercrutch in dwarfish glee;
he snicker-snacked the Camerove,

Beware the stabberjock, my son!
The empty eyes, the robo-glint!
who fellobrates the Murdocrone
the Ruperturtle übergimp!

He pallerised the BoJo cloon
they chummed upon their sunderbus
emblazoned it with fibberoons
and bambulluntruthoozled us.

The tousled toddler slaughterchopped,
his destiplans an Eton mess,
the slubbergubby gollumgove
a shadowhand of viciousness.

O gipperchund! And vomberblast!
The skitterchit of slick and sly
the snicker-snack of backstablades
the scrabblage to ruthlerise.

The bubberchut of charismissed
the turdletruck of banalbore
is patterfrondled on the head
a pawn upon a checkerboard.

Beware the stabberjock, my son!
The empty eyes, the robo-glint
who fellobrates the Murdocrone
the Ruperturtle übergimp.

© Steve Pottinger. 3 July 2016


Iain Duncan Wots-his-face
has now resigned and left a space
in Cabinet. The explanation?
Tory party machinations.
But then again, perhaps the bloke
just had enough of pigs, and coke.

© Steve Pottinger. 19th March 2016


Straight off the bat let me say
I was never a fan
I mean don’t speak ill and all that
but if we’re clearing the decks
wiping the slate clean
getting it all out in the open
you were bloody hard work, England,
not easy to live with, let alone love.

You see, you kept making me and my friends
sit cricket tests I was never going to pass
took our taxes and our labour
but still left us feeling second class
because our roots stretched back
to other cultures, other shores
and other teams made our guilty, secret hearts
beat a little faster, race a little more.
Even now, it’s like you can’t help yourself
some scoundrel starts waving the flag
critical thought goes out of the window
and next thing you know
you’ve tanked yourself up on bigotry and lager
giving it ‘2 world wars and 1 world cup’
like you fired the winning shot yourself.
I mean really, England? Really?
I’ve seen you running for the bus
in the mornings, and it’s not pretty.
You’re a heart attack waiting to happen
hypertension, clogged arteries, dodgy knees
it’s all history, for fuck’s sake
do yourself a favour, let it go.

And you were the chink of fine china
the tyranny of manners and the old school tie
tut-tut-tutting about the enemy within
turning a blind eye while someone
did your dirty work
gratuitous truncheons
battles in beanfields
cover-ups and never-challenged lies.
So, like I say, it wasn’t the best of starts.
I had to leave to learn to love you
get far enough away to see both sides
of the coins in your pocketful of shrapnel
find the fist that read ‘love’
not just the one that promised ‘hate’.

And out there,
on the other side of the world
I found I missed you
missed your dirt under my fingernails
hankered after your way with words
your dirty laugh
your seaside postcard humour
and your beautiful mongrel language.
Every time you open your mouth
history tumbles from your lips
in dialect and accent
a pulsing archaeology of trade
invasion, conquest, immigration
the ebb and flow of populations
making room making homes
and getting assimilated
learning there’s precious few of life’s problems
not cut down to size with another cup of tea
and a couple of biccies.

You’re not dead.
You’re just evolving
re-inventing yourself
getting your nails done
putting on your glad rags
for a night out on the town
and I will find you
on top of the moors
quoting Benny Hill and Shakespeare
feasting on samosas and flagons of cider
slapping the taut drum of your stomach
where it spills over the waistband of your trousers
– all paid for, kid!
proud as punch
Falstaff, as I live and breathe
paddling in the shallows
beyond the deckchairs and the donkeys
giggling in Gujerati
the hem of your sari trailing in the cold North Sea
salty and wet while your wide-eyed kids
play shoot-em-up in the arcades
mither you for fish and chips
support City and United
and ride the bus home
with their heads full of dreams
knowing love triumphs
over cricket tests
and their hearts beat
proud and strong.

© Steve Pottinger. 28 January 2016

how to get everything you ever wanted

Invent a war.
Something bloody and fratricidal.
Lose an uncle to barrel bombs
a brother to secret police.

Three years in, flee.
Pack only what you can carry:
clothes, smartphone, children, cash.
Slip away at night, in silence.

