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.

they want all our teeth to be theirs
Saturday, 20 November 2021 12:32

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.

A great struggle to set something free: Ox poems
Tuesday, 09 March 2021 09:14

A great struggle to set something free: Ox poems

Published in Poetry

Martin Hayes presents 5 poems from Ox, his new collection. All images by Gustavius Payne

Ox trust

the oxen bought tickets to the annual oxen versus goats football match
which though having stellar meaning in the ox and goat world
nevertheless had to be played in a secret location
because oxen and goats are not allowed to play football anymore - silly

none of the goats were as forward thinking as the oxen
who because they were armed with infinitesimally bigger brains
had gone and got themselves a coach

the coach was not an ox
or a goat
but an ex-Farmer
who had fallen foul of The National Bank Of Farmer’s interest rates
losing everything

being on hard times
he’d answered an advert in the paper
and after one single clandestine meeting
landed the job
of becoming the oxen’s new football coach

he coached at a higher standard
than any goat or ox had ever done
and tactically
he was aeons ahead of all the goats and oxen
who all had clods for brains

all of the oxen were so happy and excited
they felt sure that with the ex-Farmer’s help
they were going to inflict the heaviest defeat on the goats
in history

on the night before the match
just after the team had been selected
it was revealed to the ex-Farmer
the secret location of tomorrow’s match
and as soon as the coast was clear
the ex-Farmer dialled the manager of The National Bank Of Farmers
offering him information
that would make him very important indeed
but only if The National Bank Of Farmers
gave him back
his farm

at the secret location
all the oxen and goats were slaughtered on the spot
and the only evidence
was the following unfinished sentence
scraped into the floor in blood
by what looked like an oxen’s hoof

once a farmer
always a far…



Ox in hunger worries about his colleague Mole

the starter
a torn-out tongue
tender with the years of grubby language
softening up its muscle

the Earth’s platter
spread with the scorched heads of its occupants mouths agape
stuck in charred-black laughter
from the high temperatures of a sudden cooking

loosened teeth
to be sucked clean of their leftover gum-flesh
hanging on to their upturned roots
as an ache inherits the mouths of all those that are left

the wine
blood upon blood
deep as the dark of Moles’ eyes
after culling

then later
the cream of white fat opened up at Orgreave beautifully rendered
beaten soft and silky
to drip like victory down their iron throats

the feast is never over never done
Ox’s tail still wags within its bones
but he knows it won’t be long
before Farmer will work out a way
to snap it open get in there
and lick at the marrow of his insides



a night in the leaky barn

this Ox and this Cow ate each other
it wasn’t ordered or planned or anything
they just became bored one night
and stoked up a hell of a hunger

gradually he chewed up all of her smiles
kept them in his intestines like eggs in a nest
she delighted in teasing his words
into the microwave
where she nuked them
into seeping bulging-eyed monsters
he munched on her eyes until all she could see was the back of his throat
she steamed away his tongue for that
he filleted of her womb to get her back
she peeled back the rind of his sternum
and licked on the marrowy insides like it were an ice-lolly
he uprooted both of her legs
then sank in up to his neck, the Hyena
she just laid back and laughed louder
sucking clean the mango stone she’d found in his head
he put his hands inside her stomach
and clenched them to fists as tight as he could
she jumped up and down on his eyeballs
as though she was beating meat
he put in the oven her nails and teeth
she brought out her blender and blitzed his penis

he said he was full now
she said she was tired
and besides
it wasn’t fun anymore

so they fell asleep
what was left fitted tightly up against what was left
and never woke up again

until morning
when the strapping into their ploughs
diverted their hunger away
from each other

Ox gets a visit from social services

they visited him once
never needed to knock
the leaky barn not being his
doors were left off latch
inside the filth afflicted
no pictures nailed the wall to yearn a lost heart
and not one but sixty of them stood
swishing their tails staring
at what the walls might bring their still beating hearts
language was not chucked around this place uselessly
everyone knew only one word none of them could quell
none of them!
they were prisoners of their own song
Hunger it was called



Ox dealing with the light

when light comes in through the cracks in the leaky barn
it hurt Ox’s eyes

when light reflects off the steel handle of Farmer’s thwacking stick
Ox’s flanks quiver and tremble

when the low morning light of the sun
reflects off the puddles in the yard
Ox’s heart sinks

when moonlight
bathes the dusty roots with its magic
Ox tosses and turns
thinking that a great spell is being placed upon him

and when the lights of the abattoir
burn through the night from a distance
looking like a search party
coming to the rescue
Ox hasn’t a clue
that is where it will all end

which all helps to prove
when you see an ox
momentarily pause in a field
swishing his head from side to side
like in a great struggle to set something free
there’s no need to worry
about the revolution starting anytime soon
because all it is
is Ox pretending again
that he’s got something going on up there
when really there is only blackness and fog
and the pain from all of this light

Ox is available here.

Free the peas!
Friday, 22 February 2019 16:29

where we got the importance of peas from

Published in Poetry

where we got the importance of peas from

by Martin Hayes

there have always been jobs
ever since we were able to stand up
and grew hands
things to clean things to cook
things to count things to watch
things to tie up
like shoes and birthday presents
things to iron
like shirts and petticoats
things that need fixing things that need sorting
things that need making and things that need breaking

but the jobs I’m talking about
are the jobs you see the dustman doing
and the doctor doing
and the fireman doing
and the woman at the checkout in the supermarket doing
and the man behind the counter who brings you your chicken nuggets doing

those jobs are not household jobs
but jobs that people get paid for
so that they can pay for a roof
to go over your head
or for water and electricity
to keep you warm
or for food and fruit
so you can eat
or a train set
or a bicycle
so you can play
or a trip to the cinema
or a new pair of shoes
so you can live

those jobs
believe it or not
we’re created by the pea

I know
it sounds impossible doesn’t it
but when a pea is born
it is born in a pod
along with lots of other peas

and one day
it was realised that peas were very special indeed
so everyone set about trying to get as many peas behind them as possible
because the more they had
the more it made them feel safe and warm

so important did the peas become
that competitions were set up
to see who could build a pile of peas
the highest

some were very good at this
and won competition after competition after competition
until they had so many peas
that nobody else had any left

so the winners of the competitions
created jobs for the losers of the competitions
to do

and when they’d been done
they paid them with a few peas
but only enough
so that they could eat
or rent a roof to live under

and when they ate
or paid for their roof to live under
they paid for them with peas

the same peas they’d been given
for doing their jobs
until they had no peas left again
until they had done more jobs
and earned a few more peas

so the winners of the competitions
always got their peas back

and this has been going on for centuries
and doesn’t look like
it will ever change
in the centuries to come
unless someone does something
about the importance of peas


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

 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.