Last week he cast his vote, musing over
the strange expression, as though he was discarding it.
It was his first election since he turned eighteen.
His mates, those too young to register, laughed and said
It’s just as well you only need to mark a cross.
His mother told him of those who died for suffrage,
impressed on him that ballot papers were not
just a symbol of his rights, but of his responsibilities.
It was, she said, his civic duty. He nodded, didn’t say
he’d always meant to vote, impatient for the opportunity.
Yesterday he woke well before two, revision papers scattered
across his bedroom floor, a strange and orange light
shifting beyond his curtains, the air through open windows
dense and acrid, the night-quiet ripped by sirens, voices.
He woke his mother; together they stared in disbelief.
He tugged on jeans and vest, headed out to see if he could help.
The social club was heaving – the dispossessed, the volunteers,
the broken and the fixers, all sleep-torn, shocked and weary.
He sorted through donations: piles of clothes and bedding;
bags of bread and fruit; boxes packed with tins and toiletries..
He hefted shrink-wrapped bales of bottled water;
handed shoes to barefoot kids; wrapped blankets
round the shoulders of the shaken, fearful, grieving.
At eight he left, still in vest and jeans, hoped his college
would understand; would forgive the stench of smoke,
his lateness, his lack of pens and ruler. They did.
They offered extra time to answer A level questions
on Shakespeare, Chekhov, Chaucer. He declined.
Gotta go. Stuff to do. And baseball hat in one hand
mobile in the other, he headed back to Westminster,
to loaded trolleys, to helping, sorting, giving.
He didn’t stop to think, but if he had perhaps
he would have felt the resonance, the friction rub
of vote and action, the synergy, the politics of doing.