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