Take your leave of the flat, bakery, office,
rubble-filled streets where the kids once ran
shell of the cafe where old men
drank qahwa, played sheesh beesh.

Cross a border to camps, to life on hold.
Everyone knows someone who’s gone
before them, dreaming of better.
Here there is only the absence of war.
It’s not enough.

Moving is what you do.
Railway tracks, verges, fields.
Rest in olive groves, wake in orchards.
One foot in front of the other
over and over and over.

The world is cold-eyed border guards
sandwiches and blankets.
You never know what is coming.
One day, open hand. Another, fist.

You learn the words you need
in a new language.
Arbeit. Ja. Nein. Thank you. Please.
The smile that shows you know to be grateful.

Evenings you sit at the kitchen table
talk to friends in cities far away
about places that have gone
about old men who drank qahwa
played sheesh beesh.

At night you dream of rubble, and of home.

© Steve Pottinger 20 Dec 2015

this will be a re-run

it’ll be the comfort of the saturday afternoons of your childhood
sat in front of the TV with bread and dripping
watching John Wayne set the world to rights with a gun
it’ll be Kenneth More on tin legs reaching for the sky
with a re-mix of stirring music Vaughan Williams would kill for
it’ll be a tearjerker in the final reel
where you know the hero’s going to die
but his girl will remember him forever
it’ll be you me us being the good guy
rescuing the damsel
putting the planet back on its axis
making sure all is well with the world
popping down the pub for a half a bitter
and a sing song
saving blighty for another day
it’ll be black and white
it’ll be clarity
it’ll be mom dad fido eternal happiness
everything you could want for a shilling
cowboys and indians
bang bang you’re dead
but just till tea-time
beans on toast and final score
the magic of the FA Cup
granddad checking the pools
shaken and not stirred
it’ll be bombing Syria by the end of the week
it’ll be nothing like Libya
it’ll be don’t mention Afghanistan
it’ll be Iraq again
like we did last summer
it’ll be fiction
it’ll be make-believe
it’ll be tears before bedtime
it’ll be bombs not strategy
it’ll be innocent victims
it’ll be refugees
it’ll be bombs bombs bombs
not strategy
it’ll be black and white
it’ll be clarity
it’ll be mom dad fido eternal happiness
it’ll be Kenneth More weeping
into his pillow

this will be a re-run.

© Steve Pottinger 01 Dec 2015

21st c. enlightenment blues

Rattling through the low hills
in the darkness and the endless endless rain
the train is overcrowded
because the train is overcrowded
because the train is always overcrowded
and the conductor’s now a manager
a voice we never see
mumbling something through the tannoy
about weather and delays.
We used to have seats
now we stand
and this is progress.

the airwaves are full beyond bursting
with reports of death death death
of young men gorged on bitterness and bullets
who want a world in their own image
who take Kalashnikovs to café bars
and spew their hatred into headlines.
The numbers mount
twenty, forty, eighty
one hundred and twenty-nine
and journalists run to keep up
as our disbelief stumbles beside them
barely able to count
deafened by the online chatter
lost in the conviction of our powerlessness
to do anything that matters
while the 24-hour news channels
send you numb with repetition
driving home the horror
till you scream at them to
before you too view your neighbour
through the sour veil of suspicion.
You know we trust people less now
than we did twenty years ago
and this is progress.

We’ve more than enough hate to go round.
Anyone has access to a keypad and a cause
and it’s easy to believe that our future
is Paris, Beirut, Baghdad, Nairobi
that hope is so last century
now it’s all about circling the wagons
and building the walls
higher higher higher
like the prophets of doom
have always wanted.
They see the end of days in everything.
Here, barbarians at the gate;
there, immorality, apostates.
They go to war over oil
or the meaning of texts
written by desert tribes
trying to make sense of the senseless
forgetting we’re idiot monkeys
running over a small blue planet
reliant on rain and the heat of a star
for pretty much everything.
Arguing about skin colour
and nationality like it matters
filling cyberspace with ignorance
and white-hot indignation
judging a child’s laughter
a mother’s hope
or a girl’s dreams
by which side of a border they live on
or the god they follow
while the rest of us scramble
to put food on the table
look after the ones we love
wait for the rain to ease off
or the rains to come
and pray our kids will have a better life
that they’ll see progress.

