After Grenfell by Mandy Macdonald

I am not a silent poet

Wiry, precise, like a wading bird —
egret, perhaps, or avocet, or stilt —
an elderly man in the coach queue
bursts out: ‘We were lucky! We had jobs!
Not to have a job was shameful; to lose
your job, a bloody disgrace!’ Startled by
his urgency, other grey heads nod agreement:
to be young now’s not much fun at all.

Round the corner, by the crossing lights,
the same young man, mud-coloured, sits each day
with his begging beanie, his hopeless, dreich politeness:
‘Spare any change?  … Have a nice day then …’
When the rain comes he’ll slip under cover, resettle
at the stairs’ foot, take up his chant again.

On the coach, two ladies of a certain, uncertain age
talk in whispers; each wears six shades of beige —
blouse, jacket, trousers, shoes, plus skin and hair,
treading so palely on the earth, they leave
hardly a glint…

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