‘They had become people to throw away. They were no longer what they had been, and neither were we.’ (Ignace Rukiramacumu, génocidaire)*

Beveridge was insane.

He genetically engineered
a race of shape-shifting cockroaches
walking on hind-legs
like uppity pigs.

He clothed them in trackies and baseball caps,
wigged them in gel and hi-tensile scrunchies.

Nutrition was important:
they thrived on chips            and heroin


in fried food, sweat
and cigarette hutches            grease.

They were repulsive:
some grotesquely corpulent,
others skeletal on crack;
Special Brew shrunk some skulls reptilian.
They were toothless and hairless,
pimpled in blackheads and shiny with pus.

they seemed to find each other attractive
mating continually and without compunction.
Even the juveniles were fertile,
farrowing in nests of shredded garbage
in plasma-screened council dens.

Presently, they became a problem.
They were an aesthetic blight.
They burgled our houses
and were prone to raping or murdering their children.
But mostly they took advantage of our charity,
their appetite for consumption
matched only by their aversion to work.
And everything was always
someone else’s fault — or responsibility —
they would not help themselves.

Misguided people from the churches,
looked down on their squalor
and felt sympathy, arguing passionately
that, ‘something should be done’
to ameliorate their ‘plight’:
e.g. lots more free stuff they’d done nothing to deserve;
houses, hospitals, social-care, training —
hope for a better life.

But of course, they had forgotten:
they were only cockroaches,
walking on hind-legs            pigs


* In Jean Hatzfeld, A Time for Machetes, The Rwandan Genocide, the Killers Speak, London, Serpent’s Tail, 2008, p42.


Steve Ely is a poet, novelist, dramatist and biographer. His most recent book of poems is Englaland (Smokestack, April 2015). His previous collection, Oswald’s Book of Hours (Smokestack, 2013) was nominated for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry. His novel Ratmen was published by Blackheath in 2012. His biographical work about Ted Hughes’s neglected South Yorkshire period, Ted Hughes’s South Yorkshire; Made in Mexborough, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in August. 2015.


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