June 2015 – the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta and possibly the eve of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights
I sometimes wonder how I’d cope
with working in a tyrant’s kitchen.
Henry’s Hampton Court has much the feel
of where I am imagining
myself a scullion or skivvy.
Let’s not dwell on smells of spice and rot,
the cling and chill of greasy water,
aching hours of hunger for foul scraps
among the hooks and spits of roasting meat;
but let’s suppose I broke a platter –
like the one I’ve just now smashed
against the taps, above the Eco suds –
What would they do to me?
……………………………….And if I knew
would I fold up in all-day trembling
dread of butter-fingers’ consequences,
praying I could hide the evidence
or palm it off on someone else?
As I bin the broken bits I’m glad
a Declaration of my Human Rights
(for now) implies I can’t be racked, immured
or maimed if I should shatter any despot’s
(real or metaphoric) crockery.
Michael Bartholomew-Biggs is poetry editor of the on-line magazine London Grip and co-organiser of the North London reading series Poetry in the Crypt. His latest collections are Fred & Blossom (Shoestring, 2013) and Pictures from a Postponed Exhibition – a collaboration with the artist David Walsh – published by Lapwing Press in late 2014.