Democracy · General

Talking Theresa May, a feminist’s inner debate

I have written a number of poems about Theresa May and her policies over the years. This included when I was a women’s worker heavily involved in grassroots and party politics myself and she was Home Secretary. I have grappled with myself many times over my feelings towards her. I analyze and judge myself because she is a visible representation of women in power, still such a rarity in the UK. Two British Prime Ministers have been assigned the same sex at birth as I have, and I’ve not been a fan of either. But, do I, as a longterm equalist and feminist pull her down? My answer, as someone who has been involved in politics and been a women’s worker, is complex.

I have done and will criticize her policies and question her moral compass, often passionately. I have queried her actions and even at times her basic ethics. I get angry when her womanhood is attacked but I wonder if I do it too. I’ve been involved in helping make harassment of women recognized as a hate crime in my county but I wonder where the line is when criticizing someone whose ethos as well as their actions often seem abhorrent to me.  Is it different because I am a woman and a feminist? Is it unbiased because my poems question the acts, ethics, and judgments of other politicians across genders, including the leader of the opposition? Or, does the volume and nature of my criticism veil a different or concurrent story? In all the poems I have written there is one controversial line from 2014 I still now wrestle with, but I will come to that.

Poems like Shoes? and The Poisoned Cup and A gender very clearly and firmly explore my anger at criticisms of her as a woman rather than a politician, whilst still raging against her policies and political acts. Too many talk about female politicians’ appearance, which is irrelevant to their politics. This is a kind of bating and belittling no heterosexual man in politics has to contend with. It morphs into analogies of sticking high heels in and other suggestions that certain behaviour is ‘unwomanly’, whatever that is, or because we have no children, or because we do. I’ve lived this toxic bias myself. Told as the only woman on a panel that I was talking too much, asked if I have children or what my husband thinks. Told I should not be standing because I have a man in my life. I was stalked and verbally abused. All this rubbish no politician from any party should have to contend with but they do, and they have to deal with far worse too. A diabetic heavily pregnant woman having to postpone a cesarian to vote in one of the most important parliament ballots in a century. Another pregnant woman receiving death threats for being Jewish. A serving MP stabbed to death. Straight white abled males that make up most of our parliament don’t experience this type of abuse.

I left my own political party citing discrimination, having been involved to some extent at local, regional and national level voluntarily in the years I was a member. No, I didn’t receive death threats or anything so horrific, but I left shaken, unwell and soul-weary, treated as a pariah despite having got some of the party’s best results in the 2015 elections. I was not alone in leaving. The party concerned is not remotely unique in this, but I had ploughed in everything I had and expected fairness for myself and others. All parties have discrimination in their ranks, politics and human society generally is full of it, but it’s what they do about it that counts. I’m not convinced either of the main political parties or many if not all of the smaller ones have yet developed enough self-awareness to tackle the different forms of racism, ableism and, for the main part gender bias within their membership and leaders. Do I have the self-awareness to recognize bias in myself? Perhaps. Hopefully.

I have written a lot of poems about Theresa May; more than any other single politician except perhaps Tony Blair many years ago. I’ve asked myself why and I do sense a bias in me; I think I expect higher morals from her because we have so few visible female leaders and those who would chain us in homogenous misogyny blame her womanhood and so in a way all women for her failures. In this, I have internalized the sexism and must be careful of that.  Will it stop me being angry and speaking out against burning injustices. No. Very, very no.

Dear Ministers, Lies in Old Westminster, What the Dickens? and The Big Riot (a political satire) are all pretty scathing about a number of politicians from across the house. There are many others. Yet I am often provoked by my emotions to writing about Theresa May. A large part of this is because she is Prime Minister during a time of steeply rising inequity, homelessness, hunger, and insecurity where acts of terror and racist policies hold hands. She is the Brexit PM and I have strong feelings about Brexit and the lies that warped the referendum and what came after. In The Poisoned Cup  I talk about her inheriting an unanswerable problem, but I think she helped create that problem too, long before the rise of calls for Brexit.

