Places of Poetry: Happy Meal

Places of Poetry is a project which aims to use creative writing to prompt reflection about national and cultural identities by inviting contributions to the website, until 4 October. The project is open to all writers. This year Places of Poetry is holding events across England and Wales, each site hosting a poet-in-residence with each poet contributing a poem from their residency to The Clearing. Happy Meal is a poem that was imagined and written collectively, with words and ideas from some thirty young participants aged between six and twelve, from Byker in Newcastle Upon Tyne. The sessions were facilitated by the writer and director Lee Mattinson. 





There’s three of us there

Rob, Charlie and me

We’ve come to McDonald’s for Rob’s birthday tea

We’ve red sauce and fries

Three shakes and Big Mac’s

All sat in this sweet little booth up the back

When all at once comes

This deafening roar

Deep down, out of sight, hidden low below floor

I look up to Rob

‘Did you hear that?’

Watch Charlie leap up in a lightning flash


We’re through a blank door

Descending dark stairs

Don’t know how to start to explain what’s down there

There’s hundreds of cows

In cinema rows

All sobbing their hearts out and blowing their nose

As old movies play

Their wistful soundtracks

Accompany clowns leading cows out the back

I think of my dad

Him saying one time

‘That meat that’s felt pain tastes like meat in its prime


‘Let’s start a revolt’

I holler to Rob

‘They’re making them sad to taste better in gob

Rip open those doors’

I call Charlie’s way

‘Me, you and these cows are all going astray’

Smash into the light

Cross motorway bridge

These four-legged burgers no longer for fridge

Let’s cheer them up

Let’s show them the wall

The good and the bad and the big and the small


The first stop’s the park

Where good times are rife

It’s slide catching rays of the sun like a knife

Rob directs the herd

Up colourful rungs

As bright yellow steps are turned dull brown with dungs

Four five-year-olds watch

Their eight eyes miles wide

As cow after cow slips tail-first down their slide

I clear my throat

And tell them in moos

This way, follow me, you, you, you, you and yous


The second stops green

Where animals roam

And pigs talk in French once the staff have gone home

The charity farm

Where cows can relax

Can put up their hooves and lie flat on their backs

Rob pulls them some grass

And Charlie some reeds

To chew as they lull in the shades of the trees

Until they’re attacked

By ants in their pants

And bees with a mean territorial dance


The third stop’s the best

It’s back to the baths

Where me, Rob and Charlie have most of our laughs

Except we’re all skint

Admission’s not free

Between us it’s one astronomical fee

I go to the desk

I tell its blonde lass

I’m from RGS and these cows are my class

She scans one-by-one

Their black and white hides

Says, ‘go…but no bombing or running poolside’


Inside some cows sit

Some use the restroom

Some synchronize swim and some fly down the flume

Some happily float

Some wolf-whistle boys

Some tut at some girls making far too much noise

I look at the lads

Say, ‘look what we’ve done

We’ve taken their sadness and turned it to fun

It didn’t take much

Their joy’s not complex

What’s tricky is where they’ll live now, lads, what next?’


Rob goes, ‘you know what?

This maybes sounds daft

But just the idea’s come thick and come fast

Get out of the pool

And dry off your fur’

‘It’s leather,’ I tell him, Rob says, ‘I don’t care’


He leads us outside

And onto Shields Road

Where NE6 turns into other postcodes

We travel as one

A black and white mass

From Byker Bridge roundabout down to bypass


See Monument tip

See St James’ stands

See mother’s tight grips on their toddler’s hands

We come with such force

The Toon splits in two

Exalting, we’re bolting, revolting, we’re through

We hit the West Road

Rush up in a dash

Determined as Stag night lads out on the lash

Rob takes a sharp right

Says ‘almost there now

I swear I’d live here if I were a cow’


We make it and stop

See Town Moor green

See Rob’s master plan with its grass crisp and clean

The cows are all smiles

One breaks into skips

One dances so much she splits two others lips

We say our goodbyes

We make our way home

To streets good and bad, big and small, where we roam

Outside Maccy D’s

A sign’s up to say

‘Just fries and McFlurrys, no burgers today’







Lee Mattinson graduated from Manchester University with an MA in Novel Writing and his most recent play Crocodiles was shortlisted for The Verity Bargate Award.  His theatre work has been produced at the Bush Theatre, Soho Theatre, Live Theatre and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and he has written several plays for BBC Radio.

He is also co-artistic director of Chicken Pox Fox Productions.

The illustration is by Benjamin Bowen of Union Studio.


Places of Poetry is led by the poet Paul Farley and the academic Andrew McRae. It is based at the universities of Exeter and Lancaster, and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Arts Council England. It is underpinned by national partnerships with the Ordnance Survey, The Poetry Society, and National Poetry Day.

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