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Our Stories Can Take the Bastards Down

An interview with Sin Soracco and Patrick Marks, proprietor of The Green Arcade

PM: Low Bite was written in the 1980s. Why reprint it?

SS: This is your whack idea. What goes along with why you wanted to print this, in my mind, is you had the good sense, so far as we are all concerned, to choose The Green Arcade imprint not to be just some prissy-assed ecology stuff that everybody will get sick of — that’s valuable, ecology, it’s one of the pushes of the store — but we are talking about something else we love here, and what we love is trash crime. And trash crime that maybe is a little more crazed, with more going on than in the hard-assed noir genre with all the standard twists. What you managed to do by digging up this weird little cult volume was to find an old example of bad-girl trash crime. At the time it was done there were no female writers doing noir. Leigh Bracket was gone. Dorothy Hughes was way gone.

Dorothy Hughes was reprinted by The Feminist Press and there are people who are trying to retrieve a lot of those books. And I feel I have to add that The Green Arcade imprint will publish books on ecology — and also on what I call “green”: the built environment, food, culture, justice, and also writing about cities. And those — rebels and fl aneurs, poets and architects — who build, inhabit, and add something valuable to the places I love. One of the reasons that I wanted to retrieve you was because part of my idea of The Green Arcade, beyond what my idea of what “green” might be, is also the idea of the “arcade,” and the
arcade has to do with the multiplicities of space in the city —

The Arcades Project is one of the books on my side of the bed.

Walter Benjamin is one of the store mascots, along with Rebecca Solnit. So it has to do with starting right where you are, on Market Street, in San Francisco. And part of the thing about SanFrancisco, to me, is you, Sin Soracco. And here we are doing this interview at the Russian River. But the Russian River has been a big extension of San Francisco, San Francisco the Imperial City.

The river can be looked at as an extension of the City because it would not exist as it is at all without having had a functioning working class nearby. The redwoods right here in our backyard were logged to rebuild San Francisco after the 1906 quake. The City is the place, whether we like it or not, which infuses its aesthetic on the world. There’s remarkably cool shit in the City. And that impacts the way that we look at the world and what we decide is important and beautiful and worth treasuring. Low Bite doesn’t take place in San Francisco but was written in San Francisco. And even so a lot of the not-apparent stuff in the book was supported by the life I was living in San Francisco, that let me go work in the stupid-ass bookstore, come home, get loaded, or be loaded already, and sit down and tell stories. So this idea of telling stories is at the basis of your … mission?

Don’t really have a mission. But I really believe that our stories can take the bastards down. I like to put it that way because it is fundamental to any art form to challenge the prevailing social and cultural things that are happening. On the other hand, you don’t survive, as an artist, unless you have rich people supporting you. Or, contradicting that, unless you have a lunatic like Patrick at The Green Arcade who wants to publish what he wants to publish. He is not a San Francisco socialite with a trust fund who is able to patronize.

I am too a socialist! Let’s go back and talk about when you first started Low Bite and from where it sprang.

Okay. I am an ex-convict. I did years in California prisons and jails and I found it to be really just an extension of the kind of life that I was living.

You found the inside to be an extension of the life that you lived on the outside?

Yes, very much so. The diff erence, mainly, was that inside you had less choice. But cultural norms — depending on where you live in the City — it could be a little more ghetto than other parts of the City, but, in other ways, the attitudes, the demand for respect, the sly trying to get over, the forms of honor and friendship, the game you play for survival, the insubordinate life: the same. The main problem is you’re fucking locked up! You’re locked up and that sucks! And it’s dead boring, it really is. But it was, at the time, not utterly foreign, at all. Then I was back on the street, and sort of getting over my jailhouse
self — we did what we did in jail — tell each other stories, lies and otherwise. And the hilarious ones were of crimes gone wrong.

I think that one the great things about Low Bite is the humor and how it is used against the insanity and against —

Authority. The other day I was reading some recent political crap, and it’s the same as it ever was, but what I got was that the American system is founded on the abuse of power. If somebody has more money, if somebody has a position that is above somebody else, if they have money enough to buy and sell somebody else, they’re going to do so, they’re going to abuse that position. Every time. Down the line. Because they can. The American system is set up so that those in power can abuse it. Everybody knows that, except apparently they don’t. [Laughs] In terms of writing a book set in a woman’s prison, there were things that I wanted to use that world for. I tried very hard not to be overtly political —

It is, in fact, an extremely political book.

