Some claim that God lives in a tiny flat
in a high-rise in a dodgy neighbourhood
and reads the newspapers in the local library
the Council wants to close.
He’s lost his job because of the Covid crisis
and doesn’t know what happens next.
He’s been homeless before
and knows how hard it is climb back up
even to the little he has now.
Parents worry about him because he smiles at babies
and watches children playing in the park.
Once, when someone offered him a fag,
he took it, although he doesn’t smoke:
Maybe deep down he’d been touched
by such an out-of-nowhere act of kindness.
But no one’s sure quite what he’s got to say
although this morning I had the sudden thought:
what if you could listen to his silence?
If it was him I met, I’ve seen the way
the local coppers size him up as though
knowing they’ll get their chance to pull him in
and put him somewhere safe, not on the streets.
I wonder if any of us will find –
when that day comes – his absence means a gap.
After all, it’s not as though his presence
changes anything, as far as I can see.
So what’s the point, I ask myself, or rather
what’s his point? Search me. But looking back
I’m half convinced that's what he did that evening
when I bumped into him as I left the supermarket
and he stared at me as though he wanted something.
I gave him my spare change and said good luck
and went home to a beer and microwave.
Don’t get me wrong: it also seems too easy
to put him in a box as though he were
merely a clumsy left-wing statement. Let’s
face it too, if everyone lived like that,
who’d run the railway, and take the tough decisions?
So maybe he keeps a low profile because
he knows whatever it is he has to offer
won’t feed the world, or keep things ticking over,
or stop the bad guys coming out on top,
or war, or plague, or genocide, or pain,
or rape, or kidnap, or the suicidal way
we’re messing up the world. And yet I sense
that thinking about him helps me to go on
even if he’s just a mass of contradictions,
and even if I’ve lived too long to hope
that maybe at last I’ll nail some kind of truth.
If you have any thoughts on this poem, Tom Vaughan would be pleased to hear them.