A Poem for our Times of Post-Brexit Labour Shortages
I was waiting to get off the late evening train;
I saw the tired face of a cleaner
Gathering up rubbish
And wiping all seat-tops
His eyes dark-ringed,
Glaring in exhaustion
Here is someone juggling two jobs.
I thought of all the invisble work
Driving a tanker from depot to fuel pumps,
Or helping an old person to the toilet
In the darkest hours of the night.
Mostly we never see those jobs;
Just expect our sandwiches and petrol to be there when we want.
Slaves used to live in cellars;
Servants in attic rooms;
The preferred mode of service silent,
And mostly out of sight,
Just there when called for,
With casual disregard of their needs and lives.
So why now are we suddenly shocked
By the disappearance of those who did the jobs
We all took for granted?
In the school art-room, we found we need blue to make green.
But if we paid attention in science too, we’ll have seen
That when nature paints her canvas, she needs green to make blue.
Released by plants and algae, soars into our atmosphere
And up here
Those molecules shatter and scatter the sun’s white light
Into a chaotic rainbow explosion that flies
Earthbound, and blue light wins the race into our eyes.
And blue reflects blue from water to sky and back again
A recursive mirror-world, but a broken mirror
With fractures and chasms that are green.
Land plants, breathing out the sky’s blueness
And its whiteness too – because they exhale the rain
Water reflects water. Fast-forward, zoom out.
A blue-green planet, wrapped up in a shape-shifting sky
In improbable flight through an infinite night.
Now, slow down, zoom in.
Between past grief and future fear, pause here
In a small place of small things, small miracles.
At the waterside, among the green, take a minute or hour
And see how the sky’s blue has been captured alive
In kingfisher feather and alkanet flower.
In wing and elytra, scale and petal and your own blue eyes.
Colour is light, but green is life, through its creations it flies
And paints the dying back to life, and thus
What’s captured is freed, and returns. This is its lesson for us.