Friday poem: 'No Ball Games'
A Friday poem from Plum, the new poetry collection from Hollie McNish, winner of the 2017 Ted Hughes Award.
By Hollie McNish
there are no
no signs of life at
night the signs
reflect the fight
‘NO ENTRY' here
no music bars
no clubs, no raves
the ‘youth' now shuffle round
youth clubs closed
for lack of pounds
some kids dine in
playrooms full of
friends and phones
for empty parks
homes too small
or simply can't
to bring friends back
no owned space
to sit and chat
groups of friends in parks
hanging out now classed as
I think the hardest age is teen
too old to play, too young to wander free
by night ‘NO UNDER 21s' inside
by day no play ‘NO BALL GAMES' signs
no throwing, catching, football matches
one broken window, council snatches
every patch of makeshift pitch
not got a garden? give a shit!
that small green patch is yours no more!
‘NO BALL GAMES' signs stuck in their hordes
in parks, these signs all laugh the same
‘NO OVER 14s' – please go away!
no roundabouts, no swings, no slides
you'll drink, you'll shag, you'll sit outside!
where teens ride roads, now metal poles
pop up in formal demon drones
‘NO SKATEBOARDING', no wheels, no bikes
all public concrete set with spikes
still headlines cry – obesity!
– computer games! – too much tv!
‘KEEP OFF THE GRASS'
‘KEEP OFF' ‘KEEP OUT'
‘NO BALL GAMES' here
no teens allowed
stinks of shit
from sewers, seeps to streets to poison kids
preaching, it lies in gutters lined in teenage kicks
deflated footballs, mud and teenage sick
with stomachs thick and sagging centres
minds left numb and fun repented
it snatches fire-filled beating teenage hearts
pours water over bursting teenage sparks
till nothing's left, nothing to do
towns now turned to teenage zoos
caged and locked, their pathways blocked
left only cock or trudging shops
as the young poor wait and rot
labelled yobs by headline cops
while adults frown
and walk away
on youth today
as children play
now let us pray