Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Christmas At The Going Rate

This poem was written in 1997 and first appeared in a poetry magazine based in Canterbury before I included it in my first poetry collection.  I wrote it after shopping in the West End of London and being shocked at seeing so many homeless people huddled in sleeping bags in shop doorways, on the steps of theatres, even churches and other religious institutions.

Years on, London, like so many big cities around the world, continues to be haunted by its homeless. It is a sad reflection on the 21st century, in particular its finely rhetoric-tuned, comfortably-off world leaders in politics and religion/s world-wide. [Does anyone really believe they put the interests of the everyday man, woman and child in the street before their own?]

Although I am not a religious person, I have no problem with (any) religious celebrations although I have to say they often strike me as more than a shade hypocritical  where giving thanks to God often appears to play second fiddle to one-upmanship among family, friends, and neighbours who share the same religion.

Please give as generously as you can afford to charities that help homeless people. 

It has to be said that giving money to homeless people can be a mixed blessing as they will often just use it to buy drugs or alcohol. Most, though, appreciate someone to talk to who can not only sympathise with their plight without being patronising, but also offer constructive advice such as where to go for help. [The nearest public library, for example, will have a wealth of information. During my years as a librarian in public libraries, I often looked up useful addresses that I would then call and hand the phone to the homeless person seeking help.]


Starling on the snowy bough,
where will you go now 
as you stir your weary wings to fly 
across this sorry sky?
Better off than I, stuck here,
sitting pretty enough
in a world dishing up pity
to its cardboard men…

I pause and you disappear, bells
ringing out Christmas cheer
to celebrate the Church's share
in a saviour for all seasons
who taught the heart needs not reasons
to care about another, rich or poor,
saint or sinner. A local tramp passes.
Good souls pause…

Wiping glasses, hedging bets
on Judgement Day,
doling out a sweet reprieve
of misery, and all for 50p.
Now, let's hurry, we'll be late;
carols at eight (or is it nine?)
Thinly drawn, a twenty-first century’s
cardboard line

Copyright R. N. Taber 2001; 2012

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears in 1st eds. of Love And Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2001; 2nd (revised) e-edition in preparation.]

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