Beggars on Lambton Quay

Today I will not speak of my impotent anger,
my self-inflicted indignation
when I saw yet more beggars
hunched like open sores on Lambton Quay.
I will not ask this indifferent and
preoccupied crowd
to feel pity
(enough with this pity which gets us nowhere)
for the ‘victims’ of the iron laws of economics,
or the erosion of basic social services,
these ‘unfortunates’ who fell
through the ever-widening cracks
and landed hard on their backsides,
on the pavement
outside James Cook Arcade or Cable Car Lane.
No, I won’t ask for empathy
from the hard-headed, practical crowds.
I will only ask that you view these beggars
for what they are;
the unflinching mirror image
of the society we have chosen to live in.
There in the slick and glittering windows,
a reflection,
the incongruous, squat figure and his cardboard plea,
the apotheosis of our cynical and threadbare
social contract.

Death of a Child

probably too soon,
though we can’t be sure.
Statisticians mark you off
on a sheet between two dissecting lines.
Between two dissecting lines
he held you,
while his giant hands of flame
went to work.
Only moments before
you had been dancing
around the kitchen,
around the garden,
around the endless hours of your brief childhood.
What do we know,
we the well brought up,
of the secret language you shared
with the other breakable things
of this world?
Large men who assassinate themselves
over and over
with a disenchanted knife,
smear childhood across the walls.
Crumple of young years
in a pile of dirty clothes,
and a terrible innocence
that claws at the survivors.
Somewhere, a brief and sharp cry,
an accustomed outrage.
Somewhere, a statistician duly records.

Yashii Park

In Yashii park

down by the sea,

there’s smooth jazz

sliding out of a loud speaker

and there are big walls

for tame swimmers.

And out beyond,

the sea,

in her impossible softness,

invites the boats

over the edge.

In Yashii park

there’s summertime

on the radio,

and people slow and stupid

under the April sun,

and families

dispensing themselves

onto the beach

like coloured pebbles

set out to dry.

And this all depends on

the sea, and the way

she calmly unfolds herself today

and lets the people

touch her and

accepts the braver ones

who wade into her

still frigid shallows.

And the palm trees lean in

and tell me things,

like how

she is the last to forgive.

Like how once

she’d rung their necks

and flung some of them

over the rooftops.

And her hurt had

raged and burst

the great walls

meant as her straight-jacket.

But today she’s

laid out on her back

and the things that once

probed at her explosive depths

now seem far off.

And the voluptuousness

in her rises and

embraces these fragile ones

who come tentatively

down to her shore.


Copyright Ricky Barrow 2014