Friday, January 6, 2017

The Strike

By May Kwek

This poem is based off a scene in the 1855 book North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. In the scene, there is a strike and when the strikers hear that their employer had tried to break the strike by hiring non union Irish workers, they riot outside his home and he comes out to face them. 

In that time they referred to employers as Masters and I have kept it in my poem. 

The situation

The air isn’t dark but it rumbles
The sun shines but there is fear
People run and shout, demanding things
Yet oddly their demands are clear

It’s a strike turned into a riot
“Raise our wages!” they declare
And the Master emerges from his house
And fixes them with his stare

We pause the scene for a moment
Let’s enter each of their minds
The Master and the workers
And see what we might find

The Master

They call me cruel, so many have
Unfeeling, uncaring, proud
Look at them, my workers
What a rowdy crowd

I have done an honest business
Indeed I truly have
But it doesn’t run on charity
Indeed it couldn’t have

It must make money, it must
Or else everything will end
So I cannot raise wages
I am being squeezed on both ends

If I fail, and I might
This whole place will shut down
Everyone here that I support
Will be squashed into the ground

I have hundreds of livelihoods
Dependent on that monthly check
It’s my duty to keep it coming
Even if enough it lacks

I have spent the money
Keeping the air they breathe clear
Lost both pounds and pennies
So that they can still be here

Yet, it’s not enough, it wasn’t enough
I have done all I can
What more do you ask of me?
I am just a man

The worker

I have slogged long and hard
Days and nights I slaved away
To put food on the table
To live till the next day

I cough, I fall ill
I came to work anyway
Life is too short, too precarious
To afford to waste that day

I have given my life
So that I can keep living
If not for me then for my family
Who are at home starving

I have given all I have
For this measly check
These meagre pennies
Aren’t equal what I can’t take back

It’s not enough to live on
My back’s against the wall
I’ve tried everything
Everything! Every and all!

Yet, it’s not enough, it wasn’t enough
I have done all I can
What more do you ask of me?
I am just a man

The Conclusion

The scene is still paused dear readers
I cannot will it to move
For peeking into both their thoughts
I find that I’m confused

For I came here expecting
To support the weak and disparage the strong
But I found a situation so terrible
And no one really wrong

Copyright © 2017 by May Kwek

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Finding our Christmas Light

Finding our Christmas Light

By May Kwek

The days have passed in a blur
And now it’s Christmas night
How strange it feels, so serene
It’s an oddly peaceful night

The days between have not been pleasant
Madmen acted and lives were lost
The earth has shaken, storms raged
Peace has held but at terrible cost

The struggle to keep it Christmas
Has been brutal with spirits this low
Sometimes it seemed dancing on the edge
Ready to fall with a careless blow

So I searched again for that Christmas star
And I found it tonight
High up in the dark night sky
Oddly small and not too bright

But it was constant, ever constant
Nothing could cause it to fade
It cannot be blocked, it cannot be stopped
For eternity it had been made

And I know now that it will glow always
Hope shinning in the night
Nothing on earth nor in hell
Can ever block out that light

So although there’s no tree this year
And thus nothing festive to light
It is Christmas still
And that Child’s our eternal Christmas light

Merry Christmas

Copyright © 2016 by May Kwek

Monday, December 12, 2016

Fighting for Christmas Faith

Fighting for Christmas Faith

By May Kwek

Christmas has come around again this year
But I must confess I feel no cheer
Rather it feels like Annus Horribilis
In other words, a horrible year

The world I knew has departed
Everything seems to have changed
Peace now feels on the brink of danger
And really, the world just got strange

So no tree decorates our home
The lights on the street are cold and empty
It all seems so superficial
Is this Christmas really?

