WELFARE STATE


1980


Tall terraced house on Burley Road:

I practised meditation in the attic

and joined jobless for a handout.

Saturdays, esoteric coffee mornings

at the fragrant occult bookshop

until some fanatics burnt it down.


On hot summer days I’d wedge open

the skylight; look across to Armley

or below to the weed-infested garden

with its endless broken flowerpot war

of cats, birds and mud, to the ginnel

where locals yacked over brush handles.


Me and the landlord in the old kitchen

drinking Assam, Broken Orange Pekoe;

idle chat about rock bands or yoga.

Lute music on Radio 3, bad plumbing

and his five-year thesis on Madame

Blavatsky, paid for by the welfare state.


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