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Suffer Little Children

Sometime between us taking them out of the factories
And the end of the second world war
Children used to play in the street.
But I was a new Elizabethan, six years old,
Preparing for the age of discovery by staying on the pavement
And learning my curb drill.
They told us at school it was safer that way
But we should have made more of a stand
Than simply sniping at Jaguars with catapults.
Now the cars drive children into the doorways of flats
And other people’s front gardens,
Keep them from the pavement in case a passing exuberance
Sets off an alarm.
Lock up your mothers
Call out the militia and the vigilantes.

They used to bus children from the cities once a year,
Give them a taste of the countryside or sea
But that was when we were poor.
Now we are rich
We simply abandon them
And look back with nostalgia at a time when
People really knew how to enjoy themselves.

At the end of my road they are building on the playing field
And the wood now three metres wide is designated a nature trail
And must be treated with respect.

Opposite is the cemetery
And children must be accompanied by an adult
The riding of bicycles is also forbidden.
Across the other side of town
A church has this notice on a windowless wall.
“The playing of ball games is strictly forbidden”

“Suffer little children to come unto me”
But it’s been two thousand years
And he forgot to tell us to keep a space free for the meeting.
Apart from that I’m not sure saviours
That spend their time with children and prostitutes
Without having completed the appropriate courses
Can be relied on to be truly cost effective.

Meanwhile the neighbourhood watch
Has a captive
Fifteen years old and he doesn’t give a fuck
As they throw him against the metal side of Mammon.
All there is, is terror
And that he knows inside out.
Next month he is sixteen
And we can put him back in the factory
Until the next world war
After all his training is complete
And tonight is the graduation ceremony
For like all children in this time of affluence
He has everything.