Dennis Joe


The Ballad of the Poor White Boys


O Fellowship called to the great supper

[Canto XXIV Dante Translated by C. H. Sissons]


The Streets here hunger for pedestrian soul

like Christ hungered death, amidst physical

and spiritual pain, to be whole:


to be one with life so abapical;

yet existing as well as one could do.

To open ones’ eyes to an evenfall


and painfulness inflicted by the blue

scum, yearning for the burning of Toxteth,

they’ll settle for this bloody rendezvous.


For you have been sentenced to civil death,

poor white boy, by pious middle classes,

before they cleansed you, before you drew breath


before cheers, before they raised their glasses,

they condemned you and your kind, poor white boy,

to emptiness where nothing surpasses.


Careful of the metaphor they employ

when writing letters to The Guardian.

élite the elitism, an alloy


made of one-part antediluvian

and blended well with copper-bottomed fear,

dispensed with wisdom and grace and élan.


These feigning lovers will not shed a tear

(they deem you undeserving of their care)

and no dirge they chant when you are not here.


The hearse carries you to the house of prayer,

to atone for sins against their reason,

as the body counters make you aware:


your soul belongs to them for the season.

Like this song, you will return to the street

where you’ll haunt them with a lack of vision.


You will not chalk up another whipping

for you cannot be ground down where you are.

A world that hates its young can never sing

of a future, for it can’t see that far.



Dennis Joe © 2009