I was very angry when I wrote this poem many years ago. I had spent a number of hours in the National Gallery. Surrounded by great art in the company of many strangers from home and abroad, cosseted from the reality of the lives other humans endured on the streets of our city. We in the gallery were having an experience that should be enjoyed by everyone. It was simple. It was free. It was good.
Walking back down Nassau Street, past Trinity College, past expensive shops, all my senses were assaulted by the human misery all around me. A gallery of a completely different kind. A disgrace and a shame on us as a nation.
The words began roaring through my mind and tumbled out onto my notebook when I finally got to sit with a pint in “The Ha’penny Bridge Inn”. As I write this I can still feel the anger.
The Celtic Tiger was still roaring, but the crash and recession was waiting around the nearest corner. We are told that we have survived it and that we are on the up.
We also know that the homeless and the street dwellers have grown in numbers.
Young or old, native or foreign
makes no fucking difference
as they sit in the shit and the mire of the gutter
in the poxy shelter of the stinking doorways
of our tigerish city streets.
Hands outstretched, mumbling,
whispering barely audible words of pleading and blessing,
eyes dead to the world and the life around them.
Was that life and world ever theirs ?
How many had a chance before life
bent them over and shagged them cold
and left them crumpled in a quivering heap,
beaten senseless before they could even start
to build a life of dreams and hopes,
a life to cherish and remember ?
What hope as they slip inexorably, inevitably
and without trace to the final loneliness
of their hidden graves ?
Cherished as much in death as they were in life.