But I don’t want anyone to know that. I want to, hopefully, change the way they look at the world or at least while they’re reading it, they go, “Ah.” The fi rst draft, the fi rst 60 pages, I handed to one of my friends from jail, and she said she had to lay down when she was done and put a cold rag on her head. Because it was too real and she said, “You know, hon’, we had a lot of fun. We made it a point to have a lot of fun, and you are ranting and raving here, just puking horror on the page.” And I realized that if I insisted on writing that book, nobody but a real psychotic would want to read it. What I wanted to do was to bring people to jail and I wanted them to stay there long enough to read the goddamned book. If I did what I did originally, puke all over the page, nobody would have read it.

I think you were successful in bringing us into the jail. And keeping us there for the duration. And we actually had a good time with all those women. I’m tempted to say that it was a riot, but that might be a spoiler. But the system sucks, you get that.

I figured that one out every five people is gonna end up in jail and virtually everybody knows someone in jail. And it would be very nice if people got a clue as to what the American system does. And I don’t even go into the horrific places like Pelican Bay, or some of the women’s joints that are rougher, in terms of the physical situation, than the ones that I was in. And I think that it would be very diffi cult to get someone to spend an hour in Pelican Bay, or Florence, or Angola, or Lexington Women’s joint that closed in ’88. These max units are far more horrific than the ones that I was in. I think that it would be very difficult to get someone to spend an hour in Pelican Bay if they could simply close the book and just leave. I want to tell a story. I want people to get a clue about a world I am intimately familiar with and they are not. Virtually everything I write I choose to set in a world that is absolutely normal to me that a lot of people who chose to read English-language literature are unfamiliar with.

That probably goes for the publishing world as well. And most booksellers.

I was in New York City on a dance tour —

— Another story —

— and I stopped off , because they were working on the paperback of Low Bite, and I walked into this huge multistory publishing house and realized that there was not a single person out of the hundreds of little people running around the rat-maze in their little Diane Feinstein outfits who physically looked or moved like I did. And here I am writing the fodder for this whole machine. They all looked at me like I was a loon. I did adore my editor, but people would ask me, “Wherever did you get your ideas for your characters?” And I would say, “These are bits and pieces of my friends. Even the villains. I’ve taken people I love and used their gestures and added that to a make a villain. Every part of every character in every book I write is somebody I generally know and love. Except for the very oddest villains who are — you people!” [Laughs] There have been a number of times in my life that I have walked into some place, the publishing world for sure, and it’s “Oh my god, I really don’t belong here.” It’s like the dope smoker who walks into a room of straight people and asks, “What should I do with my face? How do I behave in here?” But one of the things I want to get at is the unbalance of power, and how we can undermine that. How we in fact live well. In spite of everything.

The character Morgan in Low Bite ends up doing rather well. Many of the women in the book are doing rather well.

That’s the reason the last line of the book is “How sweet it is.”

I wanted to ask you about noir.

When I wrote this, I submitted it, and several people read it. I won’t go into a very famous literary agent who turned it down, saying, “You write beautifully, but if this were from a guard’s perspective…” I wrote a fl aming letter back. There is still some creepy acrimony behind that. On the other hand, the people who read it and liked it said, “Oh my God, we are looking for noir fi ction, you are one the few women today who are writing noir fi ction.” I said, “Oh! Ah, what’s noir?” I wrote what I wrote because that’s the way I see the world. I did not know anything, including the noir movies. I’ve never studied literature or taken a class in writing.

I’m not sure that academia is necessary to storytelling. There were tales that black women, Latino women would tell, their stories, in the joint, and I’m sitting there going, “This is great, this is marvelous. You need to write this down.” And they go, “I can’t write.” And I say, “It doesn’t matter, get this down. Anybody can learn to write proper cash English — but not anybody has wonderful stories. Get this shit on paper, man! Your spelling and grammar can be cleaned up — you don’t want to write cash English anyway. It’s not fun to read. It’s the stories that matter.”

After the book came out, people would come up to me and say: “So, you write noir.” I would say, “Yeah, um, sure.” And I’m thinking,“what’s that?” I didn’t know. There’s no reason I should have known. There were books I liked, but really until I started to work in bookstores — I worked in a little bookstore, then I went to jail. And then I got out. And I got a job at Books Inc. in San Francisco where I met you, Patrick, and Alison Moxley and Margie Burke. Booksellers! Because I was such a hard-ass, no-one knew I was a cultural dud. I didn’t know anything about anything, except for crime. And then I was fortunate enough to work at City Lights. I now have a fairly standard understanding of literature. But at the time I wrote this — not much.

Low Bite was first published by Barry Giff ord under his Black Lizard imprint.* How did you find Barry?

Paul Yamazaki from City Lights. After I got the rejection letter from the famous lady telling me about writing the book from a guard’s point of view, I absolutely burst into fl ames and I wrote a letter back, which apparently burst into fl ames on her desk! Yamazaki said, “Black Lizard.”

