A word here

AsleepThis poem stems from a scene at Salzburg station in the summer of 2010, but in truth it could be any station anywhere…


He lies on a bench, face like a tomato

Snoring though whiskers, grey and staccato;

Friendless, he sleeps, clutching his can,

Despised at home, hardly a man.


To one side three drinkers, whispering lowly.

They’re vexed: ‘Police?’ says one slowly.

They nod and they swig; one nudges the sleeper.

He snuffles and dribbles; the nudges get harder.


The sun splashes shadows; I squint in the glare.

What brings these four men to be waiting right here?

At ten in the morning, drinking strong lager,

Numbing some pain, because being sober is harder.


Drugs, ex army, some mental disorder?

What’s pushed these four over that border?

From safety, security, a job and a home

To this. Four drinkers, together, alone.


About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published three anthologies of short stories and a memoir of my mother. More will appear soon. I will try and continue to blog regularly at geofflepard.com about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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16 Responses to A word here

  1. lucciagray says:

    Yes, it’s always a mystery why someone finds themself in that situation. What indeed ‘pushed them over the border’? So many unwritten novels, untold stories of broken lives…
    One of my favourite Ruth Rendel novels has such a person as one of the main characters, The Keys to the Street, I think it’s called. It’s set around Regents Park, like your picture!


  2. jan says:

    The phrase “sober is harder” definitely hits the nail on the head for most homeless folks.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. willowdot21 says:

    This is so Geoff and it can be seen all over the world
    It breakes my heart to see them especially at this time of year!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. trifflepudling says:

    Am worried about this man in the red coat: he’s appeared three times recently. Who is he?!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Lisa Reiter says:

    This picture really has stirred the pensieve hasn’t it!
    I’m not doing Christmas cards this year but donating to Centrepoint instead. Equally plagued by the rising numbers of kids I’m seeing the same age as my boy. It’s utterly heartbreaking.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. merrildsmith says:

    Yes, this could be any US city, and so many tales of despair.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Charli Mills says:

    “…together, alone.” It is the disconnection your words capture, the marginalized and ignored on the sidelines of daily life, the homeless we pass, uncertain or unwilling to reach out. Easier to go home as planned. Though in the photo, the bench-sleeper seems nicely dressed. He’s not exactly wearing Wal-Mart cast-offs.

    Liked by 1 person

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