I was a nobody born to nobodies.
A few somebodies lived in Sutton,
we came across them
when they hired and fired us,
lanced our boils,
pulled our teeth,

turfed us out,
declared us consumptive,
fit for the San,
dubbed us indigent
and intoned to their Gods
over our corpses.

We wore neither underwear
nor sleeping garments.
We tucked our shirt-tails
between our legs
and turned in wearing the shirt
we wore all week.

At the end of the yard
stood a brick shed.
If taken short in the night
you were allowed a candle
but you could just
follow your nose.

Having swept the seat of coal dust
or sometimes snow
you settled down over a hole
cut in rough sawn planks
above a big, two-handled
iron bucket.

You wiped your arse on newspaper.
I found this made for
therapeutic movements
if I discovered a royal likeness
or some other somebody
looking up at me.

Our teacher told us
we were lucky to be British
the race that ruled the world.
On Empire day I sang
and waved a flag
before a map covered in red.

One Friday when I came home
I found my mother lying low,
she thought I was the rent man
but it wasn't fear of him
that made her weep
it was being short of luck
and broke on Short Street
with seven more days to go.