Tag Archives: homelessness

Kensington, Philadelphia

They stutter and creep along filth-ridden streets, 
tattered sleeves hiding the blood as it seeps,
far from the arms of mothers who weep.

Turn away, 
cover your eyes, 
blind to the shame of the crimes you perceive
as you hurry away from the flesh-eating streets.

They wade through the scud of society's greed,  
shuffling their feet, hungry for succour 
then numbed by fulfilment of lethal need.

Turn away
pretend you don't see,
blind to the shame of the streets of pain
or blaming the victim for all our mistakes.  

They're slipping through cracks between fleshly paving;
our brothers and sisters struggle and bleed 
and end on those streets.
Who finds the dead and where are they buried?
Do we really not notice? 
How can we not care?
How can we not weep as they slip between 
the cracks created from selfish greed.

Few of us focus and few of us see
that there but for fortune or luck of the genes 
go him and her and you and me.
There but for fortune  
go we.

©Jane Paterson Basil

The Man who Wanted to Save the World


A seething gang of teens surrounds him,
mocking, calling him names,
Stealing his concentration,
but he will not be defeated; he’s here
to save the world.

Catcalls, insults and derision
almost overwhelm the voices in his head.
He will not listen; they are sent
to deflect him from his divine duty
to save the world.

He strains to hear the angel’s voice,
but the rudeness intrudes,
diluting essential information –
instructions which he is convinced
will save the world.

A Sainsburys receipt floats past his feet,
its jumbled numbers will reveal
a secret code for him alone,
he who was selected by the highest deity
to save the world.

As the youths close in, he strikes out,
screaming, spittle flying from his mouth,
splattering an angry face. Someone cries out
“He’s just a crazy crank, a tramp. Nobody will care.
Let’s have him, lads.”

A slip of paper escapes from a slack hand
to land in a spreading pool of blood. Absorbing the gore,
its empty message blurs as tears forget to fall
for the man who failed
to save the world.

Image supplied by Pixabay.

©Jane Paterson Basil


A soiled trouser leg
is tucked up beneath him, held down
by the weight of his ravaged body,
reminding me that I am one of the lucky ones
who have more than the average
quantity of legs.

His right foot
sits askew on the wheelchair’s footrest.
I straighten my back, as if to make up
for his crooked limb.

A paper bag
rests crumpled on his lap.
I think of fragrant Indian takeaways,
and of the free accompaniments my family receives
when we order a meal for all of us.

He grabs the bag with the eagerness of
a child on Christmas morning,
sliding down the banisters to join his parents
who grin beside a glittering tree,
eager to see his eyes lit by the thrilling surprise of a new bike
tied around with a wide blue ribbon.

He unscrews a cap and tips the bag
towards his cracked lips.

What lies in those years between
the glitter of a childhood Christmas,
and a brown paper bag concealing cheap white cider?
I want to ask, but it is too intimate a question,
so I just say “Hi, Bobby,” and walk on by,
the stench of a life gone sour
clutching at my stomach.

Grateful for the small attention,
he cries “Merry Christmas,”
in a ho ho ho voice like Santa.
Even those without hope follow protocol
at this time of year.

He doesn’t knew my name.
I am just one of those who have been kind
in the smallest way.

I expect I posted The Fairytale of New York last Christmas, and it’s likely I’ll post it every year until I expire. I make no apology for constantly advertising my favourite Christmas song ever 🙂

©Jane Paterson Basil

Ask Me Why



When we were families,
grandma’s house was a shared nest, and her attic
held history’s secrets beneath
dust that had caressed generations of kin.
Fingerprints revealed the smudged sheen
of an oaken music box, broken
by children’s rough love.
Though empty, it retained memories
of seamed silk stockings and a mother’s kiss.
Buried in a leather trunk an unworn
wedding dress told a musty story of domestic hope,
its promise stolen by the guns of war;
beneath the yellowed crepe-de-chine
lay mothy remnants
of a bridal bottom drawer.

When we were families,
most of us had somewhere
we could call our family home.
It may be humble, rough-and tumble,
with crumbling bathroom walls,
but it was many times better than no home at all.
When cold weather crept through our vests,
we’d pile into the kitchen through a welcoming door
and nestle next to a warming fire.

   * * *

Beyond my window, rain splashes passers by.
A billowing wind blows them forward, to where dry warmth beckons .

Half a mile away an encampment of flimsy tents
does little to protect our homeless friends.