I’ve become aware that for me it is personal.  When I was an interfaith women’s worker active in politics in squeezed spare time, I saw for myself some of the affects of her Home Office policies. Just one example of this was a wonderful Malawian nurse who had been in this country and active in her community for 14 years snatched off the streets and taken to Yarlswood, where all the guards are white and all those detained are black or minority ethnicity. It was an oppressive place to even visit and they took visitors fingerprints. She was not given vital medicine and was in hospital when we finally managed to get her out. Getting her legal help – even getting clean underwear to her, felt like a battle. This is one of many stories I know, including of a woman, who when 14, having lived in this country since infancy, had to fight to stay. I was and am angry at this.

I feel this, together with David Cameron’s capitulation to other pressures, put in place the foundations for many present ills. The farcical process of Brexit spurred on by, amongst other things, spreading lies about immigration as a smokescreen for the real reasons too many are struggling. The racist policy of exiling citizens of the Windrush generations. The attacks on the wellbeing and security of those whose ill health or disability prevents them from being able to work. The undermining of women’s rights through the disproportionate effects of austerity. The failure to act as pledged in their 2017 election manifesto to handle the burning injustices of our time, including those linked to seriously tackling domestic violence and the exploitation of tenants and workers.

My experiences as a witness in 2014 of Theresa May as Home Secretary has placed her as one of the main authors of our current climate of insecurity. Furthermore, watching her undemocratically limiting parliamentary debating the shape of Brexit for nearly three years while the flames of burning injustices rise across the nation has not gentled my ire. Brexit, to my mind, was always going to be a vicious beast, but her actions are among those that have potentially sharpened its teeth – if it happens. May’s bad deal, created after years of negotiations with the EU but near none with Westminster until the eleventh hour, has put us at greater risk of a disastrous no deal Brexit.

My thoughts on her approach to governance can be found in poems such as Democracy, GoatskinAlternative ArrangementsContempt and in the 2014-2015 poems Dear Theresa and Securing A Bitter Future. Of all of them, it is only the last and Madame Dictator in which I question whether I have projected internalized misogynistic undertones. In my heart of hearts, I am ultimately unhappy with only one line in which I suggest she should be hushed up. It is in the context of her pushing a piece of legislation in 2014 that effectively hushed up everyone who had widely different opinions to her own. Legislation that potentially left millions voiceless, including myself and the women in the organizations I was working with.  The idea of hushing an outspoken woman up is deeply problematic. Mary Beard, in ‘Women and Power’ draws our attention to the fact that silencing of women in public life has been normalized in art and politics from the times the Classics were written. In this, I am a bad feminist.

Yet, where does my moral compass point when I am talking about someone who was with the non-violent extremism act hushing up others? It is a difficult one. Writing it I was thinking only of her as a politician not as a woman. Yet we live in a gendered society where that will be misused and / or misinterpreted by others. In that particular phrase and that particular poem I used gender-neutral phrasing to help distant it from gender rhetoric but I’m not sure, when the person is such a prominent figure, that this unpicks millennia of ‘hush hate’.

Never-the-less, I counter myself in this internal debate, the mirrored context of the others she was hushing up raged in my mind, with the knowledge I was not about to expect less from her as a politician or not say things, just because of her – and my assigned gender. I think it is telling that I would not choose to reuse the phrase, ever.

I feel Theresa May does actually believe she is doing the best for Britain. I feel more strongly than I have felt most things in my entire life that she is very dangerously wrong and misguided by prejudice, her own or other people’s . I do not believe this is because she was assigned female sex at birth, or because of her clothing choice as a woman. Most certainly May will have had a much tougher journey getting where she is now than her male colleagues and contemporaries. I do recognise that this places pressure on a person but it is no excuse for policies and processes that alienate, disenfranchise and impoverish millions while curbing parliamentary debate until there is no other option.  I will not let any person or administration singe democracy for fear of being impartial but I must choose the words I use wisely. Perhaps at times, I think unfairly she should be more astute because so few women have gained her level of influence as well as because the stakes are so high in the present political, social and environmental climate.

