The Sri Lankan Hangman

In the paper today, tucked away on page nine,
Sri Lanka is bringing back the death penalty.

The president advertised for a hangman,
No bonus on productivity but uniform supplied.

He’s been inundated with applicants
In Sinhalese, Tamil and English.

Address the key selection criteria,
Swift of arm, cold of heart, and punctual

What does a hangman’s resume look like?
Past experience nil but good communication skills.

Preparing suitable interview questions,
Tell us about a time when you had to despatch…

Was there an equal balance of gender?
Did any of the fairer sex apply?

What would applicants ask of the interview panel?
Is there a social club? How about overtime pay?

It was abolished by Bandaranaike in 56,
Now the official grim reaper takes his place again.

What has the Commonwealth got to say,
Will there be an unmarked grave for those who sway?

What does the hangman tell her kids?
A workout at the gym, oil the trapdoor and paperwork.

Don’t Shoot the Politicians

No need to shoot the politicians, yet;
the guillotine is tempting, though
with its visual dramatic permanence,
but think of the char lady.

Just sling them out by the scruff,
in the brightest of broad daylight;
onto mothballed barges and far away.
open the windows, change the locks.

Don’t open their eyes with matchsticks,
they won’t see pensioners freezing,
icebergs melting and species dwindling.
they won’t know what hand-to-mouth is.

Don’t bother prying their chests open,
for a glimpse of what registers there;
the homeless sleeping in derelict cars,
or depression which buries so many.

Just sling them out by the scruff,
and let the air flood in, in, in, in.


Even in the dark ages, things moved forwards,
crop rotation, and mechanical clocks, for example.
Each new generation refined what’s gone before,
an inch here, a gallop there, always progressing.
Improving on the Romans’ distillation processes
or perfecting paper production with water mills.
Social change too, like the development of guilds,
and pay for apprentices who learnt their trade.
We think of the Dark Ages as dead uncivilized time
but there was continuous change, for the better.

Lorries banked up from the white cliffs of Dover
to the centre of London and up the M1 to the north,
that folly takes England backwards, back fifty years,
back to some backwater, where regress pillages tears.
Dark melancholy days, the current surges in reverse,
terms once applied to the Middle Ages resonate now.