Poem for the homeless

(Written by me in 2016)

This is a poem for the faces we don’t see

I wonder how you sleep on grey cardboard sheets

Or how you pass the long unchanging days

Glancing up at faces who look down at you in funny ways

Or prefer not to look at all

And so you fade into London’s background fabric

Resting tired eyes against a backpack and a dirty blanket

Hostel lists are full and oversubscribed

These days, we do not want your faces on our streets

We’d rather not be reminded of how fragile we, too, are

How it all boils down this: a place to sleep, enough to eat, a place to piss -

We would rather forget

So parents tell their children not to look

Not to give money to the sullied and addicted homeless -

Sad and unsavoury misnomers -

I wonder what your dreams are of the future

Or how it feels when you remember life before this

What your life was like.

Outside the station, faces come and go -

Commuting, visiting friends, going on holiday

We buy into society and in return it gives us the promise we will never be like you…

Or will we?

I wonder how many unlucky turns of fate

It would take to leave me sitting on a plastic crate

Between a gutter and metal sewage grate

Staring at a locked and barred up gate

I wonder where you go when you get sick

Or how you warm yourself on cold November nights

How you bear to hope

When every day is stretching fear

There are many of you here

By trees and in parks, on long touristic bridges, in subways between different parts of tube stations where drunk people go to piss

This is the other side of the coin

How easy it can be to fall through the net

In a bursting grey metropolis.

I hope that this evening, someone buys you a sandwich or a cup of tea

I hope that you find some love, some tiny slice or token of peace

In the heaving flow that disregards you

Someone might bother to sit and talk to you for a few minutes

I hope we can create bridges of understanding

Between people in your situation and those like me – the lucky ones – for whom living is secure

And no longer be scared of each other

Choosing something more real.

I think of how our state has left you hurt

Undignified and drenched in layers of dirt

Which disguise a beating heart

I wonder if we can find compassion

Discard fashion

And cut back to some basic unity;

Perhaps naively, I believe

That you and I are not so far apart underneath.