Guest Poem: James Hall, “Signing On” (Roundhouse Poetry Slam)

I picture you slammed, knee-sprawled, upon a Jobcentre Plus carpet
crawling for familiar certainty of grey office desk
body-buried beneath crumpled vacancy forms
skin peppered with paper-cuts
stationary digging bone deep
draining black and blue stains to white spinal cord coils

let’s flashback to what’s actually happening:
It’s 12.45pm: I’m taking your stern handshake
suddenly seeing myself a fragile lad, the flickering statistic
spreading my future fully across your lap – try me?

You blink coldly, icily clock my wear, figure I couldn’t give a toss
as rivers of apathy flow awkwardly from behind clinical frames of business glasses
I slouch smaller on a swing chair, knuckles sweating ripped denim-jacket pockets
injustice trickling way too fast inside my headspace, drifting to daydream:

you’re a set-to-kill robot
metallic fingers dangerously tapping keyboard keys like clicking triggers
a rusting juggernaut with clinical brown slacks and slickly parted brill-creamed hair
my capability? the vast city your computer chip is programmed to shut down
wipe clean off the map, self-esteem massacred by cluster-bombs of arrogance
remnants of any skeletal potential traced away with searing laser precision

so I start imagining morphing to a magnificent Komodo dragon
glowing skin speckled-red
snorting nostrils enflamed by your assumptions
webbed wings thrashing

because I swear you know nothing more than my National Insurance Number
stricken by such sympathy to a skinned head
wracked in grief, over these torn tracksuit-bottoms
my shaking fingers pausing at the tip of your Parker ball point
believing they’d be better scratching out your hardened soul

for I could fill five thousand of these job steps
etch childlike sketches by each vacancy I tried applying
write thick lyrical rhythms of my secret skills, in silent invisible ink
slapping silly smiley faces boldly upon the page corners
paint rich gold, every grey and white bland box
but you? Would sit blindly, imagine me slumming in drugden drouts
slamming half-finished chicken kebabs against speeding car windscreens

I want you to feel this passion sweat-staining the fabric of my Notts County away strip
I want you to know my tattooed fists won’t touch you
only tremble against first-forming dawn clouds
that I will clasp the keys to my pokey-proud flat
that I will cradle the kisses my girlfriend places upon downcast eyelids
as scowling jobsites wound my pupils

that I will comfort my heart as I freeflow verse all of our pin-prick dreams
whisper-spitting each word like they could be swallowed whole by God

I want you to see me..
I just want you to see me

James Hall is a writer and performance poet from Derby. He was a semi-finalist in the 2011 Roundhouse Poetry Slam; “Signing On” was one of the pieces that he performed during the contest.


About Charlotte Morgan Nwokenna

Editor and Public Relations Officer
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