Martin Hayes

Martin Hayes

Martin Hayes has worked in the courier industry for 30 years. His latest collection is The Things Our Hands Once Stood For, published by Culture Matters.

at wembley dogs
Monday, 18 June 2018 20:35

at wembley dogs

Published in Poetry

at Wembley dogs

by Martin Hayes

at Wembley dogs
we used to buy brown Hofmeister bottles of beer
and jump all over the seats
that people once sat in
to watch England win the World Cup
we used to eat hot dogs longer than our cocks
and run up and down the finishing straight
shouting on our muts

at Wembley dogs
we used to hold hands together and look up at the blue archless sky turn into indigo night
the stars suddenly reveal themselves
just over the back of Neasden shopping center

at Wembley dogs
we told the bookmakers we wanted a bag of sand on the 3 dog
and when they told us to bugger off
we’d wink at them and say, “you’re most probably right, Guvnor,
make that an Ayrton”

at Wembley dogs
we walked from bar to rail and back again
tipping our heads at everyone as we went
like we were some kind of Charlie Big Potatoes
with our pockets filled with our week’s pay
and electricity rolling all over our skin

at Wembley dogs
we made our happiness happen we made
our 5 day 55 hour weeks
feel worth it we made
great big smiles spread over our faces
and our hearts roared back into life as we
saw ourselves in everyone else around us, stuck
two fingers up at their setting sun
and cheered up our moon

at Wembley dogs
we unpicked the chains
that they stitched around us
all week;
we plucked out the barbed wire
that they hooked into our backs
all week;
we let our lungs fill up with air again
that they had stuffed full with memos and rules and procedures
all week;
and we rinsed our eyes
so we could see through the darkness they tried to create
all week

there are no Wembley dogs anymore
they have moved it off the streets
moved it all online and into the betting shops
not just because of economic validity
or the price it costs
to keep a piece of greyhound meat
but because things like Wembley dogs
enabled us to see through their darkness
recapture our identity
stitch our shadows back on
stoke up the anger and energy
to see through their gulag-weeks
and feel something other
than what they wanted you to feel

as they scream from their think-tanks and boardrooms –
“TURN OFF ALL OF THEIR LIGHTS!”

 

Labour Day
Wednesday, 02 May 2018 21:11

why not a job: two poems for May Day from Martin Hayes and Fred Voss

Published in Poetry

Martin Hayes has sent in a poem dedicated to Fred Voss, and the compliment has been returned.

why not a job

by Martin Hayes

after Fred Voss

why not a job
to dedicate your life to
why does it always have to be
a man who died on a cross
or who sat under a fig tree
or who was the last messenger
to bring the words of an invisible and unreachable God to us
those words
don’t feed us or keep us warm
they don’t feed the homeless man or woman
but a job could put a pair of gloves on a pair of their hands
a job could put a hat on their head
and help stop them from getting cold
why does a job not get sung out for in churches
have drums
beaten for
why not a job that pays for the water and food that goes into the mouths of our families
wouldn’t it be better to stand up for our right to have a job
rather than our right to hold a gun in our hands
why not a job
to wave banners about in the air for
to hold hands on the 1st of May for
why not a job
that pays for a roof over our heads
feeds electricity and heat into our homes
rather than a bullet into a ‘rag-head’ neck
why not a job as our right
rather than these Gods
that we keep rattling our cages for
why can’t these jobs be our Gods
our way of earning a living
the religion
we would die for
rather than the colour of a flag

PR Workers by Peter Kennard

Workers, by Peter Kennard

Are we really not worthy of a poem?