Black Lizard was still pretty recent then, right?

They had a few titles out. Paul submitted it to them and they took it in about a week. And, oh: Low Bite — and Edge City [Sin’s second novel] and the story “Double Espresso” in Peter Maravelis’s San Francisco Noir — have never been edited. Copyedited, yes. Black Lizard did have a wonderful copy editor, who caught two things. What Barry told me with Low Bite was: “We don’t have time to do any of that. You get the fame, you get the blame.” Later on at Penguin, they sent Edge City to a copy editor; she didn’t like the book at all and she was tagging the thing with post-its. I have two of my bad girls on the street at night in North Beach and they remark how much like Dante’s Inferno it is. Post-it: “I don’t think girls like this would know Dante’s Inferno.” If anyone knows Dante’s Inferno, it’s people who have been in jail: it’s convicts, it’s ex-convicts, it’s people on the street — they know Dante’s Inferno. However, both books could have profi ted from a real editor. Nobody really put their hands on it.

But that is what I like so much about this book, that it is in the form you wrote it, and we have left it, and it is even more of an artifact. Telling the story is the thing. I wanted to ask you: How has prison changed since Low Bite was written in the ’80s?

Twenty years ago the health system sucked. It has, over those twenty years, with tuberculosis, Hep C, and HIV, become absolutely horrific. And that is not going to improve in California because the state is in a state of total collapse. So the people who are going to get hurt are the least of us. Now, for one my favorite soapbox moments: there are perhaps five percent of the people in prison who ought to be there. The other ninety-fi ve percent, by and large, are assholes but they shouldn’t necessarily be in prison. Now which is the fi ve percent? I am an asshole, so I will answer: they are the people I don’t like. They should never get out of prison, these people I don’t like. When you think about it, what the parole board does, what the judges do — the people they send to jail, the people they keep in jail, are people they don’t like. So, I have my own list. Anyone who tortures — gee, there goes the U.S. government — anyone who is cruel to animals or children. Mostly cruelty is the thing. Now, most of the murderers that I’ve known, many of them were not criminals. Many of them killed and would probably not kill again, unless of course the situation called for it. But of heinous crimes there is this weird idea that taking another human’s life is the ultimate bad thing to do. But I think the worst crime is horrific domination. Cruelty. Greed. Which goes back to my basic political feeling that America is based on abuse of power. And this is what I feel is most unforgivable. So, if things have changed at all, they have changed for the worse.

Low Bite has a certain story to tell today which is every bit as grabbing as it was twenty years ago.

Hopefully. Or as topical. It was a cult favorite. There were groups of odd people. I had one group of little old ladies who really liked it. One of them was a lovely, very delicate woman who came up to me later and said, “My only problem is,” — she was a Jungian therapist — “I did not get a feeling of redemption at the end.” And I said the redemption is choosing to live the way they want to in spite of everything. The insubordinate lifestyle. At the end of the book, they are all kicking, they are going along. They are all doing fine. And given the way the world is, I could not see any greater redemption.

Your redemption is throughout the book, it is ongoing.

She wanted something at the end. But what noir does excellently is that it leaves the story rumbling after that last page. I hate the classic mystery where all of the loose ends are tied up — unless they are very good. It is more fun to allow it to reverberate forward through time. And you, Patrick, have rescued the goddamned book — you have demanded that it will reverberate forward through time. [Laughs]

Do you want to talk about the cover of this new edition?

I am so excited, so pleased about the cover. It is jailhouse, without Gent [Sturgeon] having even spent time in jail! The obsession of the hand-drawn background of the bricks: this is what we do in there; and if you see jailhouse art, there’s a tattooish quality, there’s a graffiti quality, there’s an untrained-artist quality. But what there is under all of it is that emotional kick to the gut. There is an intensity that says, “This is what I am doing. It is worth something. This is worth people paying attention to, even if all I seem to be doing is cross-hatching.”

And that relates to the same message behind story telling.

I have something important to say: Finding a venue where I get the respect and the love and the support to say it, is rare and wonderful and needs to be cultivated. There we go! PM Press. The Green Arcade. Gent Sturgeon. Patrick Marks.

Isn’t it a bit of a contradiction to want to live well and yet to be always in opposition to the outside, or the inside, and always against something?

But it is oppositional. For those of us who come from outlaw stock and that tradition there is a conscious decision, a responsibility to oppose what goes on and what is acceptable in the traditional balance of power. And I live in opposition to the traditional balance of power in most everything that I do. And the responsibility, further, is that we live well.

