Learn this lesson: assume the supplicant’s
position, low before the arbiter.
Hang your petition on the ox’s horn and
pray as it turns and plods inside the keep.
Forty two days in the wilderness, longer
than Christ’s self-chosen stay. Time to go home
and count the copper pennies in your palm, time
to scour the bins for corn cobs overlooked,
scraps on bones, nubs of bread, hide candles
and kindling, beg remission on your rent.
Time to forage hedgerows, scrape bark for baking
bread, claw the furrows for potatoes, hush
the hungry child while you lie clamped and clemmed,
fashioning hope from feathers and dung.
You may be lucky: beneficence
parsimonious may be granted or
day on day on days delays will find you
in winter’s shadow outside the castle walls.
—Frank McMahan © 2018
The title of this poem relates to a new UK Social Security single benefit ( to replace several others). Its rollout has been very expensive and is causing great hardship for the poorest people in this country. Many have to rely on food banks.