In a surgical cut to the heart of an op-shop, it finds me: 
muted blues of a spring noon, its salt-scuffed 
wash of wave-noise rolling from cuff
to elbow shoals—a great shroud
of some leviathan's jetsam history,


Now mine, paid in full. 
Well, half price from a closing sale.


One  last sweep of the discount histories before I leave.
How beautiful they are, hocked from Homes with a capital ‘H’
The lint qualia of each deep pocket burning holes in mine.


Out on the street
wind shoots through rifled grooves of alleyways,
rips marrow-deep through crowded streets, 


the city's supine tract distended
out from the eye-sore shadows
of brick and concrete,
while the sun hides safe in off-grey defilades.


But I’m fine.
I bought a jacket.
I am going Home.


I met Richard in November, in an alcove off the arcade,
traded a kebab for conversation and went on my way. 


In a week, he and the alcove are gone, 
packed camp—a picket-fence smoothed
over a pockmark on the city


for a manger, a nativity scene,
baby Jesus in plasticine,
just in time for Christmas.


How Christian. 


At the bus-stop
I met the same Richard in the new year.


He offered me the blood of Christ from a paper bag
then hopped the four-oh-two. 


I had never waved down, hailed a bus there,
I have never needed to.
Everyone goes somewhere
but no one ever leaves.


An ark off main street, 
on all sides, people lean like 
caltrops gridlocked in a cigarette haze, 
a still-life: shrapnel in mid-flight.


The shelters now sheared of walls, 
to shuffle loiterers on the weather's schedule. 


The architecture, modern,
the treatment, medieval.


And in the night the nooks are 
swept clean by the Nuremberg tide 
of boys in blue just doing their job. 


The doldrums run the block
and back again, and again, and


when you can’t stand any more


the city’s seats beckon with a curling finger,
in the backhand bones of a shelter,
an arm rest,
a knuckle crested in the centre:


a fuck-you in waiting.


Yet they sleep. They sleep
under film of refuse
as fragile as a foetus, 
or knees buckled under yoke
of an arm rest. 


And in a day, I could be them, too.


The buses sidle in their armistice,
and slide off with a sigh
for the wind to spit-hiss in vulgar chorus
with the vague rants of vagrants, 


and as their words whipcrack off windows
like stones—


Bluetooth ears, 
red power tie, 
white-collar gait—


A three-piece man crosses the road
and the words cannon after him 
from the broadside of a bus.


Can I blame him?
Can I blame any of them?


Sure. ‘Never been a suit man.
Denim and wool, the fads that preclude
the base in me, 
complacency of cosy trappings, bastions 
from an aversion to casket fashions—


But I’m fine.
I bought a jacket.
I am going Home.


Ignorant to the pull of it, 
of the hands that grab and tear at  pockets barely mine, 
of the winds or voices that shout 'Family' at my back, 


for our bloodline beats the pulse of a needle,
sewn into every fibre:
The ebb and flow of 
bankruptcy and survival.

Commissioned as one of the winning submissions to our #30in30 daily poetry competition as part of Poetry Month 2021