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Gord Hill, Indigenous Activist

and Author of "500 Years of Indigenous Resistance"
By Joan Brunwasser
OpEdNews
May 24, 2010
 

My guest today is Gord Hill. He is a member of the Kwakwaka'wakw nation and the author of 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance. Welcome to OpEdNews, Gord. This is the first work I've read by an Indigenous individual. So, I hope you will forgive my unfamiliarity. Before we get started, please clarify something for me. It says on the book jacket that your nation is on the Northwest Coast and you write about the colonization of the Americas. Do you consider yourself Canadian, American, or neither, just a member of the Kwakwaka'wakw nation?

I consider myself an Indigenous person from the Kwakwaka'wakw nation, which is how I identify with Indigenous people across the Americas. I do not consider myself a Canadian as this is a colonial identity which has been created through violent colonization and oppression.

Let's talk about those colonization efforts. Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States gave me my first taste of this subject. He does a number on Christopher Columbus. But your book goes much more in depth. How did you organize and such a massive amount of information and craft it into an intelligible document? And didn't you find that daunting?

Intelligence is the gathering of information from various sources, subject to analysis and comparison, in order to derive the clearest picture possible of an area, situation, person, etc. Organizing the information of centuries of Indigenous struggle can be difficult, but the historical story itself helps because you have a basic chronology that serves as a guide. In many ways, the story is there, it's a matter of finding the incidents, personalities and patterns etc., that best relate what happened. In anti-colonial historical writing, this task is more difficult because the voices of the colonized are most often erased, distorted, and/or interpreted by the colonizer. I didn't find it daunting so much, mostly because I didn't realize the extent of research, organization, etc., that would ultimately be necessary.

How long did it take you to put this all together?

It was written during the period 1991-92, and was originally published in 1992, so that's quite awhile ago. It probably took a few months altogether.

Interesting, I would have expected much longer. I understand that the contents of your book first appeared in the revolutionary Indigenous newspaper OH-TOH-KIN. Why has it taken so long for it to capture attention beyond Indigenous circles?

To some extent it was being distributed in non-Native movements throughout the 1990s after Arm the Spirit published the article as a pamphlet, but that is now out of print. Arm the Spirit was an anti-imperialist group based in Toronto that no longer exists.

How did you and PM Press get together? I guess my question is, why now after all this time?

I first met Ramsey, who runs PM Press, when he lived in Edinburgh, Scotland. At the time, he was running an anarchist distribution of books, zines and records, and before he had set up AK Press. I think they found the original pamphlet, produced by Arm the Spirit, to be a good seller and when it was out of print, he wanted to re-publish it.

What kind of response have you had since the re-publishing?

Right now, I am more focused on the 500 Years of Resistance Comic Book, published in April 2010, and doing promotional work on it. I haven't noticed any particular response other than some people are glad it is once again available.

You also go by the name Zig Zag. Where did it come from and what do you use it for?

Zig Zag was a 'code name' I used during the 1999 Cheam fisheries dispute when a Native Youth Movement security force helped Cheam fishermen oppose the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) enforcement of salmon fishing on the Fraser River. Code names aren't very useful once they've been used in such a campaign but I continued to use it as a 'pen name' afterwards.

You are an artist of breadth and talent. Can you tell our readers a bit about the various art forms you've been involved in over the years? Most authors/historians aren't so versatile.


I do a lot of black and white graphics for zines, magazines, and journals, as well as logos for groups. This also includes comics. I do some painting on canvas, mostly for sale, as well as lots of banners for rallies. I carve rattles, masks, miniature masks, plaques, as well as cedar boxes. I also silkscreen t-shirts, patches, etc.


Where did all this creativity come from? Did you go to art school?

No, I took some art classes in high school but that's it. For carving, I spent about a year in Alert Bay, a community and reserve on north Vancouver Island where most of my family live. For silk-screening, I had a job in a screen printing factory where I learned some of the basics, then friends showed me how to make screens, etc. at a do-it-yourself level.

You sound like a natural. Can you tell us a bit about your youth - where you grew up, what it was like? I'm pretty certain it was a bit different from my own youth in suburban Chicago.

I was born in the south-central interior of BC [British Columbia] in 100 Mile House where our family lived for a few years. We lived in a rural area where my dad had a small mill operation. I remember bears regularly coming around the house. Then, we moved back to my mother's territory on north Vancouver Island, including Port Hardy, Fort Rupert (a reserve where we lived with my grandfather, Jonathan Hunt), Alert Bay, and Campbell River. This was all by the time I was in grade 5. Then we moved to the lower mainland and suburbs of Vancouver, including White Rock and Surrey.

