The Last Work House in London

I went for a walk in Poplar last weekend. As I stood in the shadow if the last work house to run in London, I saw behind it the towers of Barclays, HSBC and so on…it was a true reflection of what we’ve built and what we’ve forgotten – and along the way the poor are still turned over.

The Last Work House in London

In the dawn shadow,
cast by the last workhouse in London,
a street sweeper brushes cigarette butts
and chicken bones that seep out of bright red boxes
past a homeless man in a sleeping bag
and into her garbage chariot
that guides her through the avenues and alleyways
of her home,
her pride.

Slumped against a wheelie bin,
like the other bags of discard from the city,
he emits a faint snore that creeps into the first light,
making sure commuters know to tread softly.

She caught her brush on his feet the street sweeper did.
Every morning she knocked him as she passed,
to stir him before the road was too populous and he was moved along with a rude awakening from those who believe his worth is minimal.

As he lay,
building up a smile to greet the day
as big as the towers in sight of his bed,
his belly rumbled with such a magnitude
that it could have been mistaken for the tube train
rattling the tracks below.

he stood,
pulled the sleeping bag down to reveal a plaid shirt,
green khaki’s with a black belt in survival holding them up
and maroon trainers,
once victorious in the race for the last bus home – a time forgot.

His newspaper pillow,
damp with sweat and dew,
he folded
and put inside his sleeping bag
alongside his torn bed sheet that helped to kept the worst of the insects off.
This good find outside a charity shop door
drapes him as he rises
and lays down at night,
like a Lord Mayor awaiting entrance to a royal feast.

Packed up,
he strode towards the towers if the city,
a nod to the street cleaner as she works her way toward the high street.

King of it all
in his sheet.
His dignity preserved by his black belt in survival.




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