And the voice of the train manager
announces our arrival at a station
mutters an apology for overcrowding
due to breakdowns, floods,
inadequate investment, cancellations
asks us to take all our belongings with us
to take care when disembarking
thanks us for choosing to travel with etc.
He sounds tired and beaten-down
but when he wishes us a safe onward journey
and says he hopes he sees us soon
this evening, for once
I decide to believe him.

© Steve Pottinger. 16 Nov 2015

why you are #beachready

because you deserve to feel
the sun on your skin
hot sand between your toes
to slough off the workday drudge
and free your smile
because it will be fun
because ice-cream melts fast
and tastes good
because it’s your laugh that matters
because no-one ever died thinking
the best thing they did
was spend three years on a diet
so they could wear a bikini
for half an hour on the one decent day
we have in a british summer
then spend that thirty minutes
holding their stomach in
afraid to breathe
Really. Do the maths.
because you’re beautiful. Right now.
because when did you last build a sandcastle?
because you will return home
sun-kissed and contented
because you can be certain that
as soon as a cheap hustler
in a bad suit
tries to sell you something
then you don’t need it
because there are small fish
scurrying crabs and anemones
in the rock pools
and they don’t give a toss
about your curves
your weight
your BMI
because I am a lot like an anemone
most men are
because at night you can go
and it will feel like liberation
because it’s not the office
because life is too short to be miserable
because you can gaze out
to where the sea meets the sky
off into the infinite blue
and out there
light years away
on a planet we haven’t even found yet
a creature is dipping all seventeen
of its three-foot toes in the water
and gazing back at you
because well it might be, right?
because don’t ever let someone tell you
what you can and cannot do
because your dreams are worth more than gold
and you are your dreams and more
because the best moments in your life
can be stitched with seaweed, shells
the sound of surf
the memory of laughter
sunlight shimmering on water
because I may not know much
but I’m sure of this
because you’re beautiful right now
and you’re ready
and you want to
© Steve Pottinger

every night, the same dream

the stink of diesel and of fear which
everyone’s pretending is not here
because if they do not name it, it will not be real
but in the hot bodies of the strangers pressed
around her she can feel
the tension of a panic only held at bay
like sea-sickness, with iron will, good fortune,
muttered prayers
they rise and fall, jaws clench and clench again
she is one of hundreds, women, children, men
crowded together, huddled, packed tight in
each has just room to breathe
a space no bigger than a coffin
and something is wrong she knows it
feels the rising terror
with each lurch of the trawler
she knows this was an error, a mistake
a wrong turning that was made
when all other roads were blocked
and the price that must be paid
won’t be measured out in crumpled dollar notes
but in the treasure of her hope
and then the boat
tips a little someone screams
water swills around her ankles
there is a scramble
for the hatch and those who can
kick and punch and fight their way out
but she is going down
blowing bubbles of her dreams
and even as she drowns
she tells herself
she paid her money someone must save her
she paid her money someone must save her
she paid her money someone must save
and Katie wakes in bed
salt water on her tongue
the smell of death around her
wonders what she has done wrong.
© Steve Pottinger 19 April 2015

let me warn you…

                             …about this poem
this poem is loaded, minted, filthy rich
money squirrelled under offshore mattresses
coming out of its accountants’ ears
Croesus in a sharp suit and a car
no surprise
if it’s a touch full of itself
a wee bit cocky
got arrogance to burn
best thing since sliced bread
since before sliced bread
since sliced bread was a twinkle
in its daddy’s etc.
and it’s full of it
the same old schtick
the ‘man of the people’ bullshit
just a regular kind of guy
kind of a poem
that’s what it’d have you
it’s not a poem like other poems
so make some allowances
cut it some slack
and when one day
this poem hits someone
professors of english literature
will line up round the block
to justify it
explain the role of the right hook
in 21st c verse
and the bardic tradition
while the poem smiles
a neat white smile
of sharp perfect teeth
cold eyes and calculation
and some mother’s son
lies bleeding and forgotten
on the floor
let me warn you about this poem.

