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Poetry on the Picket Line Sister Juana (para las limpiadoras)

Sister Juana walks quietly
to service on irregular mornings –

less often than she would like,
but her job doesn’t always allow her to get away.
 
She is squeezed off the Tube
with the rest and then curves

away down side alleys,
like a night wind

on those routes that will take her faster
and unobserved.

She remembers as she walks
that the holes in her shoes

are portals to the barefoot
and the blessed.

There will never be a day
when her tears or her sweat

are widely reported
to heal the sick

takes her place with the choristers
behind the banners and mindful

of each intonation she proclaims
“En solidaridad

con mis companeros,” calling upon
the Spanish she had held to through her lunch-breaks

so she could pray
in the proper spirit

with all the communion
of those still struggling
against mere
respectability.

She raises her hands
as she rolls her worship home

with a voice that holds, “En el nombre
de libertad y dignidad
y los derechos humanos…
Amen.”

Anyone near the streets around Petty France in London will have seen that United Voices of the World (UVW), representing the interests of mostly precarious and migrant workers in sectors such as cleaning and maintenance, have been co-ordinating strike action among the cleaning staff of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), in a campaign for a London living wage, sick pay and equality of conditions with in-house staff. On September 5, UVW and PCS union members at MoJ and Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy are holding a joint rally and call-out to their respective Secretaries of State to intervene. Time is up on poverty pay and second-class contracts for outsourced workers.

Poetry on the Picket Line is a squad of like-minded poets putting themselves about to read their work on picket lines, in the spirit of solidarity. Invitations to rallies etc. welcome, contact facebook.com/pg/PicketLinePoets

 

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