Sarah Attfield is a poet from a working-class background. Her writing focuses on the lived experiences of working-class people (both in London, where she grew up and in Australia where she lives). She teaches creative writing in the School of Communication at UTS. She is the co-editor of the Journal of Working-Class Studies.



High Rise

Who owns the view?

You don’t want our community centres –
bingo playing old dears
eating Rich Tea or

sticky carpet pubs
where pints are sipped and darts still chucked

barber shops
with men outside on chairs
righting all the wrongs of the world

youth clubs teaching kids to
turn the grime into bpm

You don’t want our mosques
noisy churches

pound shops
pawn shops
knock-off handbags down the market

our graffiti
dogs with muscles
cars cruising with bass turned up

You used to hurry past
(or never set foot)
couldn’t imagine
living like that

all Harry Brown to you
hoods in underpasses
broken lifts
suicide towers

But now you want our views
high-rise living is suddenly a thing
with murals on street corners
cafés not caffs
boutique art in railway arches
artisan bread made by hand!
(that’s what we just call cooking)

And if there’s any of us left
don’t expect a welcome


Retail Therapy?

She rolls her eyes when he isn’t looking
nods politely when he is

he points out the bleeding obvious –
she’s in the middle of doing
exactly what he tells her to do

she knows how to keep the counter clean
greet customers
weigh measure fold
smile thank pack

ignore the comments about her
hair breasts skirt trousers face
lack of smile
no make-up

suppress the need to pee
sit down
stand up
get a drink

agree to stay back
start early
lift too much
work faster
not be cheeky

she is there to serve
the dickheads who ogle
the entitled who demand

and sometimes, the people just like her
who smile and roll their eyes on her behalf

she can laugh with workmates
avoid the boss
make up names for those customers

if she’s lucky she’ll get more hours