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Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Three Ways to Go...

He's new you know, a few days only. Still thinking, him!
Not sure of his own mind yet. He's hardly settled out - 
and you can tell. The neat and tidy gear, the short goat's 
growth upon his chin - and turning up each evening 
early for the soup - sometimes an hour or more 
before the kitchen's due. Dead give-away to us, that is!

He'll learn the knack, of course, how to appear
as if by magic from the gloom along with all of us
the very moment that the tureens start to steam.
Just doing what he's doing, looking in the water
hours on end... that aint no good for no one that!
I wonder what he sees in them there murky depths...

My guess is he sees the Monet paintings of the Thames.
He was an art buff not so long ago - well, so he says.
P'raps he sees the beauty of a mist, the glorious
lack  of detail that it gives. You don't want detail
when you're living on the streets! Lots of educated men 
out here. One called Opera reckons that if all the Bibles
in the world were lost tonight, that he could set-to
and redraft the whole of it from memory. Another was
the M.D. of a large firm making motor parts. Most all
have been here months - some years - no chance for them
to find the homeward road one day! Them's moulded to
the ways of our cold world... but him... just days. 
There's still a chance... if only he could snap out  
of his water  dreaming. Not healthy, that. He needs
to take advice from them as knows - and gawd,
there's plenty of them here to give it out! Once
the kitchen comes. that is! You has to listen to
their preaching... price you pays for having soup 
and bread. Some trot the book out, chapter, verse
and every word.But some talk sense. It's knowing which.

Two months ago he had it made. Semi- in the country,
lovely wife and two great kids. Big noise in the city.
Three cars in the garage - the other sort of murk, 
I shouldn't wonder! Stands out a mile he does, him
with all his mooning underneath that bridge. The worry
is he's thinking suicide. That's why this place became
so popular with us and all the likes of us. Trains and 
water, see? Two ways to go. The third one is to freeze,
but who wants that? Give me the water any day.
People think us walking miles and miles. We don't.
We're never far away. You just don't see us, that's the fact.
Written for the image prompt at The Mag


Anonymous said...

What a poignant post, excellent Dave.

The Elephant's Child said...

Heartbreakingly true. So few people see them, and even fewer reach out. Thanks Dave.

kaykuala said...

A sad picture to hail, Dave! With the economy nose-diving in many countries this may be a reality in the not too distant future. A few months ago the future was made for him and now one of many at the 'kitchen' Contemplating the water in suicidal tendencies, some may just seek the easy way out! God forbid! Great write!


Brian Miller said...

pretty amazing how quick life changes....just a few months ago he had it all...you just dont see us...a haunting truth in that...

Mary said...

You have given strong voice to a situation so many find themselves in these days. I will be the devil's advocate though and say that I would hope most people would have family that could / would somehow help out; or there are churches & social organizations &..... I know a lot of the homeless here are mentally ill, choose to live on the streets. I think if they would REALLY want to get off them, there would be a way. Just walk in the door or so many organizations and one could find help.

Anonymous said...

A strong narrative voice here tells the story very vividly and with its own interesting character. Well done. I esp found the three ways to go interesting in its matter-of-factness! k.

jabblog said...

The invisibility of homelessness and hopelessness - very real.

Eileen T O'Neill ..... said...


Your words can be related to so many, unseen faces walking the streets of London, or any other city around the world. Ther world is pre-occupied and too busy to pause, to look, to see at all.
Only when the 'fall' happens to someone we know, does it impact at all.
Such a common happening every day.
My husband is frequently held up on train journeys down to London, by an increasing nuber of fatalities on the railway lines.
Each visitm with a story we never get to hear, usually.
Well done with such an evocative and realtime reminder.


I am pleased to catch up with your writing again. I have been away for a few days and off-line at home, occupied by other things.....

Heaven said...

Excellent prose Dave ~ You painted him very well...maybe he is still dreaming and pinching at the sudden turn of his life ~

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

A powerful, true picture, terrible and sounding so real.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Poignant Dave and yet well-perceived.

Carl said...

You paint in so many styles with your words. All have a beauty to them even when they are sad.

cloudia charters said...

news of the day.
Rare understanding of the milieu I'd say, Dave.
"You just don't see us."
That IS the fact that matters on every level, including elections.

Aloha from Honolulu
Comfort Spiral
> < } } ( ° >

Ygraine said...

So touching, so sad.
Just goes to show...any one of us could end up living on the street.
The time for judgement and complacency is over.
I found myself in here...

haricot said...

Time is sometimes uncountable, and further more about life...there are some holes, maybe more than three...

Dave King said...

Thanks jane. Good to hear.

The Elephant's Child
Alas, that certainly is so.

It is a fact that the suicide rate has increased significantly during the economic downturn.

It happens that way more often than not, I believe.

Alas, many who end up in this condition do so because they have cut themselves off from family or been rejected by them. Churches and social organisations help, but largely with the provision of food, not shelter (except over the Christmas period, when more is done for them). Many many years ago I did a stint or two with the London Embankment Mission. The characters in my poem are loosely based on those I came across.

The thing that struck me, working with them, was how everything becomes matter-of-fact - both for them and for the workers.

Yes, inspite of media coverage and our cardboard cities, we would still be surprised, I think, to realise the full extent of the problem

Yes, your comments only serve to underline the growing tragedy that faces us. One of the aspects that struck me forcibly was the short time in which - according to the professionals working with them - people go from being casual rough sleepers who have visiosn of getting back to normal life, to a state of despair in which they see no other future for themselves. They either just accept their lot or contemplate suicide.

If he is there is still hope for him. Nice to think so.

Thanks Tommaso. It's the "true" that makes it so bleak.

The Weaver of Grass
Thanks Weaver. Good to hear your thoughts.

Much thanks for this. Very encouraging.

I think so, yes. It is paramount to solving the problem.

Yes, it's one of the realisations I had: how easily, but for the grace of God...

Absolutely right. The ones that slip through the net!