The Holding Pen
Wednesday, 06 July 2022 21:40

The Holding Pen

Published in Poetry

The Holding Pen

by Rita Ann Higgins

When did we become
so filled with anxiety and fear
at the prospect of a holiday in the sun
or a visit to friends abroad?

It’s your fault if you’re early
it’s your fault if you’re late
it’s your fault if you’re old

Its written on your boarding card
‘you are to blame, do the walk of shame’
it’s slow and it’s hot, it’s a crawl and it’s not.
Rest easy, we will manage you.
We will triage you
steel barriers, steel gates,
stay within fences, stay in.
We’ll put you in the holding-pen.
(Aka the welfare zone)

You are our lab-rats
when we say run, you rat run
when we say wait at the gate,
you say, how high?
When we say wait in the holding pen
you wait, we win.
Queue up and shut up.
We are not the housing department
but we will put up a bad-weather cover
on the pen.

It’s your fault if you have kids and no husband
It’s your fault if you are in a wheelchair.
It’s your fault if you have autism.

Achtung: this is your airport
We will triage you to within an inch of your life.
Long haul with luggage
we’ll put you in the pen
Short haul with luggage
we’ll put you in the pen.

Bring proof, bring toilet paper
the proof has to go through
the bad weather-roof.
Reams of print-outs to prove
you have a flight booked
and you’re not just a tire kicker
here for the three-star holding-pen
(aka the Welfare Zone).

If you have a bag and a half
on the short haul
to drop in the bag-hole
arrive often but not too early.
If you have two and a half bags
on the long haul
to drop in the bag-hole
arrive the day before
but not before the witching hour.

Look what we are doing for you,
we’re giving you a steel pen
Gates and barriers
we’ll guide you
we’ll divide you
we’ll corral you
we’ll steer you in.
All you have to do it queue.
We’d do it for cattle
we’d do it for sheep
we’d do it for pigs
why wouldn’t we do it for you?
View it as a rat run
Get in.

dole queue

Photo: Johnny Void

west bank wall balloon girl
Wednesday, 06 July 2022 21:40

Art, activism and the cultural food chain

Published in Cultural Commentary

Susan Jones outlines how activism can help artists in an age of austerity and widening gaps between rich and poor.

The so-called golden age of arts funding gave way to debilitating austerity, felt particularly by artists who are now at the end of a long food chain, divorced from arts funding and policy decision making. But when did these divisions start, and how can artists use activism to create meaningful change for the future?