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
welcome signs
no signs of life at
night the signs
reflect the fight

‘NO ENTRY' here
no music bars
no clubs, no raves

like ghosts
the ‘youth' now shuffle round
youth clubs closed
for lack of pounds

some kids dine in
heated homes
playrooms full of
friends and phones

others roam
for empty parks
homes too small
or simply can't

not allowed
to bring friends back
no owned space
to sit and chat

groups of friends in parks
now gangs
hanging out now classed as
hatching plans

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!
no teens allowed

so now
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
looking down
on youth today

as children play
now let us pray


by Hollie McNish

Book cover for Plum

Plum is a wise, candid and sometimes rude collection of poems full of honesty, conviction and love. Featuring poems written throughout Hollie’s life, from childhood to motherhood, Plum is a celebration of life and a book about the messy business of growing up.