by Fred Voss

after Martin Hayes

Are we really not worthy of a poem
are we meant to be hidden behind windowless tin walls all our lives
we workers
we soldiers in a war for our lives
we all have hands hopes ears
to hear our baby’s first words tears
beside our father’s deathbed
we are Huck Finn willing to go on down that Mississippi River with escaped slave Jim
even if it means going to Hell we are
all a piece of the universe a piece of each other
a hand on a hammer
a heart bursting to do its best
an arm reaching for a drowning man
a back wet with sweat
a muscle true as sunrise
a cheer for a friend
a smile for another day to open our eyes under the same sky as the swordfish and the bear
a laugh because we are still alive and have a chance
as Charlie Chaplin tramps down his open road twirling his cane even though he doesn’t have
a penny in his pocket
happy to sharpen a drill bit against a grinding wheel
tell a story to a grandchild
make the wheel that rolls the cup that pours the whistle that blows
the cymbal that crashes the wing that lifts the steel I-beam that stands the trombone
that slides the pan that cooks the curtain
that opens on A Streetcar Named Desire the chisel
that cuts a jewel for the finger of a beaming bride the bell
that will ring the day the tyrant is brought to his knees the bread
the man unemployed for a year will break the day he finally finds work the shoe
that fits the key that unlocks the shovel that buries the candle that burns the revolution
that frees the Volkswagen
13 clowns climb out of the hairbrush for a woman who finally feels beautiful the paintbrush
for Van Gogh if he had decided not to shoot himself the fire hydrant
that could have kept the 1906 city of San Francisco from burning down
we are all on the path
down the river in the game under
the stars inside the belly of the beast
of being alive
we all want to work
the way the stars work
the way our mother worked to birth us
the way the taxis arrive
and the apples ripen and the barber cuts and the electrician reaches for his pliers
and the ballerina leaps through the heart of Tchaikovsky
and the cats yawn and the grains of sand roll and the baker kneads his dough
we are all children
of the bones under the soil the knuckles of jackhammer operators the lunch pails
of stevedores the lonely midnight rides
of truck drivers the strikes of school bus drivers the striped hats
of railroad engineers
we are the foundation of the house
the smokestack
the loading dock the tin door thrown open to a rising sun the thumb
around a red monkey wrench the steel-toed boot
under a 2-ton bar of steel the beep
of a forklift the yodel of a ditch digger the flash
of a shooting star
we are why the numbers add up the rivers flow downhill the swallows
return to San Juan Capistrano each year
we are right as waves true as Sierra Nevada mountains indispensable
as air delightful
as eating a banana split in a gondola steered down a Venice canal by a man
singing Verdi
we will never be contained
by a bottom line
a profit graph
a brand name
and we should never let ourselves be turned against each other
to fatten the wallets of those who look down their nose
at us
let’s shine a light on what’s behind those tin walls
instead of looking back over our shoulders at the bosses in fear
let’s look forward to envision a new brave future of love
and equality and brotherhood
for we are worthy of 10,000 poems in our honor
let Van Gogh set up his easel
Beethoven sit down at his piano
Souza warm up his marching band
Marx sharpen his pencil Twain fire up his pipe
Rousseau loosen humanity’s chains
let Mona Lisa smile
Babe Ruth step up to the plate
Galileo drop his 2 cannonballs off the Leaning Tower of Pisa
Ulysses head for home
all’s right with the universe
as long as we workers have the dirt of the earth on our hands
and the truth of the tigers and the trees
in our hearts.

 

Willie Young’s elbows have been sawn off
Saturday, 14 April 2018 17:53

Willie Young’s elbows have been sawn off

Published in Sport

Willie Young’s elbows have been sawn off

by Martin Hayes

12 years old and out the station onto Gillespie Road
it’s only 40 minutes before kick-off and no tickets in our pockets yet
but that was how it was back then
you didn’t need to have saved for over 5 months
gone without
to build up a ticket float
or luck out on a mate of a mates who couldn’t make the match
had a season ticket up for lending
as long as you covered the costs
it was more like a decision made over breakfast
or after a row between him and his new girlfriend
where he’d finally go, ‘fuck it son, let’s go to the match’
and there we were
me trying to keep up with him as he weaved through the buzz of the crowd
past the old factory
where luxury flats now stand costing more than the price of a French full back
a Portuguese left winger
and as we turned onto Avenell Rd he’d stop
turn around and slip me that 50p
leaving me at the schoolboy’s entrance telling me
not to hang around, to use my elbows if need be
like the great Willie Young
and then he was gone
me handing the guy in the hut that 50p before pushing through that turnstile
the creaks of it sounding like a tanker ship being let off to sea
waiting there then
at the side entrance to the North Bank
where all of the dads and uncles and brothers had paid their £3.50 entry fee
and it’d take an age there
sometimes long enough that you’d feel like you’d been abandoned
shit yourself about never getting home again
but finally he’d appear, “oi, son! get a move on”
and then you were in
following him towards the steps that led up into the North Bank
and as you got up to the top of them
it’d open up into
the greatest feeling in the world