When I was 13-14, I joined the army cadets which I stayed in for 4-5 years. I took many courses, including small arms, fieldcraft, first aid, basic parachutist, and arctic indoctrination. When I was 18, me and my mother moved to east Vancouver, and I joined the army reserves for about a year. At this time, I began listening to anarchist punk music and going to shows, which influenced my thinking and beliefs. Then I quit the military, which I had planned on making a career of in the regular forces. I first became involved in an El Salvador solidarity group, which at the time was in the midst of a guerrilla struggle to overthrow a right-wing fascist government. As my politicization continued, I began studying anarchism and publishing a zine entitled 'endless struggle'.



You live in two worlds. Can you tell us what that's like?

I think indigenous people generally live in two worlds under colonization, that of the indigenous and that of the colonizer. This is very clear in colonial states such as Canada in which there is a separate set of laws for indigenous peoples--the 1876 Indian Act-- which establishes a separate system of laws and regulations for controlling and managing indigenous peoples. Until the 1990s, the apartheid regime of South Africa was another example of this.

Under this apartheid system, indigenous peoples continually live in 'two worlds'--that of the indigenous and that of the colonizers. As a result, indigenous peoples are aware of this 'other' society, while the non-Native population is largely ignorant of the indigenous 'world' and life conditions. Non-natives may even live next to a Native reserve and not even know it exists, never mind the conditions existing within it. This apartheid basically creates conditions of extreme ignorance among non-Natives, which are easily exploited by the rulers to further divide and antagonize relationships between both.

For myself, I am involved to some extent in both indigenous resistance as well as general social resistance. I was largely politicized through the anarchist movement, so I maintain sympathy, communication, and, at times, participation in this movement, in anti-capitalist resistance. On the other hand, in order to be engaged in indigenous anti-colonial resistance, I must choose at times where my priority is to be focused. To be involved primarily in anarchist struggles, anti-capitalist movement, etc., means neglecting the indigenous movement, because large numbers of indigenous people do not want to be involved in non-Native movements, understably and in my opinion, correctly so.

Overall, especially in urban areas, it is a struggle for indigenous peoples to maintain their autonomy and independence, to self-organize as indigenous peoples, to maintain culture and social relationships, etc. Yet this is necessary in order to advance the indigenous movement. And yet, at the same time, alliances must be made with non-Native movements. I think Native peoples are more capable of establishing such alliances because of their exposure to both 'worlds', whereas non-Natives don't really know where to begin due to their ignorance and the conditions of apartheid.

In addition, being aware of this duality can also enable indigenous people to better use, for example, the system's technology, lines of communication, or even pop culture, in advancing their resistance.

So, what's your ultimate political goal? If you could wave a magic wand, what would you like to see for indigenous peoples in Canada and North America?

I kinda already answered this one-- shutdown industrial production and dismantle the state apparatus.

With the ultimate goal of what? Returning North America to its original, more pristine state?

With the ultimate goal of liberating people and land. North America cannot simply be 'returned' to its original pristine state as this would be an evolutionary process that would take hundreds and even thousands of years. Yet, it is clear that such a process cannot begin without stopping the current mode of production and the capitalist system it is based on.

Now I have a better sense of what you're aiming for. The story of Europe's colonizing of the Americas is a grisly one, not for the faint of heart. But 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance is critical to understanding North America's history without the sugar-coating. I highly recommend it. Thanks for talking with me, Gord. Good luck to you.

Check out Gord's Warrior Publications website: "Purpose: to Promote Indigenous Warrior Culture, Fighting Spirit, and Resistance Movement.

Warrior Publications is produced in the occupied territories of 'british columbia', 'canada'."

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How Shall I Live in Morning Star

howBy John Green
Morning Star
May 10, 2010

How can we be real citizens in a globalised world, this book argues, if the more "global" our world becomes, the more dysfunctional our societies?

To find an answer Jensen, dubbed the "philosopher poet of the ecological movement" in the US, interviews 10 leading thinkers on ecology and the dilemmas facing our world.

Only one is British. The others are from the US and range from a Catholic priest to a Buddhist, a shamanic magician to a reformed oil big-wig.

If that puts you off, don't let it. They all have thought-provoking things to say and force us to reassess and rethink our modes of living and what we take for granted.

They all ask us to reconsider our human-centred view of life on the planet and instead to see ourselves as part of an interactive relationship with our surroundings and co-inhabitants.

Some make seemingly outrageous statements, arguing an end to international trade or all road-building, but when they develop their arguments it becomes clear how such demands make sense.

They all contend that the only solution is in a more social, equitable and even socialistic or communistic society without once mentioning those dreaded words, understandable in a US context.

Carolyn Raffensperger explains vividly how capitalism increasingly externalises its true costs and leaves governments - the public - to pick up the tab. And she demonstrates that the lower costs of production only increase public cost in terms of ill-health and environmental degradation.

