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Simon Armitage's Black Roses – extract


Following the killing of goth teenager Sophie Lancaster in 2007 Simon Armitage wrote a prose poem called Black Roses. Here we publish an extract

Have we said the wrong word?
Have we made the wrong turn?
Have we strayed from the path?
Have we stepped on their patch?

Do they find offence
at the studs in my lips,
or the rings in my ear?
Are they morally outraged by what we wear?

We are kindly creatures, peaceful souls,
but something of our life aggravates theirs,
something in their lives despises ours.

The difference between us is what they can't stand.

So the blows fly in
with that level of fury
which needs to hurt
that depth of anger
which goes for the face,
which desires to maim,
and when they have finished
knocking the stuffing
out of my man,
kicking his skull
for all they are worth
and I nurse his broken head on my knee,

one turns on me.

Oh God he comes back and turns on me,
a plague of fists or a swarm of feet,
the boot going in again and again.

How he hates my demeanour,
hates my braids,
how he hates my manner,
hates my ways,

doesn't know me from Adam,
not even my name,
but destests every atom
of what I am.

Nothing I scream for can make it end.

Excerpt from Black Roses: The Killing of Sophie Lancaster published by Pomona Books. © Simon Armitage 2012

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