One short, one long

(Listen to the poem)

Sometimes, at meetings,
purporting busily
to solve the problems of the world
in the time
left over
in between the coffee breaks,
a delegate gets up and says
he has a little something
he would like to do,
just two words he would like
to add,
one short, one long,to all the other ones,
which would endow our declaration
with a mellower taste
and make for
smoother satisfaction.
The words are
as appropriate“.
“It is innocuous,”
I’ve heard one say
in soothing tones.
Of course.
Think back to 1789:
Liberty, Equality, Fraternity-
as appropriate.
Or try:
I swear to tell the truth,
the whole etcetera etcetera,
as appropriate.
But I am grateful for this now.
I always used to be confused,
suspicious of my own suspicion,
but  when I hear our leaders
now, especially the ones with
bleary eyes, who seem to say:
“You really must believe me, look,
I’ve practised this expression hours and hours,
my ears are starting to ache awfully.”
Or those with dubba-digit IQ’s
and who get even less on
any of the scales scoring integrity,
I stir those freeze-dried words
into their murky pledges and
they all turn crystal clear.

Phillip Hill 2007

Listen to the poem

(This poem is included in my book The Observation Car which is available from

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