Poem Hunter
! Victimisation As Threat And Control
MS (8.4.1929 / Marton, Lancashire)

! Victimisation As Threat And Control

Poem By Michael Shepherd

She’s the village’s Force For Good –
or that’s the flag she sails under;
news of distant earthquakes, floods,
famines, ethnic or other massacres
are her stoke-up calls…
she’ll soon be knocking at your door,
or coming up to speak to you at the WI
or after church…

knowing that you know she knows
you know the details of just how fortunate
she thinks herself, to have survived
that terrible childhood (details vague) :
so by extension, you should know yourself, and show yourself,
fortunate too… by giving to the latest cause…

Have her in for drinks, and her roving eye
will spot that electric towel rail you don’t now use
which would be just the thing which would alleviate
the widow Smith… Though, should that widow Smith
dare to grumble to her – and she’d sharply (with a smile)
remind her, aren’t we lucky, dear, we’ve got
the Social Services here, while they, poor things…

How she delights in, praises, our new outfits
which we bought last week in town!
We don’t need to be told what follows
as the night the day – we should have
a still-smart something to pass on to her…
though I’ve yet to see an African
caught on TV wearing my old Top Shop number…

Sometimes, husbands take the mickey..
‘How is it that now we no longer hear
about the Burmese tragedy, Martha, now
the orphans of Darfur are in the news? ’…and
in private, joke to us about calling in Miss Marple
to root out the village emotional blackmailer…

The one house in the village and the largest
is the one she least often calls upon,
and that only in the afternoon
when the housekeeper’s in, but the owner’s
still at work: Alan was a kid to five adoptive families,
three of whom were good… now he’s the owner
of a large industrial firm whose workers love him…
At their first meeting, when she tried
her own pathetic story, his curt
‘Oh get over it..’ has sealed their subsequent relationship…

Somehow, I’ve never warmed to her
since that first visit, when she stood
dead-heading the geraniums around the door
while exchanging pleasantries…
and left me steeped in self-reproach
and communal inadequacy…

Chaucer, with his perceptive and discerning eye
would have spotted this Martha of the many causes…
‘Methinks she has the more concern
for Mercie’s name, than for the human soul…’


He’s the spokesman for his faith – although
faith is a word that seldom elevates his speech;
perceived injustice is his line: it’s rather, our bad faith;
a speech about immigrants by one authority,
made only a day before
the figures of illegals published by another…
conspiracy against his community is his suspicion
(while his community just get on with it…)

extreme cynics who know their extremist radicals
deconstruct his subtext to be saying,
we’re only a poor community, but
we wire up terror like the best –
you have been warned..

and we, the tolerant and good-hearted,
forbear from that sharp riposte
which would have him foaming at the mike…
if you feel so badly picked upon, so disapprove
of your adopted country and its morals,
that you desire to meddle in its politics and laws –
then why not return to the country you were born in,
whose messy state, you and yours have failed to deal with…?
Of course, he can’t, because it’s just too dangerous…
Back hopme, they’re just him, but on the ‘other’ side…

Oh perfidious Albion! Have you forgotten
your imperialist and sharply-ordered past?
The guilt of centuries lies heavy on thy heart –

well, at least as far back, as the Danish invasions
of massacre, rape and loot; the marauding Jutes before them,
the migrating Saxons before that; and the Roman soldiers,
law-givers and architects and builders, before them…?

Yes, it’s time for an Emotional Blackmail Studies
Department in the local Poly… there should be
no lack of smiling lecturers, to remind us
how fortunate you are, mate, to be educated…

I’m thinking of applying
for a lecturer’s post, myself…
wait til the appointments board
hear my personal cv of injustice done,
childhood without care or opportunity,
the bruises bravely borne…
a triumph of self-education out of the gutter…
and if they turn me down…
well, they know what’s coming to them…

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