Mark Brophy

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The Blank Panels

The poppy seller advances the tin
donation barely a choice
An urge to protect those loved by the fallen
become “Support our Brave Boys”.

The flower of youth in your lapel,
“Lest We Forget” the memorial proclaims,
but blank panels gaze down from its flanks
and wait for our childrens’ names.

The circle turns and comes round again,
Tension and hatred increase
The world gears up to do it again
Our silence hasn’t brought peace.

Let’s make a vow: we won’t raise a gun
Or pay for a bomb, or help deliver one:
Let’s turn our backs on ignorant spite,
and remembering the living our main fight!


The Boy in the Picture

Stealthy, silent, I creep
into your room. I can hear you
breathing soft, in and out.
I know, but don’t know. I must see.

Careful not to wake you,
In the darkness I move closer.
You lie face down, peaceful,
calm as you never are awake.

He looks so like you now.
His limbs are still, his voice silent,
but waves were his pillow.
Never to laugh, nor shall he wake.

Breathe my son, breathe and live!
Rise on the strand of your new day,
leave behind night’s tides.
Pick up your childish things and play.

I hear the grating roar
of those who would let children drown
while watching theirs sleep, and
thank the chance that had you born here.

Cut me

You cut my throat;
I’ll cut yours.
On your way out
watch your arse
on the swinging double doors.

I can’t have it –
feel a fool
I’d rather both have
nothing than
if I had less than you.

Bandit country
starts right there
The line of
demarcation’s where
I get up from my chair.

Owe you nothing,
want zip back
if you can’t make it
on your own
you’re just rats in a sack.

I’m not waiting,
I won’t walk
Think we should be on
the same side?
Well, that’s just crazy talk.

I’ll do my job;
you do yours
Tomorrow I
expect my train
with open double doors

I Want to Walk around the Town

I want to walk around the town
so I can see who’s there.
I want to see the pretty girls
saunter without care.

I want to see the strutting boys
stick out their peacock chest
and hope their template inky arms
stand out from all the rest.

To be at home among the crowd,
a friend in every face;
Our lives as something to be shared
and not some squalid race.

I want to see how people are
who think they still belong,
remember how I felt like them
before my hope had gone.


Waltz right in, why don’t you?
I guess that was always the plan.
With a smile on your face saying you own the place,
“Don’t you know who I am?”

I know who you are alright
The opened door let in a chill
I’ll not make hay whatever you say
I don’t want your cheap thrill.

Once when sides were taken
yours was surely mine.
I never left, you fell out of step
and marched to another man’s time.

When I looked for a friend where were you?
There were times I was under attack.
When I needed a shield you were truly revealed
you never had my back.

So now you need me for something,
the tables are turned for a while.
Sure, I’ll help, but not you, someone else.
I’m turning my back on your smile.

Jump to the Next Roof

Look at me and you’ll see
my days summed until now;
Bumped and bruised and cut and burned
but not quite beaten down.

Blue Eyes said he’d few regrets;
he should have thought some more.
Anyone who says they’ve none’s
not lived or thought at all.

Could have done so much more
I could have changed the world
Instead I stand and watch and seethe
and still my flag is furled.

An immaculate machine is sorry to behold;
Built to serve a purpose and not just to be sold.
Don’t you do what I did and get swallowed by the herd
You can fly above them, be your own peculiar bird.

Never tried to reconcile
my thoughts and words and acts;
talk is cheap, it makes me weep
I let this come to pass.

My life isn’t over
I wasted lots of years
Let myself be lazy
I didn’t face my fears.

I just got distracted
it’s easier in truth;
if you never see the gap
you won’t jump to the next roof.

When you make your choices, remember who you are,
if you wander off your path make sure you don’t go far.
They will try to scare you, so your vision’s blurred,
but they can’t tell you what to do, you peculiar bird.

One Hundred Years On

Will quiet folk be sent to war, a hundred years from now?
Enslaved and duped by profit’s men to take a sordid vow:
Detailing their new animus against an unknown other,
betrayed, downtrodden, sold-out twin, far-off foreign brother.

Which powers will lock horns to gain a bigger slice of pie?
No wait for wrong before revenge, not even eye for eye.
A threatened nun or missile scare, the details matter not;
McGuffins these, a strained device, to push along the plot.

While diplomats negotiate, the leaders state instead
They’ll fight to the last drop of blood which other men can shed.
And when the flow of bodies stems they’ll send the young and old
to fill the pit which can’t be filled until the world’s bled cold.

A hundred years since we were told a war would end them all
But that was just the starting-gun of never-ending calls.
Slaughter in perpetuum, conveyor belt of death,
the power games of empire, relieving us of breath.

Laughing Hangmen

The executioner does not relish their subject’s end.
The art is to give dignity, some sorrowful respect.
Tread gently on the killer’s grave while snuffing out that life,
Pierrepoint himself would never crow at his vengeful task.

Why then backslapping and cheering, giddy and triumphal
as if they’d just seen a try scored in the Varsity Match?
This is a sombre occasion for those beneath the noose.
The bell announces division; But it only tolls for some.

The lever is pulled, the trap falls! They file into the lobbies.
Disenfranchised first on the rope, unopposed, they’re dangled:
Free labour, they’ll work for nothing, or lose their little lot.
And if it proves the law’s broken; just change it, make it suit.

Subsistence benefits reduced; the only way to prove
you’re incapacitated is to die while you’re at work.
Will less food do for the hungry? Houses can be colder?
No shirkers, scroungers tale here just poorer, sicker, older.

I suppose they’re all still laughing? Here’s some jokes for jokers:
When is a house not someone’s home? When underoccupied.
What’s black and blue, and kicked all over? You and me, never them.
Two men walk into power, Ouch! They’re immune to its shock.


Goliath was felled by David,
Knowledge helped beat the odds.
Israeli ordnance paid no heed
To goals of watching gods.

The first book to be printed had
That tale contained within,
Descendants of the Book now quake:
Philistines still would win!

With data tariff on their phone
Who needs to loan a book?
The wisdom of the world right there
A shame they never look

What of the family with no cash,
The child who has no sim?
Without the right to access books
Their chances only dim.

Encapsulated learning sits
Inside walls on a page.
The padlocked doors chain us to shame
Our nation has to change.

This poem was a submission to the excellent writers for libraries website which is protesting against the impending closure of large numbers of public libraries as a result of the coalition government’s cuts to local council funding.

These streets belong to us

These streets belong to us.
we strolled them with our newborn as the snow fell.
And there, we walked in the cool summer evenings
watched our neighbours and wished them well.

That park; we drank in the open air
as the play and the sun both wound down
We’ve staggered and sung on late-night returns
We awarded ourselves our very own crown.

No bunting here, no blocked-off street
While one class plunders one struggles to eat,
My knee bends not to those who insist
who drive us down from their place on the list

We own this land, though we don’t rule.
We always have, we don’t need you.
A dogged echo, what are you for?
parades and flags, and a bar to the door.

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