Alan O'Brien

Labour Estranged 2010

We stood in that line, a queue,
For we’re required to sign. Here, there were new folk
And used folk, all through, ’tis true.
We shuffled and rippled; nobody spoke
Except some children that shout in play with the echo
That reverberates the walls of that unemployment hall...hall...hall
Some of us lurched and rocked to and fro
Chins on chests, guttural snorts and all
The sad eyes, lost eyes, indifferent eyes,
Searching neck-napes like search lights.
An argument erupts; a little baby cries;
The hatch shut abrupt, slammed down tight.
In my mind a fertile thought occurred like a desert taking rain,
That the cost of a loss can be the currency of a change.

This poem first appeared in The Children of the Nation: Working People’s Poetry from Contemporary Ireland edited and introduced by Jenny Farrell (Culture Matters, 2019)

Alan O'Brien © 2019