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Poem about the Homeless

Updated on November 12, 2012

I can still remember the day I wrote this poem, even though it was several years ago now. I had walked into the city centre, as I had done so many times before. A pedestrian bridge rises above a busy road - for most of the time I have been living here the bridge has been regularly occupied by a homeless person. These days, a friendly guy who spends his time drawing abstract patterns for donations sits in a corner on the bridge; back in the days of this poem it was someone else. Just a man, who didn't draw and didn't speak. One of Margaret Thatcher's 'care in the community' victims.

The man who didn't draw and didn't speak was there nearly every time I walked into the city. Time after time after time..... then one day came the space. The space which was his; the space where he always sat was empty. There was nothing there. I found out later that he had died. Quietly. As far as I know there was nothing suspicious. Then a bunch of flowers appeared, together with a note. But it was the glaring space that was the most noticeable thing of all...

This poem strives to acknowledge the very real truth that, whilst all of us see homeless people on the streets where we live, we often pass by with little thought. We become used to their presence, but still we do not know or understand their story. Perhaps we don't even acknowledge their vulnerability. But there are homeless people everywhere, desperate; lost; cut off from society. For some people, life is about surviving, every day and in all weathers. All too often, we become used to their presence and yet do not truly notice them until they disappear:

Homeless person, Covent Garden, London
Homeless person, Covent Garden, London | Source
Homelessness - Tottenham High Road, Haringey, London UK
Homelessness - Tottenham High Road, Haringey, London UK | Source
Homeless in New York
Homeless in New York | Source


He slept between the rubbish,

They forgot he had a name.

Beaten skin glared out through rags,

They thought it was a game.

They shut their souls to squalor,

He presumed they must be blind.

They thought he was immortal -

They misread all the signs.

His heart was weary beating

But he slept and still woke up.

He lived his life for coffee

In polystyrene cups,

A knife of ice cut through him

For the sky was not his friend.

They moaned about the weather

Then went home at the end.

He wondered what had happened,

Why salvation never came.

He buried deep his anger -

There seemed no point in blame,

Then one day he was missing

But they only saw the space -

Not the silent, screaming claws

Of tragic, human waste.


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