Betjeman On The Riots by Repetitive John


When the high street is invaded by those who don’t trim hedges,
at Ealing Broadway glass defiles The Green.
And red-faced, padded policemen stand around the edges,
“It’s not quite time, we mustn’t make a scene.”

Giddy, slapstick squirrels claim to stand against corruption
as they scatter bricks and madly gather shoes.
Pied Pipers use the latest kit to spread the vile disruption
and to empty grubby local stores of booze.

The helicopters gleefully swoop down to loot more photos
and we, enthralled and shocked, reach for more wine.
“I don’t feel safe tonight dear, hold hands, I’ve locked the windows.
I hope this won’t affect the Northern Line.”

“Raise yourselves,” we told our children, “Daddy likes you, but won’t stay.
Remember, love is fame and money pride.
Guns are quite a lot of fun and women have no say.
If someone blocks your path push them aside.”

Politicians’ fingers point. No, not at their rich friends
who, plotting with the silence of the snake,
are left, still free, to search and find which rules they need to bend
to snatch what little cash the low-born make.

In the morning from a park bench two old men view distant smoke
which calls to mind their own traumatic youth
of chaos, yes, and violence too, but these two hearts of oak
were fighting not for trinkets but for truth.

Then, happy healing crowds appear to soothe the Junction’s heart.
Kind folks with brooms to sweep the greedy rich
from where they hide their ugly wealth in gated worlds apart,
with rage, into some toxic-watered ditch.