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Poetry

Dear Jane

Peter Branson

1.

(‘Emma’, BBC TV, Sundays, October, 2009)

TV confection, alchemy reversed,
transports the latest eighteenth century
direct to living rooms, at least in part,
the vital beat of third estate as yet
unseen or heard. They flit about like wraiths,
withdrawing tinct of pisspot, adding peace
of mind, wage slaves for fourteen hours a day
with no employment law, mere charity
betwixt them and the compost heap. Who boils
your handkerchiefs and blooded rags, cleans up
the steaming horseshit of your enterprise,
no mention in your books? All balls – and yet,
goose-feather irony, the mating game
your speciality, you’re bloody good!

2.

‘Ye are many - they are few’. (‘The Mask of Anarchy’, 1819)

Faint whiff’s ingrained, odour of old folk’s home,
no matter how discreet your chambermaid.
Do servants hum who pass invisibly
or leave an atmosphere where they have cleaned?
And what of cows and sheep that stink the streets,
the all pervading reek of working horse?
Stench of their waste gets everywhere; it coats
the shoe, infuses hem of petticoat.
No sense inside your muse of commonwealth,
seen, heard or smelt; gardener or gamekeeper,
wagoner, herdsman, bailiff, cut-purse, whore.
By hall and manor, church, assembly rooms,
taste of equality chokes on the breeze,
freedom and sisterhood, the guillotine.

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