Poetry Submission

– Alex McMillan

Student loans

Years ago I worked
In factories – different
Factories, filling time 
Sheets and boxes
With various things: adverts for
Holidays or bank accounts,
Trainers, contact lenses
Broccoli. Though the 
Factories were in different 
Places, the people and the
Boxes never changed

Forever broke, especially
In the days before
Salary it seemed a 
Protest against my work station to
Dismiss the money so
Quickly, gambling drinking
A gift for someone
Nothing left and back to
Those boxes, a week or two 
Longer

There’s little to be said for
Rising at 5am walking 
Penniless to a big hut full of
Things you don’t want
Without coffee money
Or cigarettes or anyone caring
To ask what you think about what
You’re doing or why it might be 
You 
Doing it

I remember deciding if I
Ever got something going
I’d take a little money and some of those
Trainers out their boxes
And walk the earth and just breathe and see and think and
Rejoice at not being
There in that hut again sometimes the
Difference is
About five or ten quid just
The idea that when you
Finish you can sit alone
Or with someone if you’ve
Better luck, a coffee a pint a glass of wine and
Feel like it’s not
Such a struggle sometimes
There’s room for you in the world
Too

Nobody cared to offer the fiver, far
Less the tenner in those days there
Was
Nobody
Buying coffees or beers sending
Messages about Friday or the boozer or poker nights that are really just about having a few drinks and some banter
When I did ask for a loan they’d
Squirm a bit thinking
I’d waste it, the uniform and those boxes left something on me
– A smell? –
That marked me out as the risk
The bad example what not
To be doing at 24 when others were
Studying to be
Doctors and had driving licenses and good prospects at
The bank

In desperation I went to 
University to talk about Blake and
Jaws and Dostoevsky and spend
Money I’d never had on
Pills and cocaine and women and more gambling and computer games and books by people who tried to get by without working and those fiver and tenner loans
Seemed to flood in from family and
New friends and I spent them on dog
Races and ecstasy and – once –
A can of whipped cream to eat
Off an American student’s body at 2
On a Monday afternoon And while I did
All those boxes were still
In the hut with
People like me
Filling them with things
They don’t want,
With no cigarettes or ecstasy or cans of whipped cream
No fivers or tenners
Or better
Luck

Childhood problems

We are making 
Every 
Negative 
Experience 
A cause for trauma and 
Telling our kids 
That every sadness, 
Every non-smile is a problem 
That must be 
Discussed 
And 
Dissected 
And 
Accounted 
For 
And taking 
Away their freedom to
Feel 
All the things that make them 
The them they may become 
Without
Our
Interfering.

Nothing Unbroken
(For Nayya)


I’ve only ever had two STD’s
Both picked up
From the same woman, the first time
We had sex and
The last. Between
Times we bought
Little rings and 
Pretended we were
Married

She was small and everyone said
Ugly. We rented
A house in west Jakarta and
Broke the bed and the sofa,
The kitchen table and a coffee table I liked
To put my feet on when I read
At one point she –
Or I? – ripped the shower
Curtain from its rail and a few mirrors
Plates glasses and bottles were smashed
In drunken arguments and laughter
But mostly through scratching and biting and trying to break one 
Another in two

She was never too faithful – 
Nor was I – but naked
Like animals 
Without words and
People
Between us everything 
Was fine

When we left that house there
Was nothing 
Unbroken we’d spent most of
Our time trying to break each 
Other and everything around us
I’d never met anything so 
Exciting or anyone
So intent on being taken
From the world through
Sex but it wasn’t enough. She 
Went back to
Her
Incredible
Little
Kid and all the other men she used 
And was used by. There was a
Sadness to it but
She’d been a woman like I’d
Never
Imagined sometimes
It’s the world that gets in the way
Not the sex or the infidelity
That was natural but
The words and the
Others
Which couldn’t leave us alone
Happy
To keep smashing up furniture
With our 
Bodies

Alex McMillan

Alex McMillan lives and teaches in Lima, Peru. When not teaching he reads and writes poetry.