I stole the first one when I was still at school.
Nervous, waited till it was quiet,
a little haiku no one would notice
slipped into the pocket.
The thrill was overwhelming.
I needed to take another.
This time I was more ambitious;
I chose one we’d done in English:
Stealing by Carol Ann Duffy
because I liked the irony.
I don’t think she even noticed it was gone.
I felt the words trickle over my hands
Like lemonade from stolen fruit
Wonderful, contraband words.
I bathed in them
I drank them.
I almost got caught when I went
to take that Armitage one
and after that I stopped for a bit
but gradually the old feelings came back.
I found myself sneaking out at lunch
to pilfer a Jackie Kay or a John Agard;
returning to my desk, full of my secret,
Dem Tell Me
scrunched up in my pocket.
But it wasn’t enough.
I wanted more.
I couldn’t sleep
for thinking about them.
All of those words waiting for me
They called to me
I needed them.
I lost control
I took every poem I found
And even then I didn’t stop;
Morphemes became my morphine.
I started taking other words;
From manuals or newspapers
Or government reports.
That’s when they caught me.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
was lost for words
When they found me,
Speech concealed in my bag.
I’m better now.
I only take the words I need.