STAR POems: These Streets

I was born here, under Maggie’s rule.
Living beneath her Spitting Image character
hanging from a telecom wire overhead.
The youth here knew hate before they knew love
and everybody hated the Iron Lady.
Everything here was grey; from the rows of well-worn
tenements and dirt-strewn streets to the sunken eyes
of every battered wife.
Violence was rife, accepted as normality.
A messed up reality that you were more of a man
if you used your fists or feet on a regular basis.
Even if it was taking a liberty by terrorising
the mother of your children, beating your own wife
for fun or frustration, usually after a Friday night in the boozer
tanked up on cheap beer. Or maybe after a day at the bookies
where you spanked the message money on a dead-cert at Ayr,
it was always the wife that got the blame.
Then there were the football casuals;
young boys who thrived on the blood of their rivals,
organised chaos for teenage kicks.
Most of them were too buzzed on cheap glue
to feel the shards of broken glass
being picked out of their punk-styled hair
by the bloodied hands of their weeping mothers.
Too messed up on drugs and booze to consider
the poor woman who had to leave her other kids at Christmas
to visit her thug of a son in HMP Barlinnie.
This was 1980s Glasgow. This is where I was born
and it was a life that most could never comprehend.
These streets were made for nothing.
And for as long as I can remember, I knew,
I was never made for these streets.

Helen Elliott