My fear and experience of being arbitrarily judged as a woman against a person I feel little affinity with does tint my own assessment of their actions. One woman’s social crimes become, in the eyes of many, the crimes of all women, and so we are taught to judge fellow females more harshly than males.  Yes, I’ve written critically about male MPs, No Discrimination, Making Progress? and Johnson & Drones being prime examples. However, I think I’ve ingested some of the shame poured on myself and others assigned the same sex at birth, regardless of how they identify. It is the mechanisms of misogyny, not Theresa May I should be furious at for that. Even when I take this into account, there is plenty to be angry at Theresa May about, but I should be equally angry at others. I am.

Now, to turn that anger into fuel for justice and the only way I can do that is to link it back to the love I have for those people, including myself, that I feel have been put at risk.  I must choose my words with both care and fire.

Democracy · General

Madame Dictator

 

Madame Dictator, have you not heard

Your deal was voted down historically

And yet you resurrect the interred

Proposal repeatedly, delay after delay

Burning our security & democracy away,

 

Your office not conferred

By any political majority,

You do not listen to a word

From any, except, perhaps, the ERG

Who need an ECG

To find out if they have a heart

Because they seem intent

Only on ripping us apart,

 

But you, Madame Dictator,

Like a modern Bonaparte

Say you hear

But you do not!

Stirring up terror

By running down the clock,

 

Perhaps it’s said best by Andy Serkis;

Your attitude to this rambling failure

Akin to Gollum’s with his ‘precious’;

A gold that deserved the fires of Mordor

But instead you throw our futures in

To that furnace, knowing it will make this nation so much poorer

As the homeless line the streets and food bank ques get longer,

And the extremists get stronger

And injustices reign – those you said you’d bring to order

Yet you disengage to build walls of fire at our borders

And, as for climate change …

 

You focus only on Brexit

But do so without debate

Hushing up all the elected

Tying nation states up in red tape

 

More than

Two years!

Two years

And more!

 

In a cabal of your own

Prescribed parameters,

Your negotiations

In closed door deliberations

And perambulations

As you ignite more tensions

With another deadline gone,

I have literally lost count!

Every time you tell the Commons

There will be later debate

Then roll the calendar on;

The dates for meaningful votes

Eternally postponed,

Except that historic one

Where the deal was trodden on,

The same deal you resuscitate,

 

 

All the while that lie ‘secure and stable’

When there’s nothing on the table

And security service cutbacks

Coincide with terror attacks

And there is legislation against

Generations told to go back

To the commonwealth after decades of life and work in the UK,

So, just because they are black

You citizens to go away,

And now, will more Europeans face the same?

 

I visited Yalswood, while you were Home Secretary,

Children and women fearing their fate,

Caucasian guards, all black and ethnic minority

Detainees – I thought, mine is a racist state,

My friend was denied vital medicine

They took my prints before I could go in

The package of essentials I left

Was only passed on after five days,

She had to fight for legal representation,

Hers not an uncommon story,

I’ve known others, one girl just fourteen,

Britishness part of her identity –

Her humanity you refused to see,

 

How dare you, in self-righteous glory

Proclaim you understand democracy

If you can’t see their lives matter!

 

 

Now,

Your promises in tatters;

When you said you’d listen,

See how skilfully you didn’t,

Your cabinet found in contempt

Of our disjointed constitution,

 

This is wrong! The is so very wrong!

This is becoming authoritarian

And very, very, very dark!

 

You have polluted

“Safe and Secure”

“Meaningful”

“Democracy”

“Listening”

“Vote” –

 

All convoluted

By you

Until the words stick in my throat –

 

And you call this your mission;

To re- enforce your indecent proposition

After the worst historical democratic defeat in the entire history of any Westminster government!