The present financial crisis and those to come are all based on capitalist greed. We have already overshot the world's carrying capacity in terms of long-term sustainability because of the way we have used cheap oil. Our world is slowly dying and is doomed unless we reverse this process quickly.

As the Indian philosopher Vine Deloria says, "If you see the world around you made up of objects for you to manipulate and exploit, it is inevitable that you destroy the world by attempting to control it."

Sometimes the interviewees are a little precious and all, I imagine, live quite privileged lives. But this shouldn't be allowed to invalidate their basic arguments.

A book well-worth reading.

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THE WORLD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN


In sixteen forty nine to St George's Hill
A ragged band they called the Diggers came to show the people's will
They defied the landlords, they defied the laws
They were the dispossessed reclaiming what was theirs.

We come in peace, they said, to dig and sow
We come to work the land in common and to make the waste ground grow
This earth divided we will make whole
So it will be a common treasury for all.

The sin of property we do disdain
No man has any right to buy and sell the earth for private gain
By theft and murder, they took the land
Now everywhere the walls spring up at their command.

They make the laws to chain us well
The clergy dazzle us with heaven or they damn us into hell
We will not worship the god they serve
The god of greed who feeds the rich while poor folk starve.

We work, we eat together, we need no swords
We will not bow to the masters or pay rent to the poor
Still we are free though we are poor
You Diggers all stand up for glory, stand up now.

From the men of property, the orders came
They sent the hired men and troopers to wipe out the Diggers' claim
Tear down their cottages, destroy their corn
They were dispersed - but still the vision lingers on.

You poor take courage, you rich take care
This earth was made a common treasury for everyone to share
All things in common, all people one
We come in peace - the orders came to cut them down.

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STAND UP FOR JUDAS

The Romans were the masters when Jesus walked the land
In Judaea and in Galilee they ruled with an iron hand
And the poor were sick with hunger
And the rich were clothed in splendour
And the rebels whipped and crucified hung rotting as a warning.
And Jesus knew the answer
Said ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar's'
Said ‘Love your enemies'.
But Judas was a Zealot and he wanted to be free
‘Resist,' he said, ‘the Romans' tyranny.'

So stand up, stand up for Judas and the cause that Judas served
It was Jesus who betrayed the poor with his word.

Jesus was a conjuror, miracles were his game
And he fed the hungry thousands and they glorified his name.
He cured the lame and the leper
He calmed the wind and the weather
And the wretched flocked to touch him so their troubles would be taken.
And Jesus knew the answer
‘All you who labour, all you who suffer,
Only believe in me.'
But Judas sought a world where no-one starved or begged for bread.
‘The poor are always with us,' Jesus said.

So stand up, stand up for Judas and the cause that Judas served
It was Jesus who betrayed the poor with his word.

Jesus brought division where none had been before
Not the slaves against the masters but the poor against the poor.
Set son to rise up against father
And brother to fight against brother.
For ‘He who is not with me is against me' was his teaching.
Said Jesus ‘I am the answer.
You unbelievers shall burn forever
Shall die in your sins.'
‘Not sheep and goats,' said Judas, ‘but together we may dare
Shake off the chains of misery we share.'

So stand up, stand up for Judas and the cause that Judas served
It was Jesus who betrayed the poor with his word.

Jesus stood upon the mountain with a distance in his eyes
‘I am the way, the life,' he cried, ‘the light that never dies.
So renounce all earthly treasures
And pray to your heavenly Father.'
And he pacified the hopeless with the hope of life eternal.
Said Jesus ‘I am the answer.
All you who hunger, only remember
Your reward's in heaven.'
So Jesus preached the other world but Judas wanted this
And he betrayed his master with a kiss.

So stand up, stand up for Judas and the cause that Judas served
It was Jesus who betrayed the poor with his word.

By sword and gun and crucifix, Christ's gospel has been spread
And two thousand cruel years have shown the way that Jesus led
The heretics burned and tortured,
The butchering, bloody crusaders
The bombs and rockets sanctified that rained down death from heaven.
They followed Jesus, they knew the answer,
All unbelievers must be believers
Or else be broken.
So put no trust in saviours, Judas said, for everyone
Must be to his or her own self a sun.

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ON HER SILVER JUBILEE


I remember, I remember when my world was hardly grown
And the daughter of a dead dull king ascended to the throne
And though I was just a lad at school, I saw it all with scorn
The solemn, sacred emptiness, the monumental yawn
And the slime exuding daily from the sycophantic slugs
And the Coronation ash trays and the Coronation mugs
And the rows of ermined mummies with their maggot-eaten brains
All the swarms of bloated blowflies the majestic turd sustains.
Droves of decorated duchesses like newly painted slums
Kneeling flunkeys, praying monkeys, loyal holes for royal crumbs
And the well-heeled sharks discreetly selling tickets for the show
Park Lane balconies with champagne at a thousand quid a throw.
Come and cheer the golden fairy Queen, forget your daily cares
For she radiates a glory that a grateful nation shares
And the pageantry, the panoply, the sanctified decay -
But I knew the hour was coming that would sweep it all away.
Now time has me in a corner and I'm moth-eared from the fray
But Her Majesty is reigning still today.

