Seawall by Richard Diebenkorn, 1957
by Justin Wong (March 2022)
Came of age did I in a home,
That my parents bought outright,
My father’s living room seat was his throne,
The kitchen was my mother’s plight.
Working forty hours a week each,
Returning back to the hearth when the even came,
A Conventionality now out of reach,
My life’s not playing out quite the same.
All my labours good for a pittance,
All my learning led me to poverty’s door,
With a sorrowful weekly remittance
And life an inescapable, dutiful bore.
For companies no longer desire your sweat,
The work my father knew no longer the same,
Slaving all the hours and still deep in debt,
My toil little more than elaborate mug’s game.
Threatened more than once was I by my gaff,
Told to do more or get for my sins,
In a job with a high turnover of staff,
In a world where honest work is spread thin.
My boss boasts of an all-seeing eye,
Monitoring me from here to the sod,
Every employer your personal spy,
Ain’t it queer how the Godless play God?
Why are we surprised to find ourselves in this pickle,
The world indifferent to the blues we sing,
Individualism now fleeting and fickle,
Where the Landlords are crowned now our Kings.
This is a story going back to the stealing of fire.
A tale as archaic as the cruel, wise world,
The sin of King Hezekiah,
The oppression of the young by the old.
All this violence on the streets that you see,
Is a gift born of anguish we give,
What is freedom to those never free?
What is death to those that never have lived?
Then what should be of this life?
With an Atlassian, crippling load,
Knowing pain, disappointment and strife,
Our days a long and arduous old road.
Searching for love, I’ve climbed the rafters,
Likely dying alone if too early to speak,
And so much for all our ever afters
On three hundred quid a week.
Was this the new world you envisioned?
One at turns more drab and emptier,
Hoarded wealth by any means is the mission,
Land fit for crook and rentier.
Proved false is your every word spoken,
So much for hard work, honour and thrift,
Are there any vows that remain left unbroken?
Have sacred things all become grifts?
To those who to our plight are aloof,
Blaming us, so they at night can easily sleep,
Though property prices are through the roof,
Though lattes are starvation cheap.
If this is the world snuffed of its light.
If this the world relinquished of all hope.
Is it a surprise that the sole solace found
Is an ephemeral flame burning at dope.
Though this is too slim a solution,
And coming to the horror returns.
Of a world with poor wealth distribution,
And the poorer pay-packet we earn.
Is all this born of delusion?
Through deception leavening your worth,
Against your seed in acts of collusion,
Transfiguring them into cohort of serfs.
Justin Wong is originally from Wembley, though at the moment is based in the West Midlands. He has been passionate about the English language and Literature since a young age. Previously, he lived in China working as an English teacher. His novel Millie’s Dream is available here.
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