I remember when History truly came alive for me –
it was during the horror of Dr Dirge’s intrepid
description of the furore in London
when the Reform Act debate was dragging
its heels along the Thames embankment.
This was 1832. I had no idea what this bore
was talking about. What did I care
who was voting for what then. Now
was much more up-do-date. I wrote
‘1832’ on the back of my hand in green ink,
but could see no connection between
the numbers. Anyway, my mate’s blond girl
wore a tight red dress, and the Reds
were home to Swansea in the Cup,
and my brother was bringing home
some rump steak that night from the butchers
where he worked; and our Betty was getting
out of the army soon, and Uncle Frank
was shrinking into a little bald nestling
in the cancer ward where he kind of lived,
and soon it would be light enough
at night to go down to the river
after school and see the flash liners
lined up before they disappeared
over that grey horizon forever,
and just then Hosher and Tommo
the two giants of our class
built like battleships and as bright
each picked up a desk and began
smashing each other over the head
and through the face and deeply
into the chest until they cleared
a space as big as parliament
and like extinct species of grandeur
and doom they lashed their blood
and bone out of its containers
and the police were called
and the rioters were removed to another world
where blazers didn’t count
and then i understood why
the corn laws repeal caused such joy
and why bread is so tasty
and why blood and bits of bone and teeth
are so important to the clergy
and the newly-enfranchised
industrial masses.

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