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Sunday, March 29, 2009


by Peter Branson

Neither a borrower nor a lender be. (Hamlet)

Before this latest mess they pestered us
to use their cards, take out cute kit-your-home
out loans. Phone call, spam mail or snail, TV,
imprint; end of the day, we fall. Roll up,
ring out same tired theme tune: “It trickles down,
prosperity, so all do well, d’you see.”
Don’t say when they’ve recouped their share, be bare
bones left for you; blind rambling downturn blues.

They bind us to them heart and soul, refine
with clever marketing how we consume.
The bubble burst, black hole, the butterfly
effect, dark stuff; weird quantum alchemy,
base lead from gold. Though Jack’s all right, Next-door’s
redundant, fifty-two, requires CV,
asks you. No gay Antonio to bail
him out, needs money –"Mortgage, bills to pay."

Recession don’t change much ‘less you’re in debt
or on the dole. Destabilized, may be
too late; the toy balloon, inflated, grasped
by finger tips, released. No siren’s raised;
no fire engine, police car or ambulance,
that drop in pitch to signify you’ve flipped,
blue chip to sheer insolvency, worn out
your credit-rating stations-of-the-shop.

They’ll goose you while you’re healthy, salmon-pink,
try not to drain you dry; mostly you cope:
‘Consolidate your debts into one place.’
Then it’s red shift. Micawber’s “Something will
turn up” won’t do. You’re irredeemable,
can’t turn the tide. They take the reins: “The deal
was all explained to you before you signed.
See there, small print, the bottom of the page.”

They charge-you-till-you-bleed and when you do,
they seize what they already own: buy now -
pay later stuff, your car, your home. You’re in
a mental Marshalsea. They’re in control.
“I’m being reasonable. Don’t take that tone
with me. It’s here in black and white. What’s that?
You didn’t realise? Why? Can’t you read?
Those tears won’t wash. There’s nothing I can do.”

Peter Branson is a creative writing tutor. Until recently he was Writer-in-Residence for "All Write" run by Stoke-on-Trent Library Services. He began writing poetry seriously about five years ago and has had work published by many mainstream poetry journals, including Acumen, Ambit, Envoi, Iota, 14, Fire, The Interpreter's House, Poetry Nottingham, Red Ink and Other Poetry. In the last two years he has had success in several competitions including a first prize in The Envoi International, a second place in The Writing Magazine Open and a highly-commended in The Petra Kenney. His first collection, The Accidental Tourist, was published in May 2008.