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Poetry on the Picketline Caged Birds for Sale by Mike Bannister

A Bradford mill yard of a winter’s night,
worn steps, and then a sliding door,
a loom shed, part filled with yellow light,
and traders, first a shuffle then a score
drifting in to risk uncertain wages.

Above the drone of whispered words
shy captives call from little cages:
tired working men and singing birds,
in from the four corners, waiting here
upon the flippance of an auctioneer.

Bright shadows, to have lived so long,
these tiny heralds of the shining way;
piping scraps of half forgotten song,
pecking sawdust from a plastic tray.
Their keepers barely seem to speak

who labour after labour, come what may;
flush now perhaps, yet poor within a week;
unwilling prisoners of the empty day,
fast in the net that wealth itself creates
out of convention and the tyranny of states.

Rumour had it that a midnight market would produce a passable cooker for our kitchen. What we found instead was a caged bird sale. Men of all ages and ethnicities lovingly trading together, peacefully oblivious of the racial tensions outside.

Poetry on the Picket Line is a squad of like-minded poets putting themselves about to read their work on picket lines, in the spirit of solidarity. Invitations to rallies etc welcome, contact The new Poetry on the Picket Line anthology is available at



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