Militant Thistles

polemical poetry to prickle the politics of "permanent austerity"

atos Poor Doors Sheriff Stars spikes

thistles stretch their prickly arms afar

Black Triangle bedroom tax Disrupt and Upset

Nick Burbridge

Documentary Evidence

(Dispatches from The Royal Earlswood)



Simple to explore the snow-filled compound

where naked forms were put as punishment,

or follow shuffled tracks along bleak corridors

until your hidden camera fixes

on the blue-blood imbeciles you search for,

stationed in frayed armchairs,

victims of sensational neglect,

so righteous fingers point at all of us

who left their broken ones in limbo

when there seemed no other course;

for we were taught this to expect.


Visions of enlightenment.  Take two.

Pious voice recites hushed platitudes

across excited shouts from a suburban house,

one of thousands cheaply poached

by health-care traders, bidding

for new-liberated stock like lots.

Home in on a lame circle, gathered

in a neatly furnished space

for tea and cakes, French windows open

on a garden filled with unheard birdsong.

Follow their bent figures to the seaside.

Crowd shots to highlight how the touched

are readily absorbed – or not.


Leave no lens live one winter night

on a lone worker at a long week’s shift

slumbering across the kitchen table

by the swirl and tumble of soiled sheets.

Or mount the stairs and hesitate

as a fire-door opens from within,

to fix on a still figure, wedged

between flower-papered wall and bed,

in the aftermath of a fierce fit –

though falls observed on those reviled wards

had only ever left him scars that slowly healed.

Nick Burbridge is an Anglo-Irish poet, playwright, novelist, documentary, short story and song writer. His plays include Dirty Tricks (Soho Theatre Company), Vermin (Finborough), Cock Robin (Verity Bargate Award Runner-up/Brighton Festival), Scrap (South East Arts commission/Regional Tour), and double bills Neck/Cutting Room (Bright Red Theatre) and Acts Of Violence (Brighton Actors’ Theatre). For many years he ran his own fringe company, Tommy McDermott’s Theatre.  BBC Radio Drama productions feature Grosse Fugue (Monday Play), Rites Of Passage (Afternoon Play), and several short stories. As a novelist, he had Operation Emerald (Pluto) published under the pseudonym Dominic McCartan.  He collaborated with Captain Fred Holroyd on War Without Honour (Harrap/Medium), a non-fiction work launched at the House of Commons. His short stories have been printed in literary magazines, and Arts Council anthologies. He has written three collections of poetry: On Call (Envoi Poets), All Kinds Of Disorder, and The Unicycle Set (Waterloo Press), and a fourth, Undercover Work, is scheduled; while poems have appeared in major periodicals, including Acumen, Agenda, Ambit, The Rialto, Stand etc. As a singer/songwriter, he has made seven albums with his band McDermott’s Two Hours -The Enemy Within, Live At Ferneham Hall, World Turned Upside Down, Claws And Wings, Disorder, Goodbye to the Madhouse, and Anticlockwise.  - recorded in collaboration with The Levellers, who also covered his song 'Dirty Davey' on their eponymous number one-selling album, and who feature him on their live DVD, Chaos Theory. An acoustic album, Gathered, made with multi-instrumentalist, Tim Cotterell, won him the Spiral Earth Best Songwriter Award, 2013.

Pan out instead on the apartments

the asylum has become.  

Cut back to the house

and a new circle of pioneers.

Lay over quotes from earnest privateers,

family equipped with joyful tales;

testaments from model clients          

with the brain cells to articulate.

Fade down to a neat commissioned score.

On no account explore unravelled figures,

interview a single witness who might tell what is

from what it seems, or follow trails to littered fields.

Please don’t catch me at my brother’s grave.