When We Were Almost Like Men

When We Were Almost Like Men explores the world of the modern courier industry, the working lives of the men and women caught inside the machinery of the modern city. From controllers to couriers, telephonists to mechanics, supervisors to sales reps, Martin Hayes is a guide to a kind of hell that is simultaneously fascinating, depressing, hopeless and hilarious, exploring what it means to hold down a job when all the odds seem to be stacked against you. This is Premium Rush directed by Fritz Lang, The Inferno scripted by David Brent and Charles Bukowski.

Sample Poems

times are tough, don’t you know

two months before Christmas
the telephonists attended a meeting
chaired by the MD
in which he told them
that he wanted them to be more motivated
and feel like an integral part of the company
rather than automatons that come in
and just go through the motions.
a week before Christmas
the telephonists were sent a memo from the MD
telling them that they wouldn’t be needed
after December 24th
until January 5th
adding also that they wouldn’t be paid
because, ‘the economic environment was tough
at the moment.’
when they came back on January 5th
three of their representatives
asked their supervisor
if they could have a meeting with the MD
to ask him what he had meant
by wanting them to be motivated
and feel like an integral part of the company
rather than automatons who come in
and just go through the motions.
they were told by their supervisor
that they could have the meeting
but would have to wait four weeks
until the MD came back
from holidaying in the Cook Islands.

freedom

the self-employed cycle couriers said
that this was the most freedom that they’d ever had
while holding down a full-time job
as they didn’t have to bow, jump or lick the arse
of some suited-up boss
the self-employed motorcycle couriers said
that this was the most freedom that they’d ever had
while holding down a full-time job
as they didn’t have to bow, jump or lick the arse
of some suited-up boss
the self-employed van drivers said
that this was the most freedom that they’d ever had
while holding down a full-time job
as they didn’t have to bow, jump or lick the arse
of some suited-up boss
and I think they all believed this
as they raced through the streets at ridiculous speeds
dodging trucks, busses, pedestrians,
evading death by millimetres
at least ten times a day,
so that the parcels they were carrying
for that same suited-up boss
that they were glad not to work for
arrived on time

material

Susan
the little buxom 40-year-old Jewish Princess from sales
would come into the control room every now and then
wiggling her arse
and tell us about all the problems she was having
with her client base, with her children
with her Lexus-driving husband
and her Porsche-driving lover
she’d stand in front of you
with only the space
to slip a five-pound-note
in between you and her tits
and as she spoke
she’d watch your eyes
as you tried mammothly to keep them on hers
then when she finished she’d swing her wigging everything
around
walk out of the control room
and back up to sales
it was a shit job we all agreed
but it was great going home after all them hours
having something to actually think about

no chart for that

there was no way
we were going to inject any change
while the son of the MD
was learning the ropes
as office manager
he came straight from the London School of Economics
to supervise
us
our controllers’ meetings
were suddenly filled with graphs and charts
that he told us
gave a truer insight
on how we had been performing
Dermot didn’t tell him
that it was his Dad’s tight-fistedness
that had helped create his stress related bowel cancer
and Alex didn’t tell him
that it was his Dad’s insistence
that he worked three Saturdays per month
that had helped make his Tina decide to split with him
and Corey didn’t tell him
that it was his Dad’s managers
and their chaotic shift-pattern they’d assigned him
that had caused his slow debilitating dive into insomnia
and the rest of us didn’t tell him
that it was his Dad
who’d helped create this drink and drug problem we all seemed
to have developed
since we had begun working for him
we didn’t tell him
because there’s no chart
for that

Reviews

‘Martin Hayes is the English Fred Voss. His poems are all about fighting the nullifying effects of having a bloody awful job. They’re about finding a way of coming to terms with it by never coming to terms with it.’

Alan Dent, Penniless Press

‘Martin Hayes' poems rev through the pages like the literary equivalent of a white-knuckle ride – they are original, unapologetic, clever and quite unforgettable.’

Jenny Swann

‘this is poetry like virtually no-one el’se in Britain is writing. It is funny, wise, sad, tragic and thoroughly memorable.’

Mistress Quickly’s Bed

‘A nose-pressed-up-against-the window helplessness works best when it’s allowed to sneak up on you and, like Voss before him, Hayes is only making you laugh when he’s not making you sad. He’s good at penetrating the surface of real events, exposing layers of meaning... It’s as deep as you want it to be, and it’s often funny.’

London Grip