Writing to a Friend (Part 1)
Why would you bother –
with any of it, with any of it at all –
with nowhere to lay your head –
with it spinning like a ball.
You say “I’m doing fine,”
when I know that it’s not true –
You write to your mother and tell her –
“I always think of you.”
What else to say except “don’t worry –
I’m always getting by.”
When no one gives you space to breathe –
why would they, even try.
From dossing down inside a church –
with a pillow and not much more –
and the aching legs, arthritis knees –
to bruise the polished floor.
Then out you go to the next day –
and look in vain and roam –
to sign the forms that rank you –
to find a place called Home.
And people ask their questions –
not to you, behind your back –
misguided, misplaced charity –
and all the things they claim you lack.
Woe that your waining contribution –
they ask themselves, “Where is it?” –
as if you don’t question it yourself –
like a country you don’t visit.
Most of the time, you tell yourself –
“I’m fine to get around.”
Other than wanting to just disappear –
no trace, no note, no sound.
Some work was organised, you said –
the hope of cash in hand –
and then the snide resistance –
flowed like blood let through the land.
Authorities, in settings magnified –
the anodyne alarm –
are, like loud hailers at a protest march –
turned up to do you harm.
Your friends, new, old, the ones you left –
resistant to your verse –
the lunatic assemblies –
trying to wash away the curse.
Members of the public –
behind the uniformed pavilion –
give thanks to have no chance –
less than one chance in a million.
They’re having bets these commissars –
these keepers of the flame –
float the odds on reprobation –
while they rally to your shame.
Your head peaks over parapets –
as you wonder what comes next –
and head bowed as expected –
so as not to sound perplexed.
When giving in seems justified –
to prove the doubters right.
“We knew all along,” they say,
that you weren’t up for the fight.
As if they’d ever know –
from their safe position’s seat –
from their leather and their fabrics –
tied in bundles at their feet.
The gates of Eden, locked at night –
keeps you peering in, in hope –
just in case the guards have left a key –
or even just a rope.
And given half a chance, to claim –
what birth has given preference –
who wouldn’t take it, in both hands –
to give us all a reference.
The education, learning –
they used to call it school –
the place to prepare your papers –
to prove you’re not a fool.
You never got to have it –
they never got to hear you –
as conformity is sanctified –
in the direction they would steer you.
© copyright – Stephen Newman 2020