©Steve Pottinger. 30 March 2015

the ostentatious breast-feeder

Drinking in my local
last dullday afternoon
soft drizzle outside
nothing much happening
usual 21st c. sense of ennui
when the door burst open
and a woman danced in
spinning wheeling pirouetting
across the floor
up on to a table
scattering drinkers before her
eyes flashing devilment and untamed fire
the shimmer of her dress was scarlet,
silver, purple, maybe green –
when we talked about it later
none of us agreed –
and as the trumpets kicked in
with something latin
I paused, mouth open
pint in hand.
Since when had we had a brass section
in the toilets?
What did this mean?
Then I saw the infant at her breast
and I understood
this was what Nigel
had been rambling on about
the old soak.
Ostentatious? By god, he wasn’t joking.
As the music swelled to a crescendo
she sprang onto the bar
stamping her heels the length of it,
one arm held aloft, defiant
head thrown back in a piercing banshee scream
a howling wail that lifted the hair on my neck
and as the child suckled, contented,
and fireworks burst along the line of optics
and confetti cannon spewed
a blizzard of paper
into the room
I was on my feet
with all the others
whooping cheering punching the air
Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! HELL YEAH!!
That night
I dreamed of gurgling babies
fat as Buddhas
and woke smiling.


© Steve Pottinger

let us pretend

Let us pretend
that we haven’t been this way before
too recently and too often
that this is the way forward
that it is the road to the peace
which eluded you when you sent
planes and tanks and men
into Lebanon, Ramallah, Jenin,
Gaza, Gaza, Gaza.
Let us pretend
that this time will be different
that this time will be worth it
that you can tot up the lives
of dead children and collateral families
and declare victory
that security can be measured
in flattened houses
burials and tears.
And let us pretend
that when you build settlements and walls
and criss-cross the country with roads
and stitch it with checkpoints
and cut down olive groves
and throw people from their homes
let us pretend then
that the only terrorism in town
is the anger of young men
who build rockets they can barely aim
who have no hope,
who see their homeland dismembered before them.
Let us pretend
that this tit for tat
this tit for bloody tat
is the only way
is the legacy you will leave
your children and your children’s children
their children and their children’s children
Let us pretend there can be no hope
that milk and honey cannot be shared
that Israeli and Palestinian can never
live together, laugh together, love together
two flags flutter together
let us press our face to the cross-hairs
and close our eyes
and stop up our ears
and still our beating hearts
and let us pretend, Bibi,
let us pretend.

© Steve Pottinger 14 July 2014

This poem has been published in the anthology ‘for the children of Gaza’ by Onslaught Press


poem for the world cup winners

Deutschland, Deutschland
über the moon
you won’t be sober
any time soon.

© Steve Pottinger 13 July 2014


This is where they come from:
villages eaten up by sand
river beds run dry
lands of red earth stained with blood
where there are mobs, bombs, bullets,
crops that fail.
This is who they are:
the young, the desperate, the brave,
fathers with daughters, motherless sons,
whose sin was to be born poor
worship the wrong body
bow before the wrong god.
This is what they carry:
hope, crumpled dollars, memories of home,
slips of paper with the number of a phone
for an uncle in Milan, a cousin
swallowed in the cities of the north
who has work, who sends back pittances
and letters rare as desert rain.
This is where they place their fate:
in the hands of men with guns and easy smiles
who speak only the cold esperanto of money
who wait, patient and sure
promises tumbling from the wet caves of their mouths
smooth and soft as water.
This is where they lie:
washed up in their scores
on the shores of Lampedusa
their souls slipping the leash
back to Africa
their dreams and their names
known only to the sea.
© Steve Pottinger. 4th October 2013

£10 million for this?

Roses are red
Maggie was blue
now she is dead
they’re having a do.
They’re airbrushing history
re-writing the past
Big Ben’s falling silent
the flag’s at half mast.
In a time of austerity
they’ve money to burn
for the pomp of her funeral
but the lesson we’ve learned
is they secretly know
she’s not loved by the nation
her grave wouldn’t be safe
so they plumped for cremation.
Steve Pottinger. April 17 2013.