the weekly

Shut Your Mouth

Look, this is serious. You're British,
a skittish face does not
compute. It is your duty to wear
very thin lips. Think of the weather. We
don't have hurricanes, do not die
by the side of a sandy road.
We are unlucky. But we must hide
our glee. We must look
as miserable as sinks.

Laugh, and the world laughs
with you: and we don't
want that. This is an island race.
This is a silent face. That's better:
keep our careless rapture under wraps –
think of security. We don't have
torture, starvation, we are deprived
of reasons to look pleased. Lie back
and think of Britain. Don't grin
some winsome smile. Swallow your crumb,
comfortably. Look glum.

Shut Your Mouth
From now on, a British passport photograph is forbidden from showing a smiling face – because security scanning devices do not 'recognise' open mouths.
7 September 2005


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