2 Jul 2009

Social Work poem

In Scotland, the Association of Directors of Social Work commissioned this poem "for the social workers of Scotland" - I was trained as a Social Worker and now work for two charities working with people who have mental health issues. I thought it was good and worth more people seeing...

Brothers and Keepers
By Edwin Morgan

It was heard all right; that was not the argument.
Day or night it echoed from wall to wall,
A voice, never incomprehensible,
But a question many found intolerable:
'Am I my brother's keeper?' Some with scorn,
Some with anger, some with quick dismissal,
Some with the half-uneasy consciousness
Of being put on the spot, some blustering,
Some brazen, some bound to macho boasts,
Kicking the can of pity out of play,
'Each to his own, let them get on with it!'

Conflicting shouts and voices did not stop us.
Threats were grist to the mill. We wanted
The record of what was and is and may be
To be set down if not in letters of the fire
At least in good black print and clicks of mouse
To open up what's wrong, what's right, texting,
Probing, shaming, dreaming, countering
The last indifference.
Who could be indifferent
When we took psychotic Steve from his filthy bolthole
Into a modest hostel room and he murmured
In half-belief 'Is this all for me?'
The reward of gratitude is a star in dark skies.
You cannot always help but trying is the crux.
I well remember that old alky Bill
Who shared his hovel of a house with others;
They held him prisoner among the litter
Of needles and syringes and empty bottles
Waiting to be smashed on social workers.
Another place for Bill? - possible,
But he's a bloody mess from fights at the moment.
We don't give up, that nothing is easy
Makes it even better not to give up.
Everyone alive is subject to change.
Hope lies where you least expect it.
Take exclusion from school, or rather don't take it!
Sandra, a so-called impossible child,
Made sure each class was disrupted to breaking-point.
Yelling, hitting, throwing chairs about,
Was she getting what she wanted,
Did she know what she wanted?
Was it 'What is to be done with her?'
Or rather 'What has been done to her?'
She was a child abused, her mother on drugs,
She had become a 'case', found caring arms
In social services alone, and there
Not only care but cure: a worker assigned
To be with her throughout school, helping, calming,
A bridge of sympathy between teacher and pupil,
A dedication not all that far from love.
Homelessness is terrible, but a home
Without love is almost equally so.
We watch, we measure, we praise whatever
Society can do, given the means and the people
To unknot fearful twists of fate, each day
Brings more, and if we are powerless
We cry out in our powerlessness.
If we are to blame, then we are to blame;
Fair treatment is what we ask.
My friends,
There is always without doubt a worst case,
And it is so bad because it is so rare,
Call it the dark night of the carer's soul.
Here you have Carl, supreme in cunning,
Known to have a personality disorder,
But showing the social team 'continued improvement':
Ah what a mockery he made
Of schizophrenia! This man, however,
Took a claw hammer to his next victim's head,
Fried his brains with butter and ate it -
'Very nice' he said. And unpredictable
One might add, although social workers
Would still have nightmares, thinking, shivering -
What was needed other than what they had,
Vigilance to the last degree, happy recall
Of those so many they had helped, brought back
To life with faith and hope blessedly renewed.

Oh if you ever thought we were not required,
Workers on the very edge of despair,
Consider Joe, kicked out by his foster-carers
At twelve, having stolen from the little they had:
'Ah don't know why Ah done it, but it's okay
If they didny wahnt me back, it's okay -
My ma didny wahnt me either.' To live
In such an unquestioned acceptance of defeat
Is dreadful, yet we know Joe can be helped.
The value of a soul can be drawn out
By those who are trained to do so, those
Who can blow the tiniest downtrodden spark
Of self-esteem into flame. You drop a tear
In instant sympathy or you are filled
With anger against systems and perpetrators,
And this is good and fine and natural.
But change is all the practicalities
Of learning, funding, understanding, change
Is everything we believe to be possible
Whatever the squalor and sickness and stink.

There will never be a paradise with people like angels
Walking and singing through forests of music,
But let us have the decency of a society
That helps those who cannot help themselves.
It can be done; it must be done; so do it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr. Philip....

Let me introduce my Self, I'm Joko from Bandung, Indonesia...
Now, I'm student in STKS Bandung http://stks.ac.id/ Social work department...

I hope I can learn so many things from Mr Philip....

Please add my Facebook account in joe.sekigawa@yahoo.com
Thank you very much and best Regards from Bocahbancar.. :)