John Hunter previously worked for Birmingham City Council as their Modern Slavery Coordinator, and he is a poet and playwright in his spare time. On retiring, he was asked to write a poem linked to Modern Slavery, which was read out at our recent WMASN meeting. You can read the poem in full below. Its title, ‘Liberate’ is the name of the West Midlands response to Modern Slavery.
My young life has ceased before its prime.
Not put away those treasured childish things,
But cruelly wrenched, before their proper time.
My goals abandoned. Clipped my cherub’s wings.
And this, all this, not done to favour me,
But done to praise a discontented god.
A god no sacrifice can ever soothe.
The god of Greed, whose fee
Demands, we all kneel humble, bent and awed,
Relinquishing our hopes, our dreams, our Truth.
I cowered in family hell, while blows rained down.
The unknown journey, respite from the pain,
The lashing sea; the fear that we may drown,
All pale before the wealth we hoped to gain.
But dreams of comfort, love and safe abode,
Soon vanish, as reality strikes home,
To bruise our inner spirit, and subdue
All joy. Listless, we hang cowed.
No green and pleasant land in which we roam;
We are enslaved, invisible, to you.
To service men and women, salve their need;
Twenty, thirty, soon you cease to count.
Our bodies used to satisfy their greed,
Our pain, our shame, is deemed of no account.
Commodities for use, is all we are.
In drab worn clothes, I see the woe-filled faces,
Stare back at me, across our crowded room.
Their endless coughing, retching, leaves a scar,
No gentle, loving finger ever traces.
In this our home, our world, our living tomb.
Beyond despair, I lie awake at night,
And dream of pleasant lands and kindly folk,
Where I am bathed in soft and soothing light,
So far removed, from this dread, heavy yoke.
Then bang, and bang again the door is smashed.
Strange men and women burst into our world.
They are police! The one’s we’re taught to hate.
Our dreams of freedom now completely dashed.
But this is not the story that unfurled,
They’re here to free us, save us from our fate.
My young life was crushed before its prime,
And stolen from me, all those childish things,
That I would put away in their due time.
But now, I’ve grown anew my cherub’s wings,
Can focus on what matters most to me.
I’ve been released, am free to live my life,
Can laugh, can cry, can breathe without a care.
Oh, who would ever think they could break free,
From what before was horror, pain and strife,
And build once more, a life as free as air?