Culture · General · Personal

Once

I shared a Britain Europeans could call home

In the four decades my skin was called my own,

One day I’ll tell our Islands’ descendants

I shared a Britain Europeans could call home,

Before the dice of jeopardy was thrown

And all that amity was gone and done

In the four decades my skin was called my own,

I shared a Britain Europeans could call home.

 

Antonia Sara Zenkevitch

 

This is the second Triolet I’ve written in as many days, inspired by a challenge set by a wonderful poet whose diverse work can be seen at https://reowr.com/ . My first triolet was 48 Percent Life, which is perhaps a better poem structurally than my second attempt at this form, but I’m enjoying this particular type of poem.

48% · Culture · Democracy · General · Remain

Heptarchy

Once there were seven kingdoms

Of Anglo-Saxon dominance;

Anglia, Kent, Essex,

Mercia and Wessex

Northumbria and Sussex,

Before tenth century unification

Into what became old England,

But not yet it’s modern boundaries;

 

Seven realms called the heptarchy

Founded this new arrangement

Of central management, essentially,

I still see the relative estrangement

Of all other parts of the UK;

An incomplete enfranchisement

Underpins our other ‘unities’

Where heptarchic centricity holds sway,

When it is thought convenient,

To compromise lives, look the other way

And rip up fragile, vital peace agreements,

When some English MPs side-line or deny,

This feels true again today

When I watch Westminster Parliament;

Though I know some ministers care greatly,

The problems stretch out to such an extent

Blinkered thinking seems to be the generality;

 

Despite our interconnections culturally,

Despite interdependence economically,

Despite the shared need for security,

Old England is treated as a relative priority;

 

Northern Irish fears, questions and grievance,

Shelved in Brexit deals, not given real credence,

Indifference buttresses treating another’s existence

As subsidiary to our need for insurance,

Encouraging escalation in cross border violence,

The chance of peace lost is not a cost worth

The elusive ideal of so-called self-governance,

Northern Ireland threatened by the backstop

And an opening for conflict and social chaos,

The reason Westminster speaks of this at all? –

They need Northern Irish votes to seal the deal,

The Northern Ireland that voted to remain,

Where you can travel over to Ire by train,

Why would we trade this for either nation’s pain?

Precious and perilous the amity between men,

Paramilitaries on both sides still have guns,

Brexit can’t be allowed to become

Heptarchia; or a central England predilection

Provoking the smashing of any kingdom,

 

What of the Gibraltians?

98% chose Britain

Over being part of Spain,

Whilst staying fiercely European;

96% also voted to remain,

Will we squander this union?

Are they well protected by the plan –

Or will we treat their needs as alien,

Forgetting their realm in the kingdom;

The so-called United Kingdom?

Where is this debate in parliament?

Oh, I forgot, there isn’t one

Because Gibraltar has been given

No real part in any final decision,

This British Military Bastion

And bridge between continents

Neglected in isolationist vision

Loosed to the currents

Of selectively chosen ignorance,

 

Meanwhile Scotland speaks of a second referendum

To leave the United Kingdom

And stay in the European Union

Westminster promises for further devolution

Postponed season after season,

Amidst Westminster undemocratic deviations,

Scottish Parliament makes preparations

To build post- Brexit resilience for her population,

 

Then Wales and Cornwall, who both voted to leave,

Neither part of the old heptography –

Cornwall long outside English boundaries

Both long over-looked by Westminster priorities,

Treated as political minorities,

Suffering more than their portion of poverty,

Brexit was their sole opportunity

To question the balance of authority,

But was it the EU that was their enemy –

Or the swing of an English majority?

 

What of the Cornish Isles of Scilly?

What of the Scottish Outer Hebrides?

These small communities

Surrounded by sea

With unique histories

And identities

Sometimes as close

To other countries,

Will their ferries and boats

Still move just as freely?

If the answer is ‘no’

‘Hopefully’ or only ‘Ideally’

How can Westminster vote

For such uncertainty?

 

Certain Northern realms and principalities

Long divided into modern counties

Whose borders blurred over centuries

Can be heard by Westminster to a lesser degree,

 

Of the others caught in the undertow,

The fourteen ‘Crown Dependencies’

Not permitted a vote,

How does this affect their families

Safety, economy and futurity?

