(There were no rich people at Grenfell.)

[Image description: Two crying faces with "working class and bitter as heck!" in a circle in the middle.] 
Poem by: Amelia A. J. Foy
Art by: Emily Bourne


In the wake of Grenfell Fire, I’ve been thinking more and more about class in Britain today. About where I sit as a working-class person in the social hierarchy. About the families we lost that night whose names we can’t remember, whose surnames aren’t “British” enough to pronounce. About the rich people who weren’t there, and how they clutch at their chests when they pass Latimer Road station, then have the audacity to say people on benefits are freeloaders. The detachment they have created between their personal politics and our social reality. Their role in perpetuating the system when they sit in white houses and do nothing.


(There were no rich people at Grenfell.)


you ask how people can live like this
packed like sardines
stacked neatly on top of each other reaching
up into the clouds
you ask how people can stretch a tenner
into a thousand pounds
like to be working-class is to feed the five thousand
(we're not so highly acclaimed
but i guess Jesus was poor.)
you ask how we can turn a balcony
into an acre of land
as if we aspire to be like you -
we don't imagine a bathtub as an indoor pool
we don't origami our money into mansions
we don't spin sainsbury's own brand into gold
we stack our pennies like our houses
but don't dare dream of touching the sky
we've been told that old saying too many times:
"you can be whatever you put your mind to!"
and we’ve cracked it open to find:
  • benefits sanctions
  • NHS cuts
  • defunded inner city schools
  • academic jargon designed to deter
  • disproportionate prison representation and
  • an inquiry into how a tower block went up in flames
    while our government sat back and tanned.
you lose the luxury of dreaming when you work a 9 to 5
and still have no money after rent and bills
you lose the luxury of dreaming when you're declared fit to work before
the work is fit enough to live off
and before you're fit enough to endure it
you lose the luxury of dreaming when the stress of reality transcends your sleep
and if "money is no object" then skin colour is
then accent is
then slang is
then policing your neighbourhood is and closing your school is
so you're asking the wrong questions when you wonder how
the question you need to ask is why
but the answer is embedded in the foundations of your houses
and the cladding of our flats
and the fact big ben got renovated before
our schools got new textbooks
and why you never see an MP in a tracksuit
so you store it away and vote conservative and
donate to the homeless man near waitrose to ease the guilt
and when someone posts about the rise in food banks
you sad react on facebook.
the how is simple: because we do
because we have to
the why makes you uncomfortable
with your
politics
with your
privileged detachment
unveiled when your pity slips
ask theresa may why we live in tower blocks
ask theresa may why we can’t live off minimum wage
ask theresa may why half of us are black
then ask yourself
how you can live like this.

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