Tag Archives Liverpool Central Station

THE FIVE GIANTS

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Walking down Renshaw Street from ‘Rumpelstiltskin’

at the Unity then along Bold Street,

with its strolling crowds and varied eateries,

to Central Station, thinking of spinning gold

from straw, we pass beggars in doorways.

‘What are they doing?’ our granddaughter asks.

We explain. ‘Why don’t they get jobs?’ We explain.

 

My mother would tell me how, when she moved

to London before the war to be a nurse,

she was appalled by the rough sleepers

on the benches along the Thames Embankment.

In the depressed provinces presumably

there were enough workhouses to hide them.

There being no workhouses under Thatcher

and too few shelters they were everywhere

from twilight onwards, androgynous bundles

in the world’s fifth largest economy.

Now they have returned exactly like

their forebears in the largest empire since Rome’s.

They are dragon’s teeth. Where is our shame, our fear?

 

The gusts of wind, that fling the scattered rain

against the panes and flail the apple tree –

which jerks as if a frantic, shaken doll –

are lowing in the chimney like an owl.

I draw the blinds as the twilight goes,

switch on the laptop and begin to write,

thinking of those who are without – homeless,

hungry, thirsty – no more than a mile

let alone a continent away.

 

Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor, Idleness –

Beveridge’s gargantua – are alive,

well, and stalking in our city centres,

in run down estates with abandoned gardens,

in bed-and-breakfasts in cul-de-sac towns

with shut-up shops and rusting factories.

Spin as we may, stamp as we might, marvels

and wonders outsmart facts. ‘The needy

and the poor have only themselves to blame,’

say the sassy and the rich. Our consciences

have fallen among thieves.

 

 

 

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