 

The nations termed ‘Balliwicks’

From the root-word meaning ‘bailiff’,

Once seen as empire’s colonies,

Now proudly autonomous countries,

Yet still, in some complex way legally

Described as British Territories,

Making us ask what Britain really is,

For we share more than a monarchy;

Our Brexit deal with affect their populace

Yet where are their representatives in this?

 

Many of these relationships interlaced

With the family now called Commonwealth

Striving for more parity to be embraced –

Though some do call it theft by stealth

My hope is in its a partnering in trials faced –

A hope for those by climate change threatened,

By drought, war, tides or floods displaced,

That help does come from a community of nations,

A harsh Brexit winter could require such grace

But do we consider their needs in our calculations?

 

How often is apparent worth computed by race?

 

Former realms and current friends in

North and South Atlantic,

Africa, the Indian Ocean

Antarctica and the Pacific

Many with the flag on Britain

Making part of their own flag,

Of our commonwealth cousins

Our mates in Australia

And New Zealand –

Among the closest we have

Despite the distance,

 

They’ve been there for us

Like our kin in India and Pakistan,

Side by side through war’s tumult

Yet here Asian citizens

Are too often thrown insults

 

Here, seeming Anglo-Saxons

Appear treated as higher status

Than those whose origin is thought Celt,

But Caucasian Brits get preference

To almost everybody else,

 

Many nations in the Caribbean

Whose Windrushers rushed to assist

Us in modern Britain’s darkest time,

With them, Britain rose like a phoenix,

 

Then there is land used by our armed forces

Like Akrotiri and Dhekelia –

British Territories in Cyprus,

Names to most Britons, unfamiliar,

Our deal affects Cyprian neighbours,

Do we properly consider this?

 

Last but the opposite of least

Guernsey, Jersey, The Ise of Man –

How do each fit with us with Brexit?

Beyond issues of customs and taxes

Are interlinked histories and narratives

And our dependence on dependencies,

 

If we are to make a truth of the promise

That we will be secure and stable,

Westminster must be far more inclusive

About who sits around negotiating tables

For any Brexit deal to be persuasive –

Or, frankly even workable,

Because there is a fact that is pervasive –

The biggest threats are global

As are families, communities, friendships,

Many opportunities and goals,

A poor deal will tear us all to bits

As we see local groups and businesses

More consumed by trans-national corporations

Whose size and power are bigger than nations,

So, outside nostalgic heptarchic fantasies

People need states to work in collaboration

To find balance sovereignty and union

Because raising the drawbridge is no solution,

 

As I write this, I hope Brexit won’t happen –

I identify as ardently British-European

And do not think we’ve found a deal

That anyone could call a solid foundation,

But whatever is to come we have to get real –

Customs becoming insular will diminish Britain

And that narrowing would be beyond geographical.

 

Once there were seven kingdoms

Who, realising division made them vulnerable,

Banded together to form England,

Like Scottish Clans, the benefits considerable,

Now we risk all unions,

Yet, if we understand each relationship has value

Then horizons can expand

While our societies become more sustainable

And personal and communal sovereignty

Becomes a wee bit more attainable.

 

Antonia Sara Zenkevitch

Culture · General

Wishing you peace, wellbeing & security

With all that is happening in the world, including but not only Britain, I wish anyone reading this (regardless of faith) peace, wellbeing, and security now and into 2019. There are many troubles; from volcanos and tsunamis to the ques at Foodbanks, from conflicts and shootings in Strasburg to rising cold and homelessness, we have challenges to face. Many of my poems speak of the harsher realities but there is almost always hope hidden in the seams and margins. When and if it feels too much I look for the helpers, for they are always out there. They are the ones giving out hot drinks, food, blankets or even a kind word or smile. They are everywhere, and if you can’t find one look in the mirror. If you’re reading this I may well not know you, but I wish you well because many strangers are friends we have not met. If you need some light then I offer an earlier post I wrote, Inspirational Songs .

