Craig Smith is a poet and novelist from Huddersfield. His writing has appeared in The North, Blizzard, The Interpreters’ House and MIR Online. Craig’s poetry publications so far are L.O.V.E. Love and A Quick Word With A Rock And Roll Late Starter. His first novel, Super-8, is out of print. Craig is currently working toward an MA in Creative Writing at Birkbeck University.
The New Trogolodytes
They speak so well, these New Troglodytes,
as if porting rubies in the pouches of their cheek
or swirling cognac in the brandy glass of their jaw.
Their hair is cut thick like good bacon
in a public school sweep, a money cut,
and their torso is layered in gold thread
with magician's pockets to facilitate the bait and switch.
They speak so well but they lie, lie, lie,
and steal things, smirking, and drop public wealth
into the pockets of their cronies.
Their schooling was a family investment
to jemmy open the cash box of State,
using Latin and Greek to spin fables
that make their greed noble, their privilege inevitable,
their entitlement heroic, their crimes forgivable,
their theft philanthropic,
aligning their reputation with the triumphs of the nation
while stashing the takings off shore out of reach.
We call them My Lord, these New Troglodytes,
Your Honour, the Right Honourable, His Highness,
Lady, Sir, Dame, Duchess, Duke, Ma’am,
though their title was a reward for exploitation and brutality
and was flipped through the currencies of the age –
power, platform, credit – until we perceive it
as a gift from God.
Yet, they are beholden, not to us,
but to the pocketbook of oligarchs,
the good will of global media.
I’ve seen them, the New Troglodytes, on TV,
in the unelected upper house,
in rotten boroughs across the land,
or beamed in from a loan home in Marbella.
They destroy in a session what was built over a lifetime
and front the betrayal because their tone belies
that they are lying.
Their sophistication is a quiet word with the right person
to swing a debate or stymy public good.
They provoke my anger, but I met one once
and liked him, and that frightens me.
A Poem for a Friend
A bottle of pills, wasn't it?
Or your parents' Scotch, guzzled like pop,
or a bash on your temple
on the backroads above Burton
from which your driver walked away?
Or a leap from a viaduct in Scarborough
because a boy didn't love you?
The means are less important
than the fact that you're gone.
You no longer occupy
the space we put aside for you.
I remember our last encounter,
a word in passing one Friday night at the Clothiers
on my return to the Asteroid table
with three pints of Tetleys shored between my finger ends.
It was bands, probably, or beer, or football,
or possibly love,
a hint of our dreaming flattering the mundane
with last orders looming
and a tramp through the woods
to a supper of tinned potatoes,
beans and stewing steak.
We were swamped with drink
and giddy with the moment,
sidling up to our possibilities, bashfully,
approaching our futures, shyly,
embarrassed by our desires
but confident we could handle our dreams, regardless.
You rarely visit the forefront of my thoughts.
We never lived like that
so why die like that?
My memories of you are not keepsakes
They would not impress my son in the telling,
or make a chatshow chortle.
Ours was an ambient friendship
of kindness and good-nature,
and quite enough as that.
Another year in the same café,
the rain on the window
like a microscope sample,
a cross-section of watershed,
a perfect example
of our foulest weather.
All poems: exclusive first publication by iamb