Thursday, 8 October 2015


At the age of 41 I found myself sleeping rough on the streets of London, ironically with 41 pence to my name.

Wherever I slept I would awaken at four or five am, with the coins scattered around me, having worked themselves free from my pocket during the night. I imagined them as rats fleeing a sinking ship.

When I eventually returned home I had lost most of the feeling in one half of my right hand (although there has been some recovery my little finger is still partially numb). My first couple of weeks back had the quality of a waking dream where familiar settings such as my bedroom assumed monstrous and unfamiliar appearances. I expected at any moment to open my eyes and find myself back on the streets.

During this time I wrote down lines for a poem on scraps of paper.

I returned to these notes a few days ago and decided that I would work them into something for National Poetry Day.


by Mark Sadler

A cast-off from
the railway station,
who slipped free from
the end of the line
and was caught in
the purposeful eddies of
the evening rush-hour foot traffic,
is swept into the dingy corner
of some forlorn cul de sac
with soaped-up windows -
A heaped, vaguely human form
obscurely contoured
beneath a soiled blanket

A former climber
who in reduced circumstances
maps his ascent
on the horizontal plane.

In his sleep he claws
at the paving stones
in an attempt to gain
purchase on a handhold

or crushes against himself,
and holds his ebbing warmth
close to his chest
like a cherished treasure
that he will die to protect.

In the bleary, diesel-scented fog
of a grainy pre-dawn
supermarket delivery
he makes his own re-acquaintance,
recovers from the pavement
the small change
that migrated from his pockets
during the night.

The coins that flee his possession
in anticipation of a
greater tragedy to come
assume a tarnished constellation
around him.

Fallen stars
dimly recast in dulled metal
pressed flat beneath
the crushing gravity
of the world above his head
as he slowly sinks into two dimensions.

They resist his trembling attempts
to prise them from the
cold stone.

In the fading darkness of
another London night
where the foundations of sleep
have been restlessly sketched out
on a scrap of dirt
in an unlocked churchyard
a body in rehearsal for death
assumes the foetal position.

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