All you are reinforcing are the fault lines of division,

 

And, for the record, I’m not impressed by Corbyn

So, please don’t read this as propaganda

For a weakly lead, anti-Semitic opposition,

Though I will state I’m firmly left of centre

This is less about sides and more concerned

With the slide towards totalitarianism,

 

Only idiots will say it is because you’re a woman,

Though they do, pouring on scorn

For all the agelessly wrong reasons,

As they try to make you dance,

Or comment on your complexion,

In this alone I come to your defence

Yet my complaints could fill a lexicon

From your term feeding hate in the Home Office

Displaying a personal distaste towards migration

To this cutting off of deliberation in Parliament,

It’s not gender defining each subverted action

So, I will not hold back because I’m a feminist;

 

I will call you Madame Dictator,

A title not up for discussion

Unless you decide to govern better

And return the dignities you’ve taken.

 

Antonia Sara Zenkevitch

 

Democracy · General

Unlock

Unlock

This deadlock

Of flailing democracy

Before we’re locked inside

A falling fortress time forgot

Half our number failing to perceive

We are becoming what we are not

A thing our future won’t believe

Warped by horrors of austerity

Fragmented by painful pride

Becoming dark histories

The public outcries

No alibis

For lies

Unmet

Needs

Breed

Crimes

Lines

                           At foodbanks to feed

Lives

                         Identities redefined

     Maligned

                                This is oppression’s seed

                               Partition and hypocrisy

                              Please heed and unlock

Antonia Sara Zenkevitch

Culture · Democracy · General

Without Representation

Tax without representation equals tyranny;

This was a grievance in the seventeen-sixties

Across thirteen American Colonies

Whose governance came from across seas,

Remote, unresponsive to necessities

They could not heed, and so cried liberty,

For to pay yet be muzzled is to suffer cruelty,

 

This became a seed of the revolution;

For tax must be money taken from citizens

For the betterment of community and nation

Not a cyphering or selective elevation

Of one group requiring others’ humiliation,

 

To take taxes from persons with zero say

In how their money’s used is autocracy;

An absolutism keeping justice at bay

Until people cried, “We won’t pay

To have our voice or home taken away,

We won’t subsidise being silenced.”

 

Later, in another century, women cried this too;

Or at least the wealthy, unmarried or widowed

Women with means, numbering only a few,

Less than four decades since wedded women knew

The right to own any property or money; to accrue

Or keep inheritance or wages, never mind a view,

 

But although they had no say in how it was spent

They were legally bound to pay tax to a Parliament,

That might as well have been on another continent

For how much it heard, saw or represented them

Or any women, for it was a male ego Bastian

That sought to retain unilateral male dominance,

Where men owned wives’ bodies, owned children,

Where women’s sole fortune was a kind man,

Where the death of a cruel one was petty treason,

Where women were thought to have no sense or reason,

 

Those times are (mostly) gone,

In many but not all ways

We have moved on,

In others the patterns replay

On and on and on,

 

And yet always there is disenfranchisement;

Subjugation, marginalisation recurrent

For those who cannot vote for their government

But must pay taxes, amongst these are migrants

Who work and pay their way yet are censured

And scapegoated, all successes thrice earned

In economic downturn, less guarded by laws,

 

My thinking friends, take into consideration

Those with no vote still subject to taxation;

For those with no parliamentary representation

Are those who suffer the worst discrimination;

 

For policies are built for those who may elect

And those most represented get most respect,

 

So, when the powerful blame migrants again

Know it’s because politicians can cast blame

And shame on those with other national origins

Because at election time MPs only have to win

The approval of born or chosen British citizens,

 

It is the same with young people

Who may have sex, go into battle,

Be taxed, labour, work and toil

Years before their opinion counts at all

To those who’d label them criminal,

 

Tax but no vote from age sixteen

Then under-represented and side-lined

By those who chose to demean,

 

If you are white, male, heterosexual,

Born here, still fully abled,

Born well off, aligned to the sex assigned

At birth and forty or more

Then you are the ones they write policies for,

 

And, although this status quo is challenged

The more we are of this, the more we are privileged,

The more our likeness is, in Westminster, reflected,

The more our needs and interests are respected

And the more our right to thrive is protected,

 