At night they crawl inside their sleeping bags, fully dressed.
Curling up tight, they pretend to themselves that their nest is safe,
while council officials continue their plot
to rob the dispossessed of what little they’ve got.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Tailored to fit



Victor Silverspoon-Pinke thinks my three rooms
would be far too mean to fit his needs.
His kitchen could swallow my entire space,
yet still he complains;

I need new units, my carpet is wearing thin, this neighbourhood is becoming too dingy for my liking. Why can’t my life be tailored to my requirements? Am I not deserving? My stocks started sinking the day that I paid for the landscaping, and now my top-of-the-range coffee machine has gone to meet its maker. It would be cheaper to replace it online, but I can’t wait for days, so I’ll have to sacrifice an extra sixty and drive it away.

Watching from my window,
I see the nameless stranger whose many faces we all know,
as she crosses the road, trudging toward her concrete bed.

Toting tattered ‘bags for life’ – only ten pence each from Tesco
she totters on in stained and torn, oversize trainers.

Her knees ache, her heart has forgotten what it feels like to be full,
but her eyes are dry;
she gave up any expectation that her life would ever
be tailored to her requirements
the day the debtors took her home away.

The streets offer no relief from the sniping chill,
bones freeze and stay frozen, until
you learn to survive
by evading the pain of sobriety.

So who are we to criticise and blame?
If such misfortune snatched us up,
we may do the same.

The nameless stranger’s smudged frame is engulfed
by a fringe of leafy trees,
swallowed like a guilty secret.

I rise from my seat, walk the short space from room one to room two,
brew a cup of tea to sweeten my thoughts,
but fail to shake a lonely image from my mind,
as somewhere beyond my sight,
the nameless woman shuffles on,
into the brief obscurity of gritty sleep.

Tomorrow I will wake in room three,
stretch languidly and lie awhile in peace,
saunter to room two, prepare my favourite breakfast,
step into room one and savour it,
shamefully faced away from the street, lest I should see
something too disturbing
for so early in the day,

 Victor Silverspoon-Pinke will rise dissatisfied with his mass-produced life, irritated by the instructions that came with his sleek new coffee machine, added to which, it makes his six year old, bespoke oak cabinets look yet more inappropriate for his distinguished name and his expectations high. He’ll dread the moment when he checks the price of his shares. Frowning at the framed vista of his freshly sculpted acres he’ll complain that the contrived landscape leaves something to be desired,

and the nameless woman will have risen at daybreak,
silently packed up her bedding and trailed away,
head cast down, scanning the sodden ground,
searching  for small change.


The Daily post #Tailor

©Jane Paterson Basil



Three dry rooms, free of infestation
whose roof sloughs off rain’s invasion
Sunlight filling my home by day
a view that carries me far away
may not sound much like luxury
but it feels like a lot to me

electric wires bringing light and heat
a fridge and freezer full of food to eat
a cooker and several sturdy pots
so I can cook that food and eat it hot
may not sound much like luxury
but it feels like a lot to me

And when at night my tired head
has had enough and I go to bed
a deep divan is waiting for me
and I drift off to sleep in luxury
while out in the rain the homeless lie
on flattened cardboard to stay warm and dry


Written for The Daily Post #Luxury

©Jane Paterson Basil

Bountiful life


well stocked fridge, cupboards
filled with the food I savour.
Delicious, nutritious,
with the occasional sour or sugary treat.
a carefully budgeted combination
of economy and luxury;
money to replace every item I consume;
a little saved should my laptop break;
some to spare for my aesthetic pleasure fund
(vintage clothes for Serenity,
a finely woven throw for us both,
a fresh coat of paint in sunset shades).
every item carefully considered before buying –
assessed by both want and need.
a conscious effort to avoid waste
of food, of global energy, of space.

home obtained by default –
several applicants had turned it down on sight –
perhaps repelled by the stain on the bedroom floor,
but my homeless state forced a decision.
though living in a block of flats
surrounded by aging scandal-mongers
is not my idea of graceful living,
there are compensations to be spied through my window:
a line of trees beside the road, the sunset.
angels on the horizon generating clean electricity.

such modest way to live, you may think,
but I’m grateful for all of these gifts:
shelter, food, and nature’s entertainment.

as day cools
I watch the changeling sky put on its evening show,
then curtsey with a hint of peach before the cloudy curtain drops.
rain falls, dripping from the trees,
making a river of the road, blocking the drains.
people run for cover,
or raise their umbrellas and make a rush for home,
splashed by passing cars, by their own shoes on the pavement,
by others, heels clicking, feet kicking, caught in a similar race.

while the lost ones, those less lucky than you or I
press their bodies against shop doorways
as the damp creeps,
soaking their sleeping bags,
chilling their lonely bones.

I’m saddened,
even as I give thanks for my own
bountiful life.


©Jane Paterson Basil