This time last year I was a tramp
My home the doorway of a stamp-
-shop on London’s finest street, the Strand
A grand address that was not grand.
Inside a sleeping bag I slept, above a heating vent I crept
At night (and yes, some nights, I wept).
I treasured most a Starbucks cup
Which as the day wore on, filled up
With coins thrown by a generous few
(The generous few perhaps who knew
Of how there’s but the finest line
Between their cosy lives and mine).
But once, I heard somebody say:
“Think twice before you give away
Your hard-earned cash to one who begs
Who is so clearly of the dregs.
He’ll only spend your cash on drink
And drugs. Please, stop, and think.”
I often wondered what they thought
I should have gone ahead and bought
Instead? Boxed-sets? Some scented candles?
A set of luggage with monogrammed handles?
Perhaps – and this would be a corker –
A year’s subscription to the New Yorker?
And then one night, a revelation
As I peed in King’s Cross Station
And got smartly moved on by
A Tesco store detective, I
Said – wait, unhand me, please
I’m here to purchase one of these.
I’ve had my fill of getting blotto!
Give me a ticket for the lotto.
But that’s another story…
Now, as I walk down London’s Strand
Jangling loose change in my hand
Ready to drop it in a Starbucks cup
That’s slowly, slowly, filling up
I might just pause awhile, and muse:
Should I begrudge this man his booze?
His heroin, his coke, his speed,
Whatever substance meets the need?
For half an hour or so at least
A can of Special Brew’s a feast.
Loose change drops easily enough
But picking up the stuff? That’s tough.
Peter Higgins was born in Yorkshire and now lives in London. His short stories have appeared in various anthologies and magazines, and he appears regularly at LondonVille Lit (South London’s finest spoken-word event).