When I was young, they’d take me into town
to choose a pair of trousers or of shoes,
a carpet, or perhaps an eiderdown;
they felt it was important I should choose.
And, like a little fool, I let them play;
I’d choose, then point it out for them to see.
They shook their heads and took the thing away
and told me this one here was right for me.
But every time, although it was absurd,
I thought the offer of a choice was real,
and so I meekly took them at their word
and hid what I was not supposed to feel.
I could not hate the paper on my wall,
for I had been to choose it, after all.
Now I am old, the choice is still the same,
but I am wiser now, and understand
the measure of this sordid little game.
Our leaders swear they never force your hand;
if jobs are scarce, the blame is all on you,
for you, of course, have chosen to be poor.
(Why, who would not? Would they not choose it too
if they could just walk through that open door?)
And so they bludgeon, starve and terrify
in ways for which a parent would be jailed;
so we are scarred, grow ill, or even die,
and then they say that it is we who failed.
This game is played on those who have no voice;
it’s known as “let’s pretend you have a choice”.
Sarah McEvoy is a Cumbrian poet, writer, translator, proofreader, activist and early music enthusiast. They prefer neutral pronouns, and you can find more of their writing at http://mongoose-writes.weebly.com