There are parts of the UK that operate like some kind of holding tank for radioactive waste. Except that the waste is made up of people.
Some would call these people skyvers, wasters, people who live on the edge of criminality and addiction. They are the bastards of the welfare state; half lives created out of the fissive heat of market led capitalism. They are gathered together where the housing is cheapest, closest together. Even when new, it is housing no one wants to live in.
And because it is irradiated, those who live in these places become defined by it, cursed by it, captured within it.
What to do?
This has been the subject of study in sociology for decades- ever since the slums were replaced by high rise flats, which in turn were torn down and replaced by housing association faux-villages with their ragged green bits and broken picket fences.
The problem is not welfare even though there are problems with welfare.
The problem is not worklessness even though work is next to impossible to find if you are irradiated.
The problem is lack of hope.
The problem is caused by abandonment, by casting outside, by removing worth, by categorising as ‘other’, ‘less than’. By the death of dreams.
Today the Chancellor announced cuts of £25 Billion to welfare budgets and I want to scream out loud with anger at it all.
But who knows what to do with the radioactive waste? It is too expensive to clean.
I turn to writing as this is the only way I know how to scream. Here is another one of the poems that I am calling ‘protest poems’.
Cowboys and Indians
The wagons circled in that wild place
Under the kitchen table
Brambled by spiders’ webs
Stalked by wrinkled peas
He always wanted to be a pioneer
To ride the range, and
Eat beans beneath the wandering star
But no-one ever leaves this place
His cowboy became Red Indian
His range a reservation
In the streets below roam no buffalo
The distant drums