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21ST-CENTURY POETRY ‘Greatness’ in a Time of Covid

by Tayo Aluko

We made our homes in the belly of the Beast
The Beast that devoured our ancestors
and spat them out on the other side of the globe
that stole our gold and rubber
our skills and knowledge
our art and music, our history.

It gorged, and fattened itself
dressed in unmissable finery
and declared itself proudly
The Empire
seeing its greatness in our puzzled eyes
as we stared up the barrel of a gun
from all corners of the earth.

Its guns were needed still (we were told)
to protect us from the socialists and communists
Capitalism, our enslaver for centuries
would liberate us one day.

It bought our leaders
and continued the quiet theft
of our humanity and our dignity
as it planted poison and bombs
where once there was rice and diamonds.

And then the virus came
silent, swift and deadly
we answered the call to the front line
to confront this invisible enemy
We asked simply for gloves, masks, visors and gowns.

As we fell, one by one
we finally began to see
that what the gentle ones had been whispering loudly
had been true all along:
We’d been feeding
on the Beast’s excrement
unmindful of the fact
that The Empire has no clothes.          

Tayo Aluko is a playwright, actor and singer based in Liverpool. He has toured nationally and internationally with his one-man plays Call Mr Robeson and Just an Ordinary Lawyer and is currently working on one inspired by the life, music and ancestry of black British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. 21st-century Poetry is edited by Andy Croft, email [email protected].



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