With a glass cage around her and an absence in her eyes
And though regiments surround her, they can't take her by surprise
She's as poised as a picture, she's a sight for all to see
With a glass cage around her on her Silver Jubilee
with a glass cage around her she feels free.

I remember 1956, division East and West
British paratroops in Suez, Russian tanks in Budapest
And the peaceful marchers singing for the dream that must come true
Of a world freed from the nightmare we've since grown accustomed to
And the Cuban missile crisis with the rumours flying round
That the Queen was in her secret bomb-proof palace underground
And the violence exploding when anger made a stand
For a peasant people burning in a torn and tortured land.
And the Monarch walked her corgis behind the palace wall
Never once betraying what she felt or if she felt at all.
While her husband shot his mouth off like a walking blunderbuss
She gave birth to royal children with the minimum of fuss
Maintained her waxwork dignity as she trod the royal dance
Fulfilled her royal functions in a kind of royal trance
Balmoral, Ascot, Sandringham, the ship launching routine,
Palace banquets, garden parties ever smiling and serene
Unique symbol, model woman, never seeing, always seen
so we watched her as she played at being Queen.

With a glass cage around her etc.

She seems so commonplace a woman in her fuddy-duddy hats
But she doesn't stand in bus queues or live in high-rise flats
And she doesn't ride the rush hour or cycle down the Strand
And she doesn't play maraccas in the Ivy Benson band.
And she doesn't shop for bargains, she's never on the dole
And if she does the football pools she doesn't tell a soul.
And she never used to bother with the Inland Revenue
Though she's royally rewarded for the things she doesn't do
With palaces and properties and to keep her in good cheer
A working wage of 36.7 million pounds a year
A royal train, a royal plane, a costly royal yacht
And lucrative investments in only God knows what.
Oh the magic of the monarchy, the mystery sublime
Growing gracefully and effortlessly richer all the time.
She's the rock of hope and glory in the quicksand of despair
For although the pound may tumble, although panic fills the air
Although governments may crumble and the cupboard's nearly bare
Though the stairs begin to rattle and the rats begin to stare
She enfolds in mystic unity her subjects everywhere
And we know we're safe from harm while Nanny's there.

With a glass cage etc.

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PALACES OF GOLD


If the sons of company directors and judges' private daughters
Had to go to school in a slum school
Dumped by some joker in a damp back alley
Had to herd into classrooms cramped with worry
With a view onto slagheaps and stagnant pools
Had to file through corridors grey with age
And play in a crackpot concrete cage

Buttons would be pressed
Rules would be broken
Strings would be pulled
And magic words spoken
Invisible fingers would mould
Palaces of gold.

If prime ministers and advertising executives
Royal personages and bank managers' wives
Had to live out their lives in dank rooms
Blinded by smoke and the foul air of sewers
Rot on the walls and rats in the cellars
In rows of dumb houses like mouldering tombs
Had to bring up their children and watch them grow
In a waste land of dead streets where nothing will grow

Buttons would be pressed...

I'm not suggesting any sort of a plot
Everyone knows there's not
But you unborn millions might like to be warned
That if you don't want to be buried alive by slagheaps
Pitfalls and damp walls and rat-traps and dead streets
Arrange to be democratically born
The son of a company director
Or a judge's fine and private daughter.

Buttons will be pressed
Rules will be broken
Strings will be pulled
And magic words spoken
Invisible fingers will mould
Palaces of gold.

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REMEMBRANCE DAY


It was Remembrance Day at the Cenotaph
The rain was falling fast
The Queen was there with her entourage
Watching the Old Comrades march past.

There were wreaths of scarlet flowers
And we wore our poppies with pride
The brass bands played funeral music
And one or two people cried.

When Big Ben chimed eleven
We solemnly bared our heads
And stood for the two minutes' silence
To remember the glorious dead.

It was at that sacred moment
That I heard an eerie sound
A ghastly, ghostly stirring
Seemed to come from under the ground.

And a voice rose up out of the darkness
A voice that was coarse and ill bred
Saying ‘I am the voice of the fallen
And I am the voice of the dead.

I speak for the silent slaughtered
The ones who rot under the grass
And we don't want your two minutes' silence
So stuff it up your arse.'

