As an appetiser for Wednesday's budget announcement, we publish a new poem about consumption and regret by the Forward prize-winning poet
Blah about "society"
And what we should give back –
The matter just kept coming up
All evening at the table:
A lot to swallow while we spoke
Of national austerity,
Of Cameron and Cable
And the coalition-claque.
So is it better out than in?
Purge the nation till it pukes
And purge us all of sin?
We went in for the oysters
We might never eat again,
Went for snot and shell-clack
As something to remember
In the times when fare is plainer:
The day will come when you no longer
Cash your cheques at Coutts.
Eat, be merry, sympathise,
But meanwhile fill your boots.
The truth hates a dissembler.
Then and there, what could we do?
It seemed like a no-brainer.
So we set about the oysters
In an orgy of the vowels,
Giving no thought to the morrow
Nor any to the bowels.
We were the slaves of history
But we ate in affirmation –
Bear the glut of privilege
Then stand with the protesters.
And write about it later –
Ah, the pleasures of the text.
(Not to mention of the oysters.)
You're a poet, you're a seer,
So you're out there on the edge,
And you're all imagination
So you know what's coming next.
In the middle of the night
I knew I must return my share
To the stripped bed of the sea –
A long-term contribution
I took the long view of the sink
Which was taking it from me –
Rose madder of unknown origin
Among the usual stuff.
I had to work to clear its gaze:
But it would neither wink nor blink.
Whatever I'd been served,
It left me badger-rough,
Eye-deep among the heaving stink,
Crouching, eyeing narrowly
The sink's own non-committal eye.
What did it mean? Just then it meant
I'd got what I deserved,
And all in all I'd rather die
Than go on paying back
The bellyful of slime
And glop and bladderwrack
It seemed I had ingested
With the spiced-up Amble oysters.
This government would make you sick!
I'd heard a neighbour say.
He took of glug of oyster, adding:
Their recipe's untested.
They've got us eating cack.
I took his point, for there was much
Too much to take in then and there,
So much that should, but as it proved,
Could never be digested.
Perhaps if I had cut my throat,
For in my guts I felt that's what
These policies suggested,
I should have spared myself the pain
Of picking through my entrails,
Learning that what's true for one
Who's disembowelled, disinvested,
Is also true for nations –
All remedies are poisonous
And even nations fail.
The oyster's aphrodisiac
May also steal your thunder.
Such ambiguous creations!
Then be charitable: give
A bit back when you chunder.
Anyway, I've had it now
With molluscs, and with seaweed
And with overpriced crustaceans.