But those who cannot elect or be elected

Still pay into the pot,

But when the going gets tough they’re neglected,

Their contribution denied, rights overlooked,

 

I look at anti-migrant rhetoric

Recalling slogans of regulators and suffragists,

All people just trying to live

Without being banished, alienated

Or slated for taking when they give,

The lies about them are practiced,

Expected, accepted, authoritative,

 

To those who believe them I ask them to think

About present and historic links

Between those who aren’t permitted a vote

And those in society who are scorned the most,

 

Because it is not democracy,

At times it smacks of tyranny,

It opens the gate to mockery,

Hate crimes, partiality, bigotry

 

And is a smoke screen shielding plutocracy;

A version of this played out in ancient Greece,

And to those who say it’s always been like this

I’d say we create more damage when we believe

Authorities when they accuse voteless minorities

And under-represented communities,

It is divide and rule policy based on demography,

Truth is more complex and harder to retrieve

When a nation enables its leaders to deceive

Then buys the bullshit on Brexit and votes ‘leave’.

Democracy · Festive Protest Songs · General · Remain

Better Watch Out

This one is written in the horror of knowing a homeless person was set on fire in their sleeping bag in our city. It is part of a wave of rising abuse. I wrote the song to the tune of ‘Santa Clause is Coming to Town’ – I’ve always found the original words a bit sinister. I’m aware the verse would scan better if I’d written ‘The Alt Right’ instead of Far-Righters but I don’t see them as ‘alternative’.  This poem comes with strong trigger warnings.

 

You better watch out, you better not cry
Don’t sit this one out, I’m telling you why, cause
Far-righters are coming to town
They bankrolled Brexit, spreading its worst lies
They’ve got no reason or alibis, cause
Far-righters are coming to town

They burn homeless men while sleeping
Then record it all on tape
They’re terrorising neighbourhoods
With their mates the KKK!

 

[Chorus]
You better watch out, you better not cry
Don’t sit this one out, I’m telling you why, cause
Far-righters are coming to town.


We’re gonna resist with all of our might
Cause we still believe in the worth of each life,

But far-righters are coming to town.

 

Antonia Sara Zenkevitch

48% · Culture · Democracy · General · Remain

Windrush

This one’s for citizens who came on ‘Windrush’;

The generations that generated renewal

During and after the war, first dying in service,

Then more came to help rebuild, refuel,

Re-spark, here at the birth of the NHS,

Facing xenophobes, teddy boys, racists,

 

Yet ‘they’ are not ‘them’ but part of us,

Bought from across the Commonwealth,

And now, how can we expect their exodus?

It seems like ethnic cleansing by stealth,

Where history is bleached out; whitewashed

Until a nation perverts and destroys itself,

 

Every single Britain is a child of multiple migrations;

Our ancestors came in need, greed, fight or trade

Through millennia of voluntary or enforced relocations;

By discovery, captivity, by each road built, each stone laid,

Windrushers are the same, they came by invitation

Not by blade, treated as if the latest to invade,

Despite being part of our heartbeat, post devastation

In a shell-shocked, rationed kingdom, so we began again,

 

How soon civil rights, so hard won, seem stolen away;

As memories fade, bigotry plays on a loop, ingrained

But not innate, division is not fate but a kind of decay;

A deep rot that sets in when instability reigns,

We less aware of our internal struggles than the USA,

Of the grit it must have taken for Windrushers to stay,

Make this the land of their children’s, children’s, children,

When racism was not recognised as the crime it is today

And race riots began in Birmingham, Kensington, Brixton,

 

Many black citizens couldn’t vote or have their say

Until the British Nationality Act of 1981,

Yet black and ethnic minorities continued on, unfazed,

Discrimination was further written into institutions

Over decades bias lost battles, but was never erased,

Prejudice a virus, sometimes contained, rarely gone,

Now, in a separatist world, white-supremacist crusades

Are launched by government; an act of extremism,

A fictional homegrown enemy, House of Commons made;

Ministers like missiles misfiring, misdirected missions

Against longstanding citizens, a bill that spits on graves

Of war heroes, workers, scholars, in bloody amputations

Treating pioneers and entrepreneurs like discarded slaves,

 

These inhabitants who have enriched all known occupations,

These families, this part of our communally nourished culture;

Part of the whole, of ourselves, amid dire Brexit negotiations

These tax-payers now among those described as ‘the other’,

Look Britain, see how many are subject to alienation

Let’s ask ourselves this, do we want a fascist future;

A future of white-centric, little Island isolation?

