I was convening a conference last year and on the second day the roads were closed off because a man was protesting on a roof next to our conference venue. The conference delegates comprised artists, academics and business practitioners, and all were sensitive to the plight of this young man, who was clearly struggling with what life had thrown at him. He was throwing roof tiles down and setting fire to his clothes as onlookers gathered, taking pictures with their mobile phones. It made an impact on me. Like some kind of one man performance, next to our conference, which was called ‘Performance’. I hope he was treated well, and with the love and care he seemed to need, when he eventually came down from the roof.
Under the lights, there on the stage
The hooded boy acts out his rage
Under the sun, there on the roof
The angry soul shouts down his truth
The audience participate.
They shout back up, he takes the bait
The crowd below enjoy the ‘show’
They do not know. They do not know.
The people in the stalls move back
A circle view – he will attack
Those eating crisps, on mobile phones
Or taking pictures. He’s alone
Beneath the spotlight of the sun
The roof his stage, and everyone
Lined up, the velvet rope is there
To keep them from him. Lay him bare.
“Come down” they cry, the ones with hats
The front row stalls, the dressed up twats
The cheaper seats don’t concentrate
He’ll have to make them. Feel the weight
Of ticker tape made out of stone
And flowers made of concrete, thrown.
His body aches, his mind it runs
From room to room under the sun.
“Put out the light, put out the light
Officer, did you pray tonight?
I’ll send a tile to break you all
I’ll set some fire and let it fall
This world’s a stage, and I’m on mine
My entrance now, I’ll say my line
The only one you’ve given me.
It starts with “please” and ends with “me”
And arty people come and go
Have chats re Michelangelo
And here I am. I did say please.
You didn’t see me. On my knees
Begging for something. Nothing much
Begging for eyes, for smiles, for touch
“Please can you help me?” I have said
You didn’t hear me. Cut me dead”.
They hear him now. He cries with pain
He’ll join them in the pit again.
They’ll touch him as they cuff his wrists.
They’ll look at him. He will feel kissed
Some love or something as his head
Is bent to take him to a bed.
Red carpet. To the after show
For drinks of tea. They didn’t know.
They didn’t know. Do they know now?
He’s in the pit. He takes his bow.
The audience go to the bar
He’s guided gently to the car
And taken to a little place
Where someone signs him in. Their face
Is blank. They missed the line he said.
They still don’t know.