Democracy · Festive Protest Songs · General

My Least Favourite Things

(Here’s one I wrote a few years ago, to the tune of The Sound of Music – My Favourite Things)

 

Homelessness rising and people frost-bitten,

Unnourished bellies, cold hands without mittens

Transnational big businesses pulling our strings,

These are a few of my least favourite things,

 

Terrorists funded by Oil and Arms Dealers,

Refugees blamed by Daesh and all our leaders,

Bombers that fly with mass death on their wings

These are a few of my least favourite things,

 

Violence increasing as prejudice slashes,

Divide to rule rhetoric gluing eyelashes

Icy white winters mixed up with our springs

These are a few of my least favourite things,

 

Chorus:

When the cuts bite, when the lies sting,

When we’re feeling sad

We unite against our least favourite things

And then we won’t feel so bad,

 

Misinformation as our climate is cracking,

Secretive deals to enforce lethal fracking,

Opportunities passing as poverty clings,

These are a few of my least favourite things,

 

Racism, ableism, gender exclusion,

Media Moguls spreading confusion,

Insipid homogeny dominating

These are a few of my least favourite things,

 

Public services given to corporatisation

Making us wonder who governs our nations,

Vulnerable patients charged for their slings

These are a few of my least favourite things,

 

Chorus:

 

When the cuts bite, when the lies sting,

When we’re feeling sad

We unite against our least favourite things

And then we won’t feel so bad.

 

 

Antonia Sara Zenkevitch

48% · Democracy · General · Remain

Sovereign State of Stupidity

 

First you notice the bare shop shelves,

And thank the lord you stocked up on tins,

You nip in to your nan’s, who doesn’t look well

To make sure she’s got enough in,

Her homecare was cut, so she fell,

16hrs waiting for her to be seen,

 

The news says the country is going to hell,

But who’s still got time for such things

When your travelling daughter calls you to yell

That they’ve cancelled all fights home from Turin,

 

When you went for a meal on a Saturday night,

The pizza place was closed, a curry palace alight,

You hope those who were inside are alright,

There seems to be even more crime on the streets

And you miss the old, old days of bobbies on the beat,

 

The family complain there’s so little to eat,

There’s no fish in the chippy, the docks lie empty

While ministers mangle deals for our fisheries,

Embargoes on veggie meals and most gluten free –

On anything from Sweden to Malta, Denmark to Cyprus,

There’s no Belgium waffles, no sugar for tea,

Who knew they packaged it in Hungary?

 

The neighbours’ children asked why Santa hadn’t been,

His mum said he was stopped at the border and couldn’t get in,

 

Amidst the rising theft and violence

If leaver’s turn to me and shout

How none of this makes sense

I’ll tell them, they let the monsters out,

 

The racists and extremists lurking in the darkness

Given an excuse for their worst excesses,

And it will seem like too many couldn’t care less

As we deal with vicious cuts to basic services;

Services like education, care, police, the NHS,

Charities, social work and security forces,

While small businesses fail because no one invests,

Farmers nosedive as they lose EU subsidies

Ailes empty in local grocers and supermarkets,

Welcome to the Sovereign State of Stupidity,

 

The Ports near closed, food nor people make it through,

When we limit free movement, we limit ours too,

Make ghost towns of Gatwick, Luton, Heathrow,

Stopping freights and ferries from Grimsby to Glasgow,

Perhaps the one temporary winner is the Ozone

 

But too many are hungry, jobless

With dwindling hope and no home,

Too many drained and feeling useless,

No one lives in the house next door;

The bitter irony is priceless,

Without immigrants we are too poor

To handle the housing crisis,

We don’t have their taxes anymore

And homelessness persists,

As wages freeze and prices soar,

Corporations still getting rich,

Less staff on the tills, fat cats on the board,

While young and old crouch by the doors

Of houses and flats so few can afford,

 

Medicine stockpiled, or not getting through,

Prescriptions unavailable, costs sky high,

Surgeries cancelled again as they lengthen the que,

The terrible truth; avoidable pain while the saveable die

And this won’t be eased by anti-migrant curses

When we’ve sent away half the doctors and nurses

Because some of them ‘weren’t from round here’

Or due to funding cuts and restricted resources

While the national debt gets ever heavier

As we pay for twenty-seven national divorces,

 

But gone too are those politicians’ excuses,

Having stocked fires of xenophobic fear,

Those they made stooges for the bruises

Fought back, moved on or disappeared

And most of us miss them and want them here,

 

Don’t blame Europeans or the world, or raise your fists,

Or say it’s all down to EU politics, or just the way it is,

Don’t look to the financiers – they warned us of this,

There were warning signs half the nation chose to miss,

 