Commonwealth nations once gathered to deter

A powerful regime of murderous oppression,

Beside world-wide allies, enduring together,

 

Then, with past foes, we birthed new protections

For peace and human dignities for many, forever,

Now, while many gains are squandered by negation

We open doors wide to every antique phobia;

To radical cultural and racial discriminations,

Alongside nationalistic anti-European patter,

And blinkered, blanket anti-immigration,

Irrational rhetoric, as fat cats get fatter,

Fed by rising injustices and violations,

Hidden by resulting clamour and chatter

Racists take advantage of mass confusion,

 

We forget yet again that black lives matter,

Backing people into traps of self-justification

As they are forced once more to strive

For all covered by the human rights declaration;

Home, country, community all potentially denied,

Policies of exclusion contrive new manifestations,

As if for some it is a crime to simply be alive,

We needed Windrush to swell a ravaged population,

Against the odds, they and their descendants thrived,

Yet they’re deprived of protections of patriation

As if being punished because they survived.

 

Antonia Sara Zenkevitch

48% · Culture · General

I Love Britain

 

 

I love Britain,

I love British tradition,

The cuppa that heals everything,

From an Asian plantation,

Sweetened by sugar from African

Or South American origin,

 

I love Britain,

I love British tradition,

Curry, pizza or kebab

Welcomes our weekend in,

Making hearts glad

With beer from Belgium

Or wine from many lands

 

As we watch Strictly Come Dancing

With multi-national contestants

Pairing, befriending, competing

For the nation’s entertainment,

 

This is Britain,

This is British tradition,

Mutual international influence,

Yet idiosyncratic, different,

Built by eons of immigrants,

Like an ancient Scottish clan

With ancestry from France

Or Gaul, Scandinavia, and Ireland,

 

And yes, we must support

Local businesses when we can,

Like the British institution, Betty’s,

A Yorkshire tea room

Started by a man from Switzerland,

 

Yes, we need good local economies,

The world has limits to how we expand,

Supporting diverse, local communities

Doesn’t require any racist grandstand,

Just choosing small and medium enterprises,

When we can, makes a massive difference,

 

I often hear about the Battle of Britain,

One of our chronicles of World War Two,

In which our forebears defended freedom;

Fought off fascism, kept our cool,

 

Many of our pilots came from Poland,

A fact too few British people knew,

Like Gurkhas who helped guard our islands

And Caribbean kin who came to the rescue

from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago …

To protect, help feed and rebuild too,

Joining a multitude of homegrown heroes,

All of whom I feel I owe my life to,

 

I love Britain,

I love British tradition,

English, a tongue to many nations

By friendship or by trade,

Imperialism and crusade;

The world map changed by past decisions,

Bright discoveries, grim slave trade

And controversial Christian missions,

A full mix in which Britain stole and gave,

 

We bade the world come in

Because we were built by empire,

Our culture of symbiotic derivation

Forged by families who’ve walked through fire,

 

Britain, my nation, who I love and question,

For there are histories that pain me

And facts glossed over, side-lined or forgotten,

Our stories are often written to deny diversity,

The lie that we were all white ‘til recent generations

Is typical to a certain kind of British duplicity,

The best of us is not reflected by Nelson’s Column,

 

Ask who built the streets and towers of our cities

For they came from everywhere and here,

Ask who harvested this spring’s British strawberries,

The same answer booms out loud and clear,

 

I love Britain,

I love British tradition

But too often we’ve no idea

Who we are.

