A soliloquy from a still-to-be written political play by David Betteridge, with image by Bob Starrett
[How can we] offend the dead and shame the living
By these despairs? And how refrain from love?
This is a difficult country, and our home.
- Edwin Muir
Today I am giving up politics.
It’s a source of pain, I’ve come to realise,
and angst, and nausea, and fear,
and depression of the darkest kind,
and a closing of hope’s eyes.
I am giving up.
It is sickening to see
things built with care and cherished
down the years so wantonly dismissed
and trashed, as happens day on day.
Dread of the future debilitates,
and when events suggest
that we are powerless to act,
my will to try disintegrates.
Injustice rules, while wisdom
is replaced by the tropes of fools.
Keeping on and keeping on,
as I have done since young,
will prove too grinding-down
for me, faltering now, to thole.
By turns black clouds of chaos
and blind mists of stasis
mass: both bring harm to the body
and equally the soul.
I have given up.
Tomorrow, fresh ventures
for wellbeing will reveal their paths.
I’ll devote my precious time -
this is my promise to myself -
to self at last.
First, though, I have the latest tranche
of emails to which I must respond,
and the drafting of a resolution in my name,
half-done, with its deadline soon.
Decisions must be made as well
regarding how to cut my coat -
or cloth? - in face of rising costs
of everything, and the dwindling pound.
And what am I to do with that plea
for help from our most recent refugees?
I am kicking, you will see,
like a hanged man at his rope’s end,
or thrashing inescapably in rough waves,
trying not to drown, seeking shallow water
and dry ground.
Today I am not giving up politics.
My depression turns to rage.
Politics gives no amnesty
to any age.
David Betteridge is the author of a collection of poems celebrating Glasgow and its radical traditions, 'Granny Albyn's Complaint', published by Smokestack Books in 2008. He is also the editor of a compilation of poems, songs, prose memoirs, photographs and cartoons celebrating the 1971-2 UCS work-in on Clydeside. This book, called 'A Rose Loupt Oot', was published by Smokestack Books in 2011.