but this is not a feeling that can be passed on anymore
this is not a feeling
that can be passed to our daughters and sons
it has been stolen from them
turned into a circus
where tickets cost more than one weeks’ rent one months’ electricity
one fortnightly food shop and an extra bottle of wine
where tv and the Murdochs
have slit the stomach of it
pulled out the entire guts of our traditions
for a euro and a rouble
and Willie Young’s elbows
have been sawn off
now walks
like a ginger ghost inside our heads
looking for a ball of anger to boot from our couches
up into the Sky

the employed poor
Friday, 02 March 2018 14:07

the employed poor

Published in Poetry

the employed poor

by Martin Hayes

they have a car a job with no contract they work for a company that has
a zero-tolerance policy on sick days and non-attendance they have a
flat with heating and food they have a bottle of wine of a night
they cook a pasta dinner for their two kids they try to buy their
kids’ new clothes and a mobile phone but it’s never the right
ones always 2 or 3 generations behind they are healthy but
nervous strong but fragile they have nothing in their
hands or tucked away under their beds they
are only one withheld monthly pay cheque
away from disaster one boss’s decision
away from hunger one unfortunate
accident away from annihilation
one unplanned bill away from
tipping point one illness
away from seeing the
whole edifice of
their lives come
tumbling down
with no one
around to
help put
any of it
back
together
again

 the employed poor

This poem is from a new collection from Martin Hayes called The Things Our Hands Once Stood For.

Martin Hayes is the only British poet who writes consistently and seriously about work, and about the insanity of a society where employees are seen as mere ‘hands’ whose sole role is to make money for the employer.

The publisher and poet Alan Dent has contributed an illuminating introduction. He says, 

Hayes speaks for those whose lives are supposed to be not worth speaking about. He is intent on revealing the significance of the lives of ordinary people in the workplace. When current employment relations are consigned to the dustbin of history, and are viewed as we now view the feudal relations between lord and vassal, will people wonder why so little was written about it?

Martin’s poems are direct and simple, and full of black humour. Like the grainy black and white images that illustrate them so well, they expose and express the simple, terrible truth – that the human relation on which our society is based, that between employer and employee, is morally indefensible. The clear message of his poetry is that those who do the work should own, control, and benefit fully from it. They should, in the last words of the last poem, ‘start the revolution that will change everything’, and show that

all of our fingertips combined
might just be the fingertips
that keep us and this Universe
stitched together.

The booklet is priced at £6 (plus £1.50 p&p), and is available from here, Manifesto Press and the usual outlets. ISBN 978-1-907464-32-4.

stitching this universe together
Friday, 26 January 2018 18:26

stitching this universe together

Published in Poetry

stitching this Universe together

by Martin Hayes

Sadiq wants to stay a part of this control room, a part
of this bunch of chained cynical indebted men
who continually take the piss out of his haircuts
his shoes and his love life
who never cut him any slack whenever he makes a mistake
laughing and calling him names that Sadiq laughs back at
because Sadiq knows
that he will be a part of that pack in a couple of hours
and that the hands he uses to twist the shoes onto his 2-year-old’s feet every morning
and that wrap the scarf around her neck to keep her warm
and that slip her coat over her shoulders by the door
are the same hands as Mikey’s and Bill’s and Dermot’s and Javed’s
who every morning slip and wrap the same shoes and scarves and coats
around their children

