The Angel On the Corner

We live in strange times with the advent of the Covid-19 Coronavirus. I have not yet managed to write poetry on this subject. I am still processing my sense of grief and loss, for my own personal situation, those around me, and the global community I am powerless to help.

I was working on a series of poems to highlight the situation of the homeless in my home city, the subject now seems bizarre. I hear that the government has forced councils to house these people now that a pandemic casts its shadow on us. Although this is laudable and necessary, why did we not have the funds to do this before? Why as a society did the problem of homelessness and especially rough sleeping become so intractable and ignorable?

There is such an irony in the last line of this poem, now the streets of my city are so quiet, but I still feel it important to post this. I am sure I will be writing poems about Coranvavirus very soon.

The Angel on The Corner.

She came from nothing,
mud that walked,
a miracle brewed in
the core of stars and wombs.

When did wonder end,
the childish dreams, the spark
of love and life that pushed
her to this point?

Haloed with her blanket,
unassuming and pathetic,
begging for crumbs
from the banquet of life.

When did privilege end
and divide along a lineage
of poverty, stark with hate,
casting her aside?

Who hurt this angel,
scorned and kicked and bruised?
I can’t answer, can’t ignore,
can’t refuse these alms.

And tears can’t refuse this miracle
that came to the rattle of a tin,
starved of life and love
as strangers pass and pass and pass.

Late Night, Piccadilly

I am unsure where it came from. At the age of 9 or 10 I saw a man in a wheelchair, dribbling saliva, and yet somehow managing to move along in his chair. I remember running to a wall and burying my face to cry. So many times this happened, and then I grew up and these feelings were, for a while, overwritten by my own pain. At some point I learned to name this yearning, aching feeling in my heart. Empathy, compassion, warmth, love.

Despite the temptation to grow a crust, to harden my heart (and yes at times it has been tempting!), I have tried not to lose that genuine, aching feeling that comes from somewhere deep within. You don’t have to go far to see suffering, perhaps especially in a city. So many people and so many connections – and so many disconnections. It breaks my heart to see the downtrodden and broken souls that parade the streets, whether those that shiver in the shadows, or those that wear their loss and suffering on their well coated sleeves.

This poem arose from such feelings, one Friday night, as I paused to speak with one of my “regulars”, a person I know by name who lives on the street, who is a human being, and yet often treated as if they are no more than garbage. This poem is for David.

Late Night, Piccadilly.

Squashed, crumpled trash.
Wet, smelly, filthy. Disgusting.
Human. Shivering in the gutter.
Loveless and hopeless and afraid.

Once there was a birthday cake,
a kind word, or perhaps just hate
hammered into a heart’s innocent beat.
Something about him pulls me in,

I hold his tattooed hand,
eyes intersecting across worlds
of love and lack, craving
and refusing to release tears, just yet.

And yet, his eyes, his hand,
the beauty in this broken man;
the tenderness and loss that
ripple through divided selves.

Then, feet stream to the beat of sirens;
the fortunate chow down on life,
their fancy clothes, expensive shoes,
obliterating and refusing love.

Billboards stream a neon dream –
lip gloss, luggage and laughter
filter through rain
in the flickering parade

of people revelling past the gutter –
human and inhuman shapes
mirrored in puddles and windows.
Loveless and hopeless and afraid.

Winter Walk

Moon sniffs out the paw prints
that punctuate the path,
frozen-broken canine cuneiform,

somewhere south of the howls
that issue from the kennels
slinking into shadow.

Sun blinks and sways
through woody lung vessels,
translating ground and sky,

rustling up some new language,
enabling this crossing here
like a skyborn belisha.

Gloom obliterates it all
as moon slides into supremacy,
silvering the carbon clouds.

In the kennels, dogs howl,
caged and far from home –
Paw language pads at my thoughts.