A few years ago the subject of Margaret Thatcher arose in an on-line poetry forum I used to frequent. I was taken aback by the very personal, misogynistic and crude ad feminam attacks that resulted. I know there’s a lot that could be said about her and her legacy, but I tried to be a little more subtle. I wanted to think about her early life, and how that might have affected (not to say jaundiced) her view of the world. The result was this early poem:
A Nation of Shopkeepers
Here, among the cartons and the crates,
crouched in the stockroom, the grocer’s daughter
knows the price of everything. She has learned
which are the good customers, who smiling, drop
their shiny shillings in her outstretched palm
and to spot those who, in plain daylight,
will pilfer from the shelves without a thought
or, ingratiating, ask for tick
against next payday. Then she sees them run
straight from the grocer’s to the betting shop.
They have no thought for how the grocer puts
food in the mouths of his own family.
Her dad, brown-overalled, pen behind his ear,
negotiates by phone with his suppliers.
They’d like to hold the shopkeeper to ransom
which isn’t to be tolerated. This
is business, and each honest businessman
must take care of his family and his cash.
If Dad would only let her mind the till,
this grocer’s shop would be a bigger business.