My Kidnapping - Poem by Ian McMillan
It began as a day so ordinary that if it was a shoe
It would have been an ordinary shoe; the kettle
Boiled boilingly and the steam hung in the kitchen
Like drapes in a play. Someone came up to the door
And didn't knock and burst in; you know those clowns
That burst through paper hoops in sad circuses
In places like Northamptonshire, Isle of Wight? Like that.
He said, through his mask, I HAVE COME TO KIDNAP YOU
AND TAKE YOU TO A WAREHOUSE. GIVE ME YOUR WRISTS.
Sellotaped up, I was bundled into the back of a family car
And driven at high speed through the former coalfield
That has been my home since I was born and before,
Recalling my mother running rather too quickly
For the bus to Great Houghton in late 1955. GET OUT
He said. Not always a former coalfield, of course.
This sellotape's tight, I said. WHAT DO YOU EXPECT
He roared, THE MINIMUM WAGE? In the warehouse,
By the green hill that used to be a muckstack, people
Were running as fast as Alf Tupper as fast as Mo Farah
Carrying boxes to put in boxes to put in boxes to put
In boxes to put in crates to put in crates to put in wagons
To put on roads to put in houses. GET OVER THERE
AND START my kidnapper said, and I tried to explain
That I was a poety-man not a warehousey-man
And he said WHERE HAVE ALL THOSE BOOKS GOT YOU
NOW, EH, FATTY? WHERE HAVE ALL THOSE POLYSYLLABIC
WORDS GOT YOU NOW, CHUBSTER? ARE YOUR MOOBS
FULL OF LANGUAGE? NOW PICK N PACK, SLOB McSLOB!
And I realised that this was where, in my late 50's,
I'd ended up. I still believed, as I believed in 1987,
That profit is unpaid wages, but I picked up a packet
And packed that packet like all the unpaid interns
Around me. For a moment, I stood still and looked up
At the light coming through a tiny window
And my kidnapper yelled LOSER! LOSE THE GAZE!
PACK THE STUFF! He hesitated, waited a moment,
His face rippling in a grin that, if it had been a kind of bed,
Would have been a very uncomfortable bed in a damp
Bedsit at the edge of a town that used to make felt hats,
And said HEY, WORD-MOUNTAIN, ANY OF YOUR BOOOOOKS
IN HERE? YOU PACKING ANY OF YOUR BOOOOOOOKS?
And he said books in that way that people say books
When they try to emphasise what divides us, not what
Staples us together. I shook my head; ran, sellotaped, fast
As I could because I was late for the future. Damn it, I was
Late for the present. And that is the story of my kidnapping,
On a day so ordinary it could have been an egg-cup.
An ordinary egg-cup, not a novelty egg cup. The warehouse:
It's as big as a mind. As big as a mind. As big as a mind.
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