Music and Poetry

I Always Thought I’d Live

Kevin Higgins was a socialist and satirical poet. He was born in England to Irish parents and moved to live in Galway in the west of Ireland in the 1990s. He was the poet in residence at the Merlin Park Hospital in the city.

He died of leukaemia in 2022.

This was his last poem, written after his diagnosis.

Always thought I’d live to learn how to swim

do the backward butterfly to Olympic standard

and see trickle-down economics deliver

at least one albeit slightly polluted drop.

I always thought I’d live to learn how to drive,

win at least one Grand Prix motor racing championship

and see the Democrats legislate for free

universal healthcare.

I always thought I’d live to tidy

the books off the study floor

and see fascists give up

stabbing black boys at bus stops

because peaceful protests

have eloquently made them

see the error of their ways.

But the books that made me

still decorate the study floor

and I don’t have the oxygen to shift them.

My consultants are unanimous

my days marching to places like Welling

and Trafalgar Square are over.

The risk of getting tossed into the back of a police van

by over enthusiastic members of the constabulary

is a luxury my lungs can no longer afford.

Even holding a placard in my wheelchair

would soon have me gasping for breath.

And I thought I’d always live.