I look up to the stars for an answer
Seeking the one from 2000 years ago
The one that guided to a poor manger
That winter night so cold

And it shone in my mind so bright
Such a contrast to the dark of night
And led me down a quiet walk
Where with a shepherd I could talk

But he never spoke a word
Only raised his arm and I knew
That soldiers descended to Bethlehem
To a thousand children slew

It was the first Christmas night
Forgot I truly had
That hope was born in a world so dark
And in a night so black

Yet how it shone, how it shone
The skies opened and the angels sang
There was a celebration in that little manger
Despite the world so dark and dank

Our hope is a hope for the ages
And Christmas’ joy from hereafter comes
So this Christmas will be graced with a feast nevertheless
And I’ll open the door to whoever and still say ‘Welcome’

Immanuel, God is with us
Still

Merry Christmas

Copyright © 2016 by May Kwek

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Exhaustion

Exhaustion

By May Kwek 

The night air is quiet
And I neither sleep nor wake
But move on from task to task
As best as weak strength can make

Do I still have a soul I wonder
It feels hidden away somewhere
Leaving just the flesh and bone
And tired eyes to stare

Silently at the screen
I gaze from left to right
In this darkened place
It seems so very bright

My feelings have vanished
I don't seem alive
But this heart keeps beating
Against death it still strives

But my mind has deserted me
It's mired in grey fog
My limbs worn down and heavy
Like a pair of logs

Everything feels dry
The heart is withered and grey
The whole world feels
Like a cloudy overcast day

I don’t know who I am
I don't know where I'm placed
I seem to be some machine
Working with a plastic face

I can't start I can't stop
I can't stay I can't go
I need to find, where is it?
Where can I find my soul?

Copyright © 2016 by May Kwek

Sunday, October 16, 2016

A home in the woods

A home in the woods

By May Kwek

I walked in the quiet woods
Where very few ever roam
And there amongst the towering trees
I made my soul a home

The blue sky was my ceiling
The trees my pillars and walls
The leaves my living carpet
And the roots were my floor

The sun was my lamp in the day
The moon and stars by night
The running brook was my playmate
Its song filled me with delight

The birds in the air were my wind chimes
Singing when the day was clear
The ferns my stairs to wonders
Everywhere far and near

The wind was my sweet refresher
My story teller in disguise
The creatures my daily companions
Rising with me at sunrise

Yes, I walked in the woods one day
And a sweet home I did find
For though my body departed
I left my heart and soul behind

Copyright © 2016 by May Kwek

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Mirrors

Mirrors

By May Kwek

One dark moon lit night
I walked into a room filled with moonlight
And saw a hundred mirrors each standing on stands
Each one deliberately designed by man’s hand

I walked to the first at the side of the place
Held it up and saw a sliver of my face
‘Disabled’, the words on the mirror said
But I didn’t see me so the image I’d trade

I walked to the next by a painting strange
For the faces there always changed
I looked into the mirror and I saw my face
But not my features, my character, just my race

I set the mirror for race down
And next to some prayer beads another one found
‘Religion’ it said, ‘in most the world’
And saw a perfect but unreal girl

I moved on to the drawers and beside a dress
Found a full length mirror straining under stress
I tried on the dress, did a little turn
And saw in the mirror, not a person, just a woman

As I got rid of the outfit something caught my eye
From the moonlight bouncing off a mirror shy
Dusty and broken lying on the floor
I wondered what it was meant for

It was small and simple, but firmly held in place
Just enough to reflect my face
On its edges was carved one word: ‘humanity’
And when I gazed into it I saw me

Copyright © 2016 by May Kwek

Sunday, August 7, 2016

A fickle twilight

A fickle twilight

By May Kwek

The deepening shadows
Are the herald of the night
The fading of the sky
Signals the twilight

Everywhere the sights darken
And shadows from their hiding emerge
Sparrows leave the darkening skies
And return home to their perch

The room grows ever darker
In the misty embrace of the night
Grey clouds from above
Cover the sun’s last waning lights

A low hum whispers
The steady beat of rain
Falling swiftly but quietly
Just outside the window pane

Yet the air feels quiet and still
Cool despite the absent wind
And the rain almost glides down
As though it’s always been

Then with a bright flash of lightning
Away disappears all calm
The sun bids a gleeful farewell
And the stormy twilight bids welcome

Copyright © 2016 by May Kwek