Liberty

So free, we walk the streets with purpose. 
We can be our jeans today. 
We choose ourselves in what we purchase. 
We live for our dreams and pray
alone in heaving tube trains, 
summon images of times that meant
something more than ebb and roar. 
We work. we eat. We pay our rent. 

With freedom punishing our hearts
For every love we tore apart. 
And freedom forcing us to try
To live a bit before we die. 

Be beautiful. You have the option. 
Strong and clever and successful. 
Be the type of you that knows 
The type of things you do, and wrestle
Silently with all your freedom. 
Worry in your bed at night. 
Nothing seems to have much meaning. 
you don’t feel you’re living right. 

Democracy. The shining orb.
If only those poor others knew
How right it feels when you absorb
The lies until they’re almost true. 

Freedom! Liberty! Such blazing
And important words.
We carve them into statues,
Sacred. 
Even our poor birds
don’t dare to shit on things so grand. 
We, brave and honourable, we understand
that here, on green and pleasant land,
Liberty’s become the brand. 

But who has freedom here? Is freedom
When you cannot breathe for stress,
Bills to pay while children slay 
Each other in the streets? You dress
your freedom how you like, 
mine is ugly and upset. 
It knows the game is up. 
It watches telly. 
Places bets. 
Eat its dinner. 
Drink its beer. 
Smoke its cigarettes. 
Rips itself to pieces
Falls asleep and dreams of when we’ll get
rich enough to leave it all behind us. 

Once I met 
a woman who was free enough 
to weep without regret.
 
the bus was full of people, 
they shuffled in their seats
she was dirtier 
than you are meant to be.

And as she beats
her fists against her temples,
screams a language I can’t speak,
the passengers pretend that nothing’s happened. 
Sitting meek 
While she is flattened by a grief
that all of us are scared to see, 
because that grief in us too, 
but we think it shouldn’t be. 
We keep our panic safe in public. 
She was sick and tired and toothless.
She seemed to scream 
that we are fucked, 
and all our liberty is useless. 

Because what’s my freedom without yours? 

And far away on distant shores
The cost of all our freedom
Is abhorrent and it roars
Inside the throat of all we live for -
All our riches and our leisure. 

Liberty’s a lie
Until we’re in it all together. 

 

Kate Tempest grew up in South-East London, where she still lives. She started out as a rapper, toured the spoken word circuit for a number of years, and now works as a poet and playwright too. Her work includes Balance, her first album with her band Sound of Rum, Everything Speaks in its Own Way, her first collection of poems; GlassHouse, a forum theatre play for Cardboard Citizens; and the plays Wasted and Hopelessly Devoted for new writing theatre company Paines Plough. Her epic poem Brand New Ancients won both the Ted Hughes Prize for innovation in poetry and a Herald Angel Award. It is published by Picador and is touring nationwide until March 2013. She has a new album coming out on Big Dada in 2014, her second poetry collection to be publisher by Picador in Autumn 2014 and he debut novel to be published by Bloomsbury in 2015.

 

While government watches you, who watches the government?