Poetry and poverty 4: ‘Theresa may…’

During 2016, through our Poverty Media programme , many people got the chance to work with professional authors to write about their own experiences of poverty and exclusion. Some of this work was performed as Powerlines at the Manchester Literature Festival; poems were also written at a residential event in Windermere during the summer. We’ll be sharing all the poems here over the next few weeks. Today: ‘Theresa May…’

Theresa may…

Theresa May is our new Prime Minister.
Theresa May stood on the steps of 10 Downing Street and promised to lead a “one nation government”, that will “fight against burning injustice.”
Theresa May said: “We will do everything we can to give you more control over your lives. When we take the big calls, we’ll think not of the powerful, but of you. When we pass new laws, we’ll listen not to the mighty but to you. When it comes to taxes, we’ll prioritise not the wealthy, but you. When it comes to opportunity, we won’t entrench the advantages of the fortunate few. We will do everything we can to help anybody, whatever your background, to go as far as your talents will take you.”
We will “make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few, but for every one of us.”
“That will be the mission of the government I lead, and together we will build a better Britain.”
Well, Theresa may. We sincerely hope that she does. But Theresa may not.
What do people living in poverty have to say?
Theresa may have a big heart and much hope
Theresa may not make us suffer in silence
Theresa may abolish benefit sanctions
Theresa may pay my bills!
Theresa may promise us a brighter day, but will it be the same old story?
Theresa may be worse than Mrs Thatcher
Theresa may be like the tin man, the lion or the scarecrow
Theresa may understand the isolation of power, but from a different side than me!
Theresa May? She’s just another woman in blue
She never smiles
She doesn’t look like a feminist!
She may have eyes of steely blue, but does she know why we are blue?
Theresa may have read the same bible as me, but we’re not singing from the same hymn sheet!
Theresa, may I please be able to answer my own front door
Theresa May. Please go away.
Theresa may, but Theresa may not know all the answers
Theresa may not have a social conscience
Theresa may not know what it’s like to be desperate
Theresa may not know what hunger feels like
Theresa may not know what it is like to have no money to pay the bills
Theresa may not know what it’s like to stand in a queue at a food bank
Theresa may not have walked a mile in our shoes, to the Job Centre with no money, in the snow, with children who are cold and hungry
Theresa may not mean what she says
Oi, Theresa May!
Why do we have to suffer this way?
What does social justice mean to you?
Who is gonna repay my student loan? After three years of study I’ve ended up on the dole.
Oi, Theresa May!
Is it the same old story? Another day, another Tory?
My benefits have been sanctioned for 12 weeks. What am I supposed to do?
Where’s your compassion? You should be ashamed!
Oi! Theresa May!
What are you going to do about people’s rights to benefits and to dignity?
What are you going to do about homelessness, injustice and child poverty?
How am I supposed to feed my children?
Oi, Theresa! How much did that outfit cost you? That could feed a family of six for three months! Your shoes won’t save our lives!
Can you see with my frozen eyes, all the children with destroyed lives?
Can you hear the voices in my head? Can you sleep at night?
Theresa, may you never have to be alone and hungry
May you never know the click of the meter as the lights go out on Downing Street
May you realise that you are a servant not a tyrant
Theresa, may you imprison the bankers
Theresa, may you listen to the voices of the voiceless
Theresa, may you please help the poor on these poverty issues
May you please keep your eyes on me
May you please not turn your back
Theresa, may you truly give birth to a new style of politics that us not so “us and them”
May you truly narrow the gap between rich and poor
May you truly make good on your promise to make Britain a good place for everybody. Please.
Theresa, may you pray for the souls of the marginalised who lost their lives through the loss of their benefits
Theresa, may your days end with us more secure than we are now
Theresa, may you carry your share of our shame, if you don’t mean what you say about the “fight against burning injustice”
Because, Theresa… I’m sick of going to the funerals of people who couldn’t pull their socks up.
Who may help us? Theresa may.
We’ll wait and see.
Compiled by poet Tony Walsh, from the contributions of attendees at a Church Action On Poverty workshop in Windermere, 22 July 2016

Tony Walsh | Longfella | www.longfella.co.uk | tony@longfella.co.uk | @LongfellaPoet