Down and out in Durham by Rachel Burns

I am not a silent poet

Late in the evening Alfie huddles in a shop doorway

beneath bright Christmas lights

Nearing thirty, he looks punch old.

His battered radio tuned to Metro Night Owls.

A wave of desperate voices, a distraction

from the freezing cold. Ida from Stockton remembers

people darning holes in their socks. Jim from Byker

is pissed off. He’s being sanctioned.

Vicky from Shields is looking for a Food Bank

to feed her three bairns. Alfie finds words

strangely comforting, as if back inside the army dorm

before he was kicked out, cos his head

is filled with raging nightmares and battle scars

before his mates were sent home in body bags.

By his side, a collection tin and a bottle of Bull

people walk by, he tries to catch their eye, areet darlin, smile.

He wraps himself in an old sleeping bag from the Salvo.

By the morning he will have…

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