Sunday, 30 December 2012

Bed-Sit Lifer

Every large town and city has its share of bed-sits or single person apartments comprising little more than a room with basic amenities. If you’re lucky, it’s en suite and you don’t have to share a bathroom / toilet.

I recently got chatting to a guy in a bar whose house had been repossessed because he could no longer afford the mortgage repayments. As it happens, he’s gay but he could have been anyone of any persuasion, man or woman. He lives in one room without a view and has to share a bathroom. “One you turn sixty,” he told me, “people stop caring, especially if you’re gay and you’ve lost your looks.”

He is a lonely, unhappy man, convinced his age and sexuality means he can’t get a life, and his living conditions don’t help.

Yes, well, gay men and women don’t have a monopoly on loneliness, that’s for sure, and there are many people in this world who don’t even have a roof over their heads.

It’s sad and, yes, the 21st century should be ashamed of itself for the degree of poverty in the world. But there is more to poverty than lack of money and resources. There is a poverty of the heart and spirit that gives up on life too soon.

We all want different things from life and few of us come even close to what we would like. But we can still enjoy life and make the best instead of the worst of things. It’s never easy, that’s for sure. But it’s true what they say…where there’s a will, there’s a way. I have met some of the poorest people who can honestly claim to be happy in their own way. They may not have much, materially speaking, but they love life and care about people and just being around them makes you glad to be alive.

I’m not poor but I definitely ain’t rich either. I would have liked my own house overlooking the sea. Instead, I rent a studio flat in London UK. Sure, I have regrets (who doesn’t?) but life is what we make it and we are what we let life make of us. Yes, I get lonely sometimes. Yes, I am unhappy sometimes. Who isn’t? Ah, but I don’t intend to become like the guy in that bar…and yes, I’m (well) past sixty too.

You have to be a friend to have friends and you have to think positive to be happy. It’s not always easy and can be hard work…but it’s always worth making the effort. Getting a life doesn’t just happen…we have to make it happen.


Dawn’s dust has scarcely
settled at the chin;
an eccentric clashing
of streets below
reminds that it’s time
to go at it

World’s dirt has scarcely
greased the hair;
a hyper-rhythmic rush
of leather gear
pants me here and there
at bald faces

An April dusk has scarcely
brushed a teary eye,
birds singing in whispers
like mourners
gathered at a gravestone
now trickle away

Answerphone’s dead, cat's
in a funny mood,
only repeats on the telly,
forgot a take-away,
the pirate tape won’t play,
nothing else to say

Hear a knocking at the door,
(not expecting anyone)
maybe a neighbour wanting
to borrow something;
Could it be we'd introduce
ourselves at long last?

Licking lips nervously, rising
with anticipation.
heart skips a beat like a lifer's
on visiting days, pausing 
at the door, gripping handle,
afraid of...what, me?

What impression will I make
on this stranger
who may well have had a day
like mine, be seeking
some company too. so what
else to do but be friendly, maybe
even make a friend?

Footsteps going away. Oh, well,
tomorrow is another day...

Copyright R. N. Taber, 2000, 2018

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears  in Love and Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2000.]

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