...the turbid ebb and flow of human misery...

Dover Beach – Matthew Arnold

The sea is right for washing clothes today.
The channel is flat, the sun bright,
Glancing off the white cliffs, near and far away.
26 miles… I could walk that in one day.
Where little children play along the shoreline
Half-naked couples openly embrace.
A game of volleyball gets underway,
Attaque and Contre they call; a thoughtless
Orgy of white flesh on parade. I live
In a jungle behind the beach. I sleep
Under a plastic sheet. Sometimes we fight
Among ourselves - Afghans, Iraqis,
Sudanese… sometimes our differences
Become too great, though not for Scabies or T.B.

No dogs allowed to walk
The white sands after May – except the wild
Alsatians of the CRS. Sometimes
I’ve slept in those gun emplacements
The Germans left when trying
To keep the British and their friends at bay.

Even the seagulls are patient here
But they can chase the ferries if they want.
We watch the fishermen collecting worms,
We touch the Bleriot monument for luck.
I erase the name beneath my fingerprints
With a dinner plate that I’ve made blister hot,
For I’ve a wife and children in Sangin,
I cannot take the risk of being caught.

You English come here for your ‘bargain booze’;
You make a day of purchasing your drug.
You think you are the measure of all things,
As if the whole world envies you your blood.
Our country’s only good enough for you
To bomb in freedom’s name, not for us to come
And live among you in your land of dreams.
But one night soon, squeezed between your smuggled
Crates of Whisky, I will get to ‘Ingerlund’.


Simon Tonkin is from Bristol. He is a self-employed artist who specialises in house portraits, especially those belonging to famous writers. He began writing poetry in his youth. 

Simon is the winner of Liberty's 'Be the 80th Writer' Competition.

While government watches you, who watches the government?