Jobcentre Blues


The nights are full of broken sky sirens– of 2,000 stabbings and sexless promises– of hot dog food-banks, and either coffee or tea or pasta or rice. Do you have a cooker or a microwave sir?  No, I sold it in that withering despair of rainy Tuesday mornings and late for job centre appointments. So tell me the future is golden, tell me my friend lives…I’m sorry I raised my voice, but how can I keep living with a smile when the town is brimming beige and stinks of takeaways, tin and ash?

I know I should apologise but where is my place? Can you tell me? Can you lead the way? And yes homogenous bald security man with your lurid Friday night tales and whispers of he got fucked up I know where the food bank is; I despise it as much as myself. But did you know that your voice has no colour? No? I can tell I’m bringing you down, I will see you in a week, but we will not greet each other as equals. I will sit and read your jobless magazines and be quiet and await my name.

But you– you with the jobless stare– we share the same hollow smile. Do you carry grief like a dead child? Good. Your silence is a confirmation. We will leave together, to seek fresh air and know the stench of broken men and dead things. But you know as well as I, it isn’t that, that breaks and so I’m continually drawn back to suicide like a child to the womb– to commit that ultimate distinction, to answer every question with an unfathomable silence. To cut the cord that made me whole. I think of it more than is acceptable– it’s the thought in the thoughts: they go as they please. But I’m a man not a seed, I’m not made of wind, of currents, of dead leaves– please I have my bones, my day saver, my Smiths’ CDs.

But what is a man I ask you, but a ghost haunting nameless streets, silent as the horizon, full of lightning and thorns? What is a man to do when the lips of oblivion are more appealing than a lover’s touch and you have only a dreg of hope and your parachute’s been nicked– and for company you have pigeons and the moon and the fast approaching earth as you fall through the atmospheres of thirsts and Friday nights with drink but no relief? 

We all know death is the end of life, but it still hurts, that no one thought it meant anything, or mustn’t have to look upon this world. There is no need for manners. Stop you clichés.We are both grief-drunk as each other and our shoulders are covered in dandruff; there is only money that separates us– and there are only shorter spaces in eternity. The world is opened up through the dirt in our fingernails, not literary dinner gatherings with ornate words and tears, but the earth of brotherhood– of dark organ symphonies that make us roll up our sleeves and dig as if we were burying our fathers as deep as our unholy worship can stretch.

I’m sick my friend, sick of a new disease– sick of fighting birds at night and knowing that my father with his preacher’s smile let them in– and that my boyhood is worth nothing more than saliva in a teenage lover’s kiss. I keep losing my father’s face in the crowd and I miss our phone calls– where he passed me onto mother as quick as possible– and the smell of potatoes in his beard and how he smashed his life out in his study after mum’s comments came as innocent as hurricanes, and he became the child he was never allowed to be.

Now in the present, with a full face of the northern wind smelling winter mornings down Warrington’s sleeves, I am as much a stranger to my suit as my wife and the apple tree my father planted when I was five was crucified by lightning and mother laughed so much she almost cried.

I leave the Jobcentre with you– a man voiceless, under the unrelenting weight of hours. We walk directionless, through these homeless streets like the collarless dogs we are, before we feel only the fabrics separating our bodies– and know the silence before god finally woke up. We know this sincerity is too much for the modern hour and when you leave all I have for contentment are words and words, good lord tell them to behave themselves and leave me the fuck alone.



David Hay is an English Teacher in the Northwest of England. He has written poetry and prose since the age of 18 when he discovered Virginia Woolf’s The Waves and the poetry of John Keats. These and other artists encouraged him to seek his own poetic voice. He has currently been accepted for publication in Dreich, Abridged, Acumen, The Honest Ulsterman, The Dawntreader, Versification, The Babel Tower Notice Board, The Stone of Madness Press, The Fortnightly Review, The Lake, Selcouth Station, GreenInk Poetry, Dodging the Rain, Expat Press, The Morning Star as well as The New River Press 2020 Anthology.  His debut publication is the Brexit-inspired prose-poem Doctor Lazarus published by Alien Buddha Press 2021.