So many feel betrayed, denied,

From Belfast, Edinburgh, Gibraltar

We watch as the United Kingdom divides

And pray to God by every name there won’t be war,

Due to fragile peace accords we all but undid

And the callousness we cannot alter

Towards international people who work, live

Study, give and made this nation prosper

Who we treated with distrust, deceit, conceit,

To be really frank, we should’ve known better,

In 1945 we celebrated a fascist defeat –

 

Tantrums saying we expected more

Or this wasn’t what leavers voted for

Won’t help us dig out of the embers,

The EU can’t be wholly criticised

For favouring its members,

I think many member nations tried

To compromise when Brexiters

Just wanted the UK to sever,

But we were stronger together,

 

We are now a third party

Made to follow others’ rules,

 

Desperate people conjure enemies;

All the usual suspects accused,

Amid rising hate crimes and bigotry

As we see a breakdown in society’s rules,

Muslim women harassed in the street

And black children openly bullied in school,

Old prejudices becoming less and less discrete

Of course, some twits will blame Jews

Imagining a grand conspiracy

Though there are no facts to back up their views

And things are made worse by such idiocy,

 

The protections for people with disabilities,

The care for the immobile, ill or elderly,

The ongoing research into curing diseases,

All of it slows down, some of it freezes,

 

Fuel prices higher as they sponsor fracking,

Energy crisis, environmental backtracking,

Wildlife and eco charities losing their backing

We can’t quite believe it, but it’s happening,

We seem to be self-governing our nation collapsing,

As the globe faces the task of a massive remapping,

 

All hale the farce made of democracy,

We are autonomous citizens of hypocrisy.

 

Antonia Sara Zenkevitch

 

(A poem about a worst-case scenario Brexit Britain. I do have more cheery poems too, like ‘Fa La La; a protest song to the tune of Deck the Halls )

Democracy · General · Remain

Contempt

May this contempt;

This contempt of parliament

And more, this contempt

Of democratic procedure,

This contempt of our country,

A United Kingdom; a continent,

Of all here now and here before;

This contempt of everything built

To encourage, protect and ensure

A relative peace taken for granted

We mostly enjoy with neighbours

On nearby shores;

This contempt of the health service

Founded after and because

Of the aftermath of two world wars,

This contempt of millions of workers

Who strive all hours but can’t afford homes;

Struggling parents, low-income earners

Sold lies or made into scapegoats,

Contempt of employees and entrepreneurs,

Including those

Who pay tax but cannot vote;

Those hated, spited as foreigners

And usurpers, even though

Money is not stolen by migrants,

It is the powerful few

Who guard the greatest percent

Of almost every nation’s revenue

And it’s clear most of them

Have not got the smallest clue

Or else were never taught

What duty or honour meant,

Those who place risk over value,

Those who do not know

That integrity, as well as a virtue,

Is now an economic and social essential,

 

Yes, it is contempt of this; contempt,

Forgetting foodbank ques,

Front bench MPs attempt

To push and bully through

A defective Brexit agreement

Whilst concealing the torch of truth

That our Attorney General lent;

 

It is this contempt of parliament;

And thus, contempt of the people

By leading officials in our government

Who would, it seems, mislead us all

In not providing the full legal document

Detailing all actual and potential pitfalls,

It’s disrespect, historic and inexcusable,

 

It is such contempt

That sets a mine beneath Big Ben,

Such deceptions are time ill spent

In arrogance, in acts

Against its citizens

By withholding facts

From those elected to represent,

 

Eight hundred years ago

They drew up a democratic template,

Adding layers along the road;

The foundation of a constitution

But one without a code,

One we have erected our rights upon,

One we’ve seen expand, sow, steal, erode,

Across times, under a mass of hands,

Now, time ticks like a bomb about to explode,

Shattering the security of millions,

 

During the aeon in which the clock tower stands

Have we ever known contempt like this?

MPs from six parties have raised the alarm

Because this goes beyond party politics,

Beyond any rebellion chief-whips could calm,

MPs being strong-armed with a fait accompli,

Denied the agreed legal information,

This contempt, this duplicity, this deceit

Would make not only any EU negotiation

A total mockery, it achieves the feet

Of ridiculing democratic and diplomatic relations,

 

Three times in an hour the proposed deal met defeat,

And so, amidst the conceit, disorder and disrespect

A seed on the winds of consternation;

A rebellion against the corruption of condescension

As the threads of democracy held on

Despite the government taking contempt

To an unprecedented dimension

In the debates of what makes Britain,

 

And Big Ben beats on,

And one day this too will be written;

The racism of some won’t be hidden;

The blinkeredness, short-termism,

Fear, isolationism that makes us alien

To each other and ourselves,

The panic buys, the empty shelves

Will fill tomorrow’s archives,

 

But the story is not yet finished

Our nation’s future can survive

As long as influencers don’t forget

The final draft is not complete,

What will historians ascertain

About this world-shifting week?

 

If we do not bow to contempt

That confuses authoritarian

With authoritative –

If principles don’t break under the strain

Of the rigid and didactic,

 

Almost half we voters voted to remain

And the sane who didn’t

Still did not vote for this.

 

Antonia Sara Zenkevitch

 

48% · Democracy · General · Remain

The Poisoned Cup

Passing the poisoned cup

One prime minister resigned,

Another crowned by tearing up

The security of Northern Ireland,

When Tory seats were not enough

To form a near-valid government,

 

The purulent chalice passes

Hand to hand, mouth to mouth,

As we hear gunfire in Alsace;

Blood on the streets of Strasburg

Where sits the EU parliament,

 

December, in Westminster Palace

The cabinet creates an adjournment

As their Brexit deal is met with malice,

Thus, the cup holder made the judgment

To postpone the parliamentary ballot

Until all debate becomes redundant,

In the hope MPs do what they are told

When later, a decision is even more urgent,

As if it was this or watch the world implode,

They say this really is the best Brexit,

Brim full of bitterness that corrodes

It’s Brexit itself a ‘no’ vote may prevent,

The grim fairy-tale half the UK was sold

Cannot manifest; it has no substance,

You can’t cross a rainbow for a pot of gold,

 

So, the PM makes deferments to quell insurgence

And, far more worryingly, to defeat debate,

Employing the terror and the turbulence

So, she can later say it is too late

To heed the union’s fate

Or the Good Friday Peace Agreement,

Using the fear of further delays

To rally support for this form

Of European abandonment,

That the continent views as

Foolish arrogance and scorn;

A circus of self-indulgence

As hardliner Brexiteers suffer from

Cognitive dissonance

At the death of their candyfloss unicorn,

 

Millions watch as Andy Serkis

Does his impression of Gollum

As May guarding her “precious”;

A dark pact become obsession

As ordinary people pay the cost,

She is not a lone politician –

But she is the cabinet’s boss,

 

This is perilous,

We would have been better off

If we had never taken this road,

Flattening the atlas,

Turning princes into desiccated toads,

Pulling down the Corona Borealis

To claim the constellations as our own,

 

Here in London,

A noose is carried at the crossroads,

What has our referendum imparted?

 

Parliament was not yet open

Before negotiations started,

Then, in the Commons, the withholding

Of vital legal documents;

Then, despite our constitution’s lack of coding,

The government found in contempt

Of its house in the attempt

To push through the deal

The vast majority resent,

Triggering calls

For a vote of no confidence

Which saves the premier from herself,

Giving a mass to her insistence,

While shedding doubt upon the doubts

About her proposed agreement,

They do not vote her out,

If they had, what then?

 

The limits of the entire cabinet

Fall on the shoulders of one woman

Who took up the festering goblet,

If the task passed to the fluff-headed man

To carry out his harsher-edged Brexit plan,

What then?

The Tory’s, faced with that deterrent,

Given assurance of May’s pre-term abdication,

Left her in power, merely weakened,

In committee room fourteen

They cheered the outcome,

But the PMs support remains slim,

 

This is not on the head of one human

But there will be an awesome reckoning

For all when all the posturing is done,

 

Will there be another election?

Or a second referendum

To hear the people speaking?

 

For Remainers, these were among

The many reasons for not leaving,

Forewarned and foreseen outcomes,

Beyond all the proposed tweaking

In every EU meeting,

For we are no longer the pater of imperialism

And this won’t alter by self-deceiving,

We cannot be lead by wistfulness, surrealism,

Or chest-thumping bleating,

 

This failure was set by the result of the referendum,

The dice thrown in June 2016,

The choice made was ever a loaded gun,

 

One thing is clear,

The 48% are no longer sovereign,

We are lost in this decision;

The representatives I see

No longer represent me,

 

As a lifelong British citizen

I grieve for my ailing country,

This broken union for our children,

The open gates of poverty

Bigotry and community division,

Bringing betrayal of heritage, ancestry

And lives yet to come,

 

If the Brexit of a small section

Of the half that won a victory

By two percent,

Continues, facilitated by

An administration with a weak mandate

And a disordered opposition,

Then any reclaimed sovereignty is fake;

A toxic proposition

Whose cuts will cut more deeply,

 

Future generations

Will blame all British, communally,

And we won’t be able to save them

From the poisoned cup we gave them.

 

Antonia Sara Zenkevitch

 

Democracy · General

Goatskin

 

Writ on goatskin?

A tissue of lies,

Deals unknit

Before ink dries,

The absent crown

Still not her coronet

During lawless days

We won’t forget,

No kind heart sweats,

Sweats as vile pacts made,

No sweets at the palisade

Drafts delayed, rejected,

Remade, re-inspected,

Hush, do not speak it;

That untaken truth;

We do not have a government,

Wet ink gives no proof.

 

Now without opening

She spins, spins into

A longer stride,

Poison chalice at her side,

To bypass the beginning,

Towers falling, burning

The sepulcher is rolling,

We have a speaker

Yet no plans for them to speak

But broken lines intoning,

Hush, do not say it;

The lie “Secure and stable”,

We do not have a government

Just unsigned deals upon the table,

Unspoken, mandate unratified,

Parliamentary debate denied

Until the ink inscribed is dry

So we may examine the hide.

 

Antonia Sara Zenkevitch

 

This was written after the last election, which was a farce. It centers around an arcane piece of British law that involves writing on goatskin. Before this had been done and before the Queen had opened parliament, therefore allowing MPs to debate, deals were apparently already being made to further the Brexit mission. During that period it can be argued we effectively had no legally recognised government and definitely not one in which all our elected representatives had a voice. Disturbingly, a deal made between the Conservative Party and Northern Ireland’s DUP in order to get enough seats to legally form a government threatens the Good Friday Agreement and peace in Northern Ireland.

Broken Union

48% · Culture · Democracy · Festive Protest Songs · General · Remain

Fa La La; a protest to ‘Deck the Halls’

PM singing Yuletide carols,
Fa la la, la la la, la la la,
While the UK is in peril,
Fa la la, la la la, la la la,
MPs don their best apparel
Fa la la, la la la, la la la,
Postponing this vote is immoral,
Fa la la la la, la la la la,

See the blazing deal before us,
Fa la la, la la la, la la la,
Nothing in it will assure us,
Fa la la, la la la, la la la,
Not much time now, can you measure
Fa la la, la la la, la la la,
How all this stalling cranks up pressure?
Fa la la la la, la la la la,

Fast away now, each chance passes
Fa la la, la la la, la la la,
Hail Brexiteers that act like asses,
Fa la la, la la la, la la la,
Hear the far-right loonies gather,
Fa la la, la la la, la la la,
Xenophobic, racist chatter,
Fa la la la la, la la la la

Yet, gather now all ye Remainers,
Fa la la, la la la, la la la,
Our sense of union may sustain us,
Fa la la, la la la, la la la,
Stand for your values, stand by neighbours,
Fa la la, la la la, la la la,
Don’t let the lies and hatred blind us,
Fa la la la la, la la la la,

A people’s vote would re-engage us,
Fa la la, la la la, la la la,
Or vote the deal down, burn the pages,
Fa la la, la la la, la la la,
If it’s the best deal, Brexit’s failed us,
Fa la la, la la la, la la la,
There is too much that it endangers,
Fa la la la la, la la la la,

We will protect what we most treasure,
Fa la la, la la la, la la la,
Whatever happens stick together,
Fa la la, la la la, la la la,
And keep warm in the frosty weather,
Fa la la, la la la, la la la,
Yes, keep warm in the frosty weather,
Fa la la la la, la la la la,
Fa la la la la, la la la la!


by Antonia Sara Zenkevitch

(Song to the tune of ‘Deck the Halls’)