Editor’s note – this poem has been published by homeless charities in the USA and Canada, and is reproduced here by kind permission of Terry, who is based in Chippenham. Terry told us:
“It is not something I have personally experienced but when I worked in London, each morning I would see the doorstep sleepers. Many of them were young people and some were elderly. But, they were all labelled as down and out when no one knew what personal circumstances drove them onto the streets. The ones that really got to me were the elderly ladies, if I saw one I would have to cross the street to give them breakfast money”
The chill winter wind scours the
shop door ice-stoned steel hard bed,
seeking night-time retail sleepers
who on this day have not been fed.
The counter tills are keen to ring
the wealthy shoppers’ debit cost,
but the night-time open doorways
are queues for those of profit lost.
Huddled in refuse cardboard box
newspaper print rubbed linen sheet;
they are homeless un-wanted ghosts
condemned to haunt the ghostly street.
In daylight hours pavement public weave,
avoiding hungry beggar tug
at cashmere silk lined sleeve
Step men are easily recognised
as rough coated hollow eyed,
proffing the ‘homeless’ magazine
to seek a gentle touch of pride.
They drink from cans of bitter beer
to sweeten thoughts of unknown fear.
As night cape cloaks the streets once more,
they rush back home to ’welcome’ mat
to keyless door and stone bed flat
Cold bound in sickened weakest frame;
they exist though no man can
hear their given Christian name.
Born as every human must
vagrant shadows longing for a crust.
Dreaming of warm woollen blanket
on a full-sprung mattressed bed.
Greatest prayer their cold lips make,
to be discovered cold, and dead.
© Terry Buchanan