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
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.