Antoine wants to stay a part of this control room, even when it is him
who is on the receiving end of his fellow controller’s cruelty
taking the mickey out of him getting bollocked by one of the supervisors
as they circle and sharpen their minds
waiting for the quietest moment possible
before launching their one-liners and cusses
into his ears
causing the rest of the pack to crack up in fits of laughter
because Antoine knows that all of this
is done in the name of survival
a survival that enables Antoine to put cereal on the table in front of his 6-year-old boy pour
milk into his wife’s coffee cup keep
the car topped up with diesel the lights burning the roof solid the water hot the sun up in the sky
warming all of our hands and backs as we punch buttons on keypads lift
quarter ton engines out of vans haul
filing cabinets from one office into another office
and all because
we need to protect those castles
that we can safely pack our lives away in
whenever it gets cold

Stacey wants to stay a part of this control room
where despite all of the bollockings and bloodlettings she has been on the end of
she keeps getting up after being knocked down
constantly talking with enthusiasm about her end games, her outs
which this control room is going to give to her
which has her sitting on beaches lying next to Calvin Klein models
balancing Campari and sodas on their ripped stomachs
or behind the steering wheel of a 35 grand sports car
heading into a sunset the colour of a burning boys’ heart
or sat on the edge of a pool
dangling her feet in the water behind her paid-for home
with the sun holding her hand
and the ocean salting her hair
the same dreams in fact
that the woman sitting next to you on the bus has
that the woman typing figures into a computer terminal all day has
that the woman who scans your shopping at the checkout has
that the man sat at the top of a crane or in the cabin of a van has
the same dreams of freedom
that we all have
where we won’t anymore have to put up with a man
who feels the need to dehumanise and bully us in front of a room full of people
just because he is paid 4 times more
and has a reputation to keep

we all want to stay a part of this control room
for as long as possible
or at least until our hands cannot tap one single button more
on one of their keypads
or at least until our minds have given up
and can’t see through the hundreds of jobs
that keep dropping down onto our screens
or at least until our blood
stops foaming with this adrenalin
which allows us to understand and get through
all of those busy Friday afternoons
because in the end
don’t we need these jobs
for more than just their money
don’t we need these jobs
so that we can stand in front of mirrors
and look at ourselves
without feeling worthless
or disconnected
like a CEO must
like a President or Prime Minister must
like the head of an HR department must
don’t we need these jobs
in the same way that Martin Luther King needed his dream
in the same way that Rosa Parks needed to stay on that bus
in the same way that the Wilding needed equality
that gravity
pulls on the planets and stars
the same way that the sea
can never stop being the sea

we all want to stay a part of this control room
for as long as possible
because this is where we learnt
that the men and women who are employed by Phoenix Express
are the same
as every working man
and woman
and that all of our fingertips combined
might just be the fingertips
that keeps us and this Universe
stitched together

This poem is from Martin Hayes's forthcoming collection, The Things Our Hands Once Stood For, to be published by Culture Matters.

National Poetry Day: as the poets write about the smell of their dead fathers' tweed jackets
Wednesday, 27 September 2017 09:05

National Poetry Day: as the poets write about the smell of their dead fathers' tweed jackets

Published in Poetry

as the poets write about the smell of their dead fathers' tweed jackets

by Martin Hayes

a crust of dry bread has become the dream of millions
running water and one bar of electric heat
amenities out of reach for a quarter of the globe
as CEOs stand in their kitchens
warming their feet on underground heated slate tiles while peeling an avocado
slate
ripped from the earth by people whose hands have to squeeze the last drop of milk from a dead breast
wring a sleeping bag dry
so they can sleep at night without freezing their guts
people who have jobs but still have to queue in foodbanks just to feed their families
as their Prime Ministers and Presidents talk about nuclear wars
destroy
whole communities with an idea they had while playing a round of golf
people who once worked on a farm or in a call centre or under the ground
who now have no jobs because of an agreement signed on a jet
30,000 feet above the clouds
people who are moved on from country to country
unwanted
who have to live in makeshift camps for years
just because their God lost an election
and had His fingertips replaced on the trigger of a gun
people who can't clothe or take their children on a holiday anymore
because the price of oil drained from the ground 5000 miles away shot up into the sky
and closed all of their factories
people who once worked in industries long ago shut by progress
who once used their hands to rivet together ships haul a piece of steel out of a blast furnace replace
the heart of a 12 year old girl hand over a cup of tea to a miner squeeze
tomato ketchup into a factory worker’s bacon sandwich
who now sit at home with nothing to do
using those same hands to put together 1000 piece jigsaw puzzles
or knit hats for their grandchildren who will grow up to be a number
on a list of numbers who don’t have any jobs

as the poets write about the smell of their dead fathers' tweed jackets
are Forwarded £5,000 for a poem about the opening of a wardrobe
have enough time on their hands
to stand in front of mirrors
contemplating whether they exist or not
and books about wizards and bondage
sell millions

 

Roar!
Wednesday, 06 September 2017 08:31

Roar!

