Friday, 29 November 2013


Tourists take snaps in the gateway;
they don’t see him,
the man down there
on the stony ground,
his big grey coat, woolly hat, crusty eyes,
a few coins on a cloth in front.
They don’t see,
their gaze doesn’t lower to him.
They all raise their eyes
to the Cathedral arch.

I walk into their shot,
to drop a coin on his cloth.
Will they notice him now,
this new beggar in the Penniless Porch?
Now that their picture is marred?
Or will they Photoshop us out,
so we don’t spoil the view?

From the bustling market
the scents of food drift --
hot spices, chocolate, herbs and
box after box of new rosy apples.
Stalls full of trinkets for the well-off
glint in cold sunshine.

A woman crouches on a low stool,
her hands held out.
The brown, cracked skin of her arms,
huge skirts gathered round her ankles.
She mutters unknowable words
as she shakes her little bag of coins,
her open mouth showing missing teeth.
But they don’t hear her sad call,
those who pass by.

And there’s a man outside the shoe shop
 – lowest price £69 a pair, on sale.
He hopes for a few spare coins;
and maybe a pair of cheap boots for winter.
He moves from foot to foot,
his quiet dance fighting the cold.
But they don’t see the rhythm of his steps,
those who pass by.

Who notices?
These three grey people,
overlooked in the bright melee
of the lush harvest-time market day.
This, in England’s smallest city,
where the rich take photos,
but they do not see,
and the camera always lies.

(Penniless Porch, Wells, revisited 12.10.13
read at The Cellar Bards, 29.11.13)