Camels and Needles
by Rebecca Lowe
‘It is easier for a camel to pass
Through the eye of a needle
Than for a rich man to enter heaven’…
‘Ah,’ you say,
‘But it depends on the size of the needle,
It depends on the size of the camel.’
Poverty is relative
only for the rich.
Try telling the woman
queuing up outside the foodbank
that poverty is relative –
She has spent half a day
and most of her remaining cash
getting on and off of buses
to reach the benefits office
to be told that due to a ‘technical hitch’
her universal credits payment
has been delayed –
The baby in the pram yowls,
She yanks down her hood,
hoping nobody will see her and judge.
Everything is relative.
Like, it’s relative
not to care about buying fairtrade food
to help the starving children in Africa,
like the smiling church lady said you should,
when you’ve five children
of your own at home
Like, it’s relative for the woman
behind the benefits counter
on a moderate income
to close down her computer
at the end of the day
and go back to a decent meal
and a warm home.
Like, it’s relative
for the politician who declares
there’s no need to increase the
basic rate of universal credit
because ‘£85.68 a week is plenty’,
then treats his colleagues
to a meal and a £100 bottle of wine.
Everything’s relative –
Camels and needles
The myth of the trickle-down economy,
Money leeching up from poor to rich,
Lining the pockets of greed:
‘But I worked hard to get where I am today’
Tell that to the nurse on basic wage,
who today held the hands of a dying woman
and learned that her work is not worth
more than a one per cent pay rise
Tell that to the single mum working
three jobs to pay the rent on a flat
with mould growing up the walls.
To every worker
In every city
In every country
Of the world
When the camel finally manages
To squeeze through that needle,
I might just believe it!
Rebecca Lowe is a journalist, poet and Quaker peace activist, based in Wales, UK. She is a Bread and Roses Spoken Word 2020 Award winner, has appeared on BBC radio, and her poetry has featured in many anthologies including Red Poets, Blackheath Countercultural Review, and the Ymlaen/Onward! anthology of radical Welsh poetry (Culture Matters, 2019).