they want all our teeth to be theirs
Tuesday, 30 November 2021 18:06

they want all our teeth to be theirs

Published in Poetry

they want all our teeth to be theirs

by Martin Hayes

they want from us total commitment
they want from us our blood and our hunger
they want from us our flesh
inked with the company's logo on our chest
they want our knuckles to our brains
and all the nerve-ends in between
switched off
they want our sinews and our muscles sewn together with steel thread
so that we can only move when they pull their levers
they want all of our teeth to be theirs
so that we can only chew when they chew
ache when they ache
they want us to show them where we keep our guts
so that they can sneak in under the radar
and pull them apart
angry thread by angry thread
until nothing is held
or stitched together anymore

and what do we want?

we want to be able to walk through the park on a Saturday afternoon
without feeling anxious
we want to be able to lay out on the grass
drinking ice cold beer while looking up into the sky
without worrying about office politics
we want to swim in the ocean once a year
and know how we are going to pay for it
we want a mouth full of teeth
that we know we can afford to get fixed or capped
if ever they should go rotten
we want to be able to enjoy the laughter and song
that comes from having food in the fridge the electricity bill paid
a car taxed and full of diesel
a medicine cabinet filled with floss sticks and Sudocrem
paracetamol and hand cream
Bonjela hair-bands Diazepam and Ansol

we want to be able to live in our block
without the fear of being redistributed
hanging like thick drool dripping from a councillor's panting mouth
because an entrepreneur took him for a £500 dinner
and promised him a place for his kid in the prep school
that will take our council flats place
alongside the £65-a-month gym business units
and 1.5 million-pound lofts

we want to feel
be able to say to ourselves
that we are human
and not have to give everything of that away
just so we are allowed to work
just so we are allowed
to exist

This poem is one of the winners of the 2021 Bread and Roses Poetry Award, sponsored by Unite, and they want all our teeth to be theirs is the title of the forthcoming anthology.