Poem by Ted Seagrave, 1.10.2016
Photograph by Laurence Westgaph
I was walking to Central Station with a friend when I glimpsed a face in a doorway like a still from a Beckett play.
We walked on but I was haunted by the man’s expression of hopelessness.
Sadly there are so many beggars and buskers, chuggers and proselytes throughout town these days, it is easier to just ignore them; but this man’s expression haunted me so we walked back on the other side of the road to double check. My pal confirmed my impression. I went over and introduced myself and asked if he had anyone I could contact, etc. Even the excellent Sanctuary on Seel Street didn’t know of him.
Sleepless about my uselessness plus anger at the imminent political conferences and the scandal of Concentrix hitting the Headlines I got up at 3am to write the poem.
The next day my friend emailed the photo he had taken from a distance. An irony was that above the man’s head was a blue plaque commemorating Dr James Currie, Humanitarian 1756-1805.
Asleep at his feet lay a lean and tatty terrier,
while its loyal master slumped exhausted
hidden from the sun at the side door of a bijou store.
The down-and-out, this haggard Lazarus was
clearly invisible to passers-by on Church Street.
Anyway it would be wrong to disturb
a haunted shadow of a man on the hottest
September day on record. Their affected laughter
and skimpy bright attire as they strolled by mocked
his matted carapace that reeked of stale neglect.
Scotland’s proud flag bears his namesake’s saltire;
this tortured soul was neither saint nor sinner, bum or busker,
just a poor, care-worn husk grief-stricken
by his much lamented mother’s passing
that left him bereft of Home and Hope.
We cosy folk who gladly vote to keep the status quo
know nothing of those existing on the outer ripple
of Society who mark a cross instead of signature
on Concentrix’s austere forms intended to restore
our Nation’s coffers and bring Us from the Red.
Instead, to Tory discredit, this appointed
‘high-value’ circle of control of claimants’ lives
done by stealth for flouted ‘profit by results’
leaves Injustice and Penury in its wake, not
the Promised Land of Opportunity and Wealth.
My paltry pence would see his dependent dog
fed for two more days; my ‘there-there, don’t cry’ pat
on Andrew’s blameless shoulder, though well meant,
was an attempt to appease my conscience. I felt ashamed.
Oh that sTrident campaigners cared more for Mental Health.