Ben – a poem about homelessness

I often bump into a young, homeless man on the streets of Scunthorpe, where I live. He has inspired me to write this prose poem.

Ben, who they kick

Sometimes I see you there, in your muck-stained, stinking cocoon, slashed with the silver-slit blades of wicked men. Glinting knives, cowards, sharks eating goldfish, despicable. “He’ll scrub up well”, my nanna would say, but you don’t have a sink and maybe it’s best if the mirror, mirror on the wall was not mocking you, for then the trajectory of the fall would be the depths you’d fallen.

You had a tent, once, in a field, a 100 percent yield on your bed on the cold, grey, slab. My sleeping beauty. Wanted a bite of the Big Apple and ended in Scunthorpe. If the council doesn’t move soon, doesn’t smooth this wrinkle in our ability to love our own. Stop this ‘them and us’. This ‘dead doesn’t matter to us.’ This ‘filth is nothing to us.’

You smiled once, and the sky turned cerulean, I swear. Broken teeth, yellow and golden brown like the heroin which pulls you out of now, into a never. Your eyes were once peridots and now they are black tourmalines reflecting the expanses of a world which, for you, has no walls. How insecure you must feel, how unwrapped like a gift discarded by an ungrateful child.

I wish I could create a new reality for you, Ben. One where you were not the shit at the end of someone’s shoe. Where food fills your stomach not by a passer-by’s “Are you hungry?”, but by mustering up a mean spag bol in your own little gaff. I cannot imagine being the breath in your lungs, all I can offer is a warm voice and a genuine hope that you will make it through the night.

© Sarah Drury 2022

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