Published in Poetry

Roar!

by Martin Hayes

as we allocated out the thousands of jobs
trying to keep it safe and tidy
so that we could protect our minds and dignity
from the supervisors who would come out
every time they caught us fucking up
and try to strip it all away
by screaming and shouting at us
that we were “idiots”
and “fucking morons”
poets are writing about the shadows tulips cast in distilling light

and what help does that give us!

as we spoke to customers
whose jobs hadn’t been picked up on time
whose lives now will never be the same
trying to appease them by using our street learned charm
sweet talking them with our treacle tongue’s
convincing them that this was a one off
that will most certainly never happen again madam
poets are writing about their sexuality
and how hard it is coming to terms with it

and what help does that give us!

as we tried to manage the couriers needs
tried to convince them that we were not there
just to stitch them up
but were just trying to do our job
because we also had our rent to be paid
and our electricity bill to be paid
and our council tax to pay for
and our county court judgements to pay for
poets are writing about oak trees and how a bowl of fruit
left for a week on one of their 5-grand breakfast tables
gives off a scent that reminds them of their childhood

and what help does that give us!

as we get drunk on wine after our 55 hour weeks
move around our flats naked at 4 am on a Saturday morning
walking into the bedroom
holding our cocks out in front of us like surfboards
for our ladies to hop on
even though she stays half-asleep and screams at us to “fuck off!”
poets are writing about the smell of their dead father’s tweed jackets
and studying what type of poem they should write
if they want that editor
to put them in their magazine

and what good does that do us!

as we sit on toilets drunk
smoking cocaine
letting our heads loll about on our necks in complete happiness
complete uselessness
trying to wipe clean away
the consequences of the debt we are in
the worries of the recent takeover
the recent layoffs
the uncertainty of who will next
be squashed down into a digit
by their crunching of the numbers
and ejected out like a piece of industrial waste
poets are writing gutless poems
about irrelevant subjects
using fake words

and what good does that do us!

every day
when we walk in to do our shifts
put those headphones on
and begin allocating out the work
poets are writing about something

poets are always trying
to write about something

the trouble is
it often doesn’t ever mean anything
because none of their lives
are ever falling apart
quite enough to make their poems
ROAR! ROAR! ROAR!

and what good does that do us!

one block of council flats left
Thursday, 20 July 2017 21:34

one block of council flats left

Published in Poetry

 one block of council flats left

by Martin Hayes

just one block of council flats remains in this area
where we work our magic in
allocating out jobs to couriers
so that multinationals and £500-an-hour law firms
and hedge-fund managers who look after billions of pounds
can remain healthy and strong
making more money in one hour
than all the tenants of this last block of council flats left
will make in their lifetimes
put together

just one ugly block of brick and red cladded council flats still stands
amongst all of the million-pound lofts and chrome and smoked-glass luxury flats
that have sprung up in this area over the last 8-years just one
block with 42 flats
where couriers and mechanics and school teachers and bus drivers
and nurses and firemen and waitresses can still safely keep
a roof over their families' heads where they can
still wash and cook and put their children into a bed
and get them up to go into a school this one block of flats left
sat there like a rotten tooth in a row of perfect molars
housing these workers
enabling them to keep their dignity and love as millionaire footballers
move in next door as seven-figure-salaried-bankers buy whole floors
just so they can have somewhere to stay
while in London
as people in media hire cranes
to lift £30,000 pieces of furniture into their lofts as
politicians and councillors plot
how best they can make this last ugly block of council flats left
disappear
along with its infections

This poem was written six months before the tragedy at Grenfell Tower. Film by Ataman Kizilirmak.