Step over them, the ragged army
in our city streets. Ignore
their supplicating dogs, stretched
arms, and paper cups in empty need
of vodka or your change. Beneath their crumpled
skin, their reddened eyes, their threadless
unappealing lives, they barely
register their needs upon the stars.
Do not become immersed. The point
of pity is there’s no relief. That each
might once have trod the same
as we is unmatterial. Call not to see
them counselled, housed, or fed or cleaned.
They made their choice and walked away.
I hear you cite their broken dreams,
the many darknesses that struck,
the jobs they lost, the children, wives
and mothers died, or left them to
their emptiness. As many stories
as the corners, doorways, passages
they litter with their shortened days.
Listen, if you must, to what went wrong,
but do not think a country owes
these wrecks another chance. Heal them?
Bring the army heroes back to yet another
promised land? Don’t make me laugh.
Homes? Hopes? Care and Love?
Command the churches, they can open
up their now so pointless doors –
supply the soup and cast-off clothes.
Real handouts best belong to wealthy
shakers like myself. Give us a chance.
We’ll tidy up the mess these failures leave,
and through avoidance, havens, hedges,
keep our world perpetually bright and clean.
A very apt satirical dramatic monologue for our times, John. ‘The Mask Slips’ might be an alternative title. I had not thought I would live long enough to hear and read such thoughts actually expressed by public figures – though rarely so eloquently. It is a truly splendid piece of writing – its relentless pace, its savage use of clichés, its echoes of almost biblical righteousness.