I want better for Tai
I want just a normal life
Just where I can get up in the morning
Get Tai off to school or whatever
Get about my housework
Do you know what I mean?

Do things with Tai at the weekend
Save up for holidays
Do you know what I mean?

I want it to be where eventually
I’m off the methadone and everything
Maybe even go back to college
Do a counsellors course
I’ll get a little office job or summat

Just normal
Do you know what I mean?

My partner died
He was thirty-seven years old when he died
To see him come off heroin
get his life sorted out
and then to go on drink
and then to die
through drink
it’s hard
It’s really hard

Life throws some things at you sometimes,
don’t it?
And you’ve just got to get on with it
You’ve got to be strong
And if you’re not strong,
and you’re weak
you fall apart,
don’t you?

Yeah, but it’s because I can
because I can do it
and I wanna do it
I can
so I don’t give a fuck
Do you know what I mean?

Do you know what, yeah?
that’s sticking up for your mates that
She’d booted her in the stomach
and winded her
so I just went over
I was just like

Dropped her
Banged her
Fucked her up
Stamped on her head
and everything

Since I’ve lost me kids
I don’t care anymore
What else have I go to lose
apart from my head?
I regret the prostitution
and not fighting a bit harder
for me kids
but you can’t turn the clock back,
can you?
If you could,
we’d all have perfect lives,
wouldn’t we?

Taken from episode 4 of the Channel 4 series Skint. Submitted by Lisa Oliver.

The Shape of a Dead Man

I have the shape of a dead man
on the wall of my cell.
It was left behind by the last occupant.
He stood against the wall
and traced around himself with a pencil,
then shaded it in.

It looks like a very faint shadow,
it’s barely noticeable until you see it.
It took me nearly a week to notice it for the first time,
But once you see it you can’t un-see it.

I find myself lying on my bunk
and looking at it several times a day.
It just seems to draw the eyes like a magnet.
God only know what possessed him to do such a thing
but I can’t bring myself to wash it off.

Since they executed him,
it’s the only trace of him left.
He’s been in his grave almost five years now,
yet his shadow still lingers.

He was no-one and nothing.
All that remains of him is a handful of old rape charges
and a man-shaped pencil sketch.

(From How to Survive Death Row. Submitted by Lisa Oliver)


We were getting new recruits
sixteen and seventeen years of age
when we had to do this attack

The two youngsters were crying
It was such a shock
We moved up to the attack
They had cleared off
three or four miles from the action

They were brought back and charged
The verdict of the court was read out
The two young men had deserted
They were going to be shot at dawn

The two young men
were brought out
to a yard

Fire at the head
At the heart

The chances were
they would be killed instantly
As of course they were

The four men who had to shoot them
were sick with it all
There was sympathy for the boys
but more for their parents

We lived with it all
for days

I can see it all now

Taken from Forgotten Voices of the Great War by Max Arthur (Ebury Press, 2002), p.203f. The poem is taken from the words of Private William Holmes, 12th Battalion, London Regiment. Submitted by Lisa Oliver.

Poets say

science takes away
from the beauty of stars –
mere globs
of gas atoms

Nothing is “mere”.
I too see the stars
on a desert night
and feel them.

But do I see less or more?

What is the pattern,
or the meaning,
or why?

It does not do harm
to the mystery
to know a little more about it.

Far more marvellous
is the truth
than any artists
of the past
imagined it.

From The Feynman Lectures on Physics (1964). Submitted by Lisa Oliver.

The Jealous Friend

When we’re side by side
walking down the street
every glance is in her direction.
I pretend not to notice
but I feel like an accessory
it’s as if I don’t exist

I was ecstatic one summer
When she put on a lot of weight
and was wallowing in misery
I had a spring in my step
when we walked down the street
but she still managed to take centre stage
even with her muffin top

From What I’m really thinking: the jealous friend in The Guardian Weekend. The poem is picked out of two sections of the article. Submitted by Lisa Oliver.