Political Poems




is a good word but difficult to implement
It is something that comes from the inside
Not an idea that can be imposed from the outside
It is easy enough to complement
Or reach reasonable agreements
But empowerment is a different matter

I flatter myself if I think I empower
For that way
I am the one who holds the power
I am object
You are subject
Empowerment, you see, is a difficult matter

I may do it by chance
As it were by a glance,
The fufilment of a desire for my own annulment
But not as a matter of policy
Empowerment by policy leads to hypocrisy
Benefactors numbering outputs
Bureaucrats measuring outcomes

True empowerment is inconspicuous:
Fragments gathering from below
Tiny seeds which unseen grow
Confinement slowly undermined
Hope emergent from the imprisoned mind


Charity is not efficiency
that is: the third part of the system
for promoting national prosperity;
a well regulated machine
for the delivery of predictable outcomes.

Rather it is Compassion:
caring for the victims of the machine,
of the resilience of the human spirit
by the unpredictability of love

Certainly it can be organised
better (or worse)
It needs regulation to avoid exploitation
It is not immune from human failings

But it is not part of the system of
advanced capitalist prosperity
It is the non-revolutionary alternative
It may illustrate what is wrong
but it is not in the business of solutions
It is not in any business at all

Charity is a space for human freedom
The greatest freedom of all: to love and be loved


for Circle Works

They needed to find a way to live
Otherwise how could they be free?

The desert is all very well: space, quiet,
free real estate and no institutions to devour you

But we are no angels; food is necessary
and minimal amounts of ready cash

Prayer does not turn stones into bread
and solitude does not clothe freezing bodies

So these practical men applied themselves:
Burning with a fiery piety, they took

The providential gift of rushes
And learning to twist them into the ropes of their freedom

They found, in this repetitive, hand-blistering work,
A simple way to still the heart and finance their solitude.

So now in our mechanical age
Where such a simple wilderness seems altogether too remote

We seek again that solid interweaving of prayer and work
Which will free us from new demons.

On reading Thomas Merton

I have given up with plans
I am abstaining from programmes
I have become a monk in regard to all solutions

I suppose there must be civil servants
And well-paid planners:
The implementers of the human race

And power must reside somewhere,
Awful temptation that it is,
But I take no pleasure in such scheming

I prefer to sketch,
In my stumbling, shambling way
Some little tracing of the human heart

The outlines of lust
The abyss of fear
The small possibilities for love

And that is enough


is not wrong
it is far more dangerous than that
it is irresistible

Who can resist
the creation of wealth
and all the power, and guns
that buys?

You cannot stop capitalism
and why would you want to stop
people getting wealthy
It must be better than them getting poverty

But, nonetheless
we might get sick
of its relentless appetite
and scared of its insatiability

if when it is eaten the whole house
it would eventually turn
and consume