Thinking about the best thing adults could offer kids from a difficult neighbourhood, I thought it was to be able to offer them spaces which weren’t controlled by bullies and power, and pecking-orders, spaces in which everyone was respected, and treated equally.
This is for all those who, heading on home,
some loose-clouded, day-dreaming day,
were taken aside, and,
with all the flushed, dull-eyed intentness
of natural selection,
shoved back repeatedly, into the wall,
while bullies, whose questions were lies,
asked why they failed, or worked hard,
or were clumsy, or small.
Always, some tiny but shared recognition of difference.
Because weakness goads power.
For those who did not make it past their inductions.
Who simply weren’t needed. Were sold into slavery.
For the twenty per cent, in the scrum of traditional lives,
who were dead by nineteen.
For those who were tossed into rivers.
Whose play wounds turned suddenly real.
Who failed all the tests of the light-hearted banter.
Were haunted by beauty.
Or drawn to alternatives.
Who never allowed themselves, later, such weakness again –
We shall nourish the fiction of justice.
We shall re-fit and polish
the ever-collapsible mobile of spaces and laws.
We shall crank it and blow hard and whistle it out into futures.
We shall inscribe texts,
archive the precedents;
we shall keep watch for every least signal
by which we might know when we’re going too far.
We shall somehow sing room.