Young Poet Laureate 2017 Winning Poem

Business as usual by Oakley Flanagan

the winds will change

the tides will turn

the papers will predict the worse

at first we’ll blame God

and then terrorists

who’ve finally succeeded

in turning the sky against us

the names of hurricanes will chill parental bones

mother’s will whisper them into the ears of their young

like childhood monsters

the waters will withdraw

from Britain’s banks

will churn and circle

like a pack of ravenous wolves

fighting over the last bone

before they burst their banks

reduce cities to myth

and still

we won’t be convinced

we will live in the solitude

of our newfound sovereignty

our buildings reaching higher than God

soaring like Icarus in the glory of our new empire’s sun

we will look to the screen

so we don’t hear the planet’s cries

the prophets will rage on street corners

the poets into pages of digitalised poetry

kindle killed paper

because man killed the trees

suited men cowered in underground bunkers

will promise worthless coins and an overnight stay

to the prostitutes they f***

research papers of disgraced postgrads

will be vindicated

pass into platitude and proverb

no one will enter a building without an escape plan

the oceans will boil like kettles

and curdle to milk

as landmass


to the sea

words such as freak



and unprecedented

will become


those foolish enough to swim in the oceans will blister and crack

burned by the sulphur

the few natives and tribesmen left alive will die of the water

those too poor to afford gas masks will die of the air

crops will drown

villagers perish

food will be grown in chemical soil

then starvation rations will become the solution to overpopulation

ice will burn

to gas

fires will break out spontaneously

and burn the forests starved by drought

the children will soak up the view with terrified eyes

the first words of the newborn

uncurling itself between the bloodied legs and effluent

of its mother will be

is this the future you left us?

and still

amidst all this chaos

we will not blame ourselves

or the part that we have played

collectively to total the sum

of this ravenous destruction

so it’ll be business as usual in Britain

we will frack and burn and bleed

unmoved by the destruction

of Nature prostrated on her knees

shouting curses to the pylons

that murdered all her trees

this our mountainous inhumanity

to feed our insatiable greed

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