Then I thought I heard an explosion
And a kind of a sob or a laugh
And a strange aroma of corpses
Hung round the Cenotaph.

The Queen stood straight as a ramrod
And none of the mourners stirred
In spite of the two minutes' silence
No-one had heard a word.

Though it seems a small bunch of fanatics
Had tried to dishonour the day
By shouting ‘Remember Iraq'
But they were soon hustled away.

Then the two minutes' silence was over
And we heard the wind and the rain
And from Horse Guards Parade a gun sounded
And normal life started again.

It was Remembrance Day at the Cenotaph
The Queen was dressed in black
And the bishop conducted a service
For the ones who never came back.

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THE WALL THAT STANDS BETWEEN


On one side there is power and the luxury to choose
On the other side are empty hands and nothing left to lose
And the wall that stands between them rises higher every day
And the razor wire is razor sharp to slice your heart away
And don't you know you won't be welcome?
They've got ways, they've got words to keep you down.

He said: We had to leave, I don't know why.
We had no food. We walked for days and days.
We chewed on leaves. We drank from muddy pools.
My mum got taken sick, I watched her die.
The desert burned my throat, I ached with fever.
I think my uncle carried me across.
I don't know how we got past the men with guns
And that great barbed wire fence that stretched for ever.
You see these hands? The scars are still blood red.
And now they want to send us back, he said.

One one side there is hunger in a waste land of despair
On the other side is plenty and plenty still to spare
And the wall that stands between them...

She said: The soldiers came, we had to flee.
We ran so fast we left the dog behind.
The dog was howling, howling on his chain.
I wanted to go back and set him free.
My dad grabbed at my hand and yelled out ‘No!'.
I heard a bang and then the howling stopped.
Still in my dreams I hear my poor dog howling
And when I wake I cry because I know
I have no home and now my dog is dead.
And all because we ran away, she said.

On one side there is terror and the charred flesh of war
On the other side are arms deals and profits set to soar
And the wall that stands between them...

He said: They took me, beat me black and blue.
They asked me questions, made my body scream.
When I come here, I say the things they did.
They lock me up, they say it isn't true.
My head is full of ghosts, sometimes I weep.
I don't know where my family has been taken.
This place is bad, a prison camp with guards.
At night I walk the room, I cannot sleep.
I ask asylum, they lock me up instead.
I think one day I'll kill myself, he said.

One one side there is torture where silence drowns the screams
On the other side is charity and a market selling dreams
And the wall that stands between them...

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DON'T GET MARRIED GIRLS

Don't get married, girls, you'll sign away your life
You may start off as a woman but you'll end up as the wife
You could be a vestal virgin, take the veil and be a nun
But don't get married, girls, for marriage isn't fun.

Oh it's fine when you're romancing and he plays a lover's part
You're the roses in his garden, you're the flame that warms his heart
And his love will last forever and he'll promise you the moon
But just wait until you're wedded and he'll sing a different tune.
You're his tapioca pudding, you're the dumplings in his stew
And he'll soon begin to wonder what he ever saw in you
Still he takes without complaining all the dishes you provide
But you see he has to have his bit of jam tart on the side.

So don't get married, girls, it's very badly paid
You may start off as a woman but you'll end up as the maid.
Be a daring deep-sea diver be a polished polyglot
But don't get married, girls, for marriage is a plot.

Have you seen him in the morning with a face that looks like death?
He's got dandruff on his pillow and tobacco on his breath
And he wants some reassurance with his cup of tea in bed
Cos he's got worries with the mortgage and the bald patch on his head.
And he's sure that you're his mother lays his head upon your breast
So you try to boost his ego, iron his shirt and warm his vest.
Then you get him off to work, the mighty hunter is restored
And he leaves you there with nothing but the dreams you can't afford.

So don't get married, girls, men are all the same
They just use you when they need you, you'd do better on the game.
Be a call-girl, be a stripper, be a hostess, be a whore
But don't get married, girls, for then you'll be all four.

When he comes home in the evening, he can hardly spare a look
All he says is ‘What's for dinner?', after all you're just the cook
But when he takes you to a party, he eyes you with a frown
And you know you've got to look your best, you mustn't let him down.
Then he'll clutch you with that ‘Look what I've got' sparkle in his eyes
Like he's entered for a raffle and he's won you for the prize.
But when the party's over, you'll be slogging through the sludge
Half the time a decoration and the other half a drudge.

So don't get married, it'll drive you round the bend
It's the lane without a turning, it's the end without an end.
Change your lover every Friday, take up tennis, be a nurse,
But don't get married, girls, for marriage is a curse.
Then you get him off to work, the mighty hunter is restored
And he leaves you there with nothing but the dreams you can't afford.

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