16th June 2017
Those stairs’ll be