 

Antonia Sara Zenkevitch

48% · General · Personal · Remain

Yes, I’m British

 

 

To the fool who said I wasn’t British,

My father’s, father’s father was Cornish,

From a long line that worked the pits,

There’s a whisper of Welsh,

And a good dose of Essex –

64 sixth great- grandparents

For each human to exit –

Bring on DNA tests for xenophobes,

Extremists and racists,

 

To the fool who said I wasn’t British

Because I use the name Zenkevitch

Not Brown, Jones or Smith –

Though my ancestry has names like this

Along with Eastern European and Sephardic,

 

I am proud of my name and heritage,

I use my maiden name even after marriage

To my love of Northern parentage

Whose own ancestry goes wide and deep

Into this land and, at some point, overseas,

 

To the fool who said I wasn’t British,

Each one of us is multifaceted,

Every human has a wondrous mix

Of choice and cultural inheritance

And you and I are no different in this,

 

To the fool who said I wasn’t British –

Do you really know what British is?

A mix of Saxon, Norman, Viking, Pict

Was just the start of part of it,

 

To the fool who said I wasn’t British,

I was born it, others chose it

As they’ve done for countless centuries

In our interwoven histories,

 

To the fool who said I wasn’t British,

It is far from true, though they might wish it

For the Arian vision of their kind of Brexit,

I say to them; stop it, you’re being a twit.

 

Antonia Sara Zenkevitch

48% · Democracy · General · Remain

A Very Quiet Civil War

 

No roses, red or white
To define who’s against
And who is for,

We cross divides of left and right
In this very quiet civil war,

Half the politicians make no sense
As they fight between themselves,
Outside their halls the air is tense
As the ranks of marchers swell,

The unrest in schools, parks,
Homes and parliaments,
A truth our leaders don’t tell;
This un-United Kingdom’s rent;
Ripped in two as the vote tore
Us all into halves of a land
Each one of us adore,

This is a very quiet civil war,

Fought at dinner tables
And work corridors,
It burns us to the core,

A conflict capable
Of seeing union fall
Either side of Hadrian’s wall,
Of breaking trust between
Parts of the UK across seas,

Of breaking truce in Northern Ireland,

This is a civil conflict never before seen,
Where none is in command,
But plenty are alarmed
And those hard up are harmed,

The numbers between leave or remain
Had a four percent margin,
And there was no “I don’t know yet,
Please explain.”

And now this simmering conflict
As our economy depletes,
Homeless people line the streets
As MPs debate a Brexit,
Saying the nation agrees
But this kingdom’s on its knees

And two percent over half
Does not mandate
Tearing us apart,
As you please,
Soon it will be too late
To prevent this mockery of democracy,

Scotland, Northern Ireland, Gibraltar
Voted to stay in Europe, not leave,
This will tear apart families,
Communities, identities,
Businesses, public services
And children’s opportunities,
Endanger our rights
And imperil peace,

For a difference of two percent
Each way off half and half,
Two years of argument
About how best to ruin our countries
As we yell, march, weep and laugh,

And nooses are tied on the mast,
But this could all have been avoided
If, when such a close vote was cast,
A second vote was called,
The first one voided,
Because with such a narrow margin passed
A clear way forward is eroded,

There is blood on the street -
Though it is mostly discrete -
And anger when different
Groups of people meet,

This is a very quiet civil war
But no less destructive,
Every single part of our lives
Will be or is being disrupted,
People are struggling to survive
On both sides,
And hopes built on opportunist lies
Will be denied,

The old law; to rule, first divide
Played out in this charade,
As violent acts and hate crime rise
When ‘hard times’ is redefined,

Some will call it ‘race war’-
A term I despise,
But that’s only the aim
Of one part of one side,

And as for the Remainers, we call to unite
Beyond the lines of born here or not,
Beyond definitions of left or right,
Black, Asian, Jewish, White,
The half of the UK some MPs forgot,
It’s up to us to hold the light -
Cheesy as it sounds,

It’s a cliché for a reason,
We are the underground union
That occupy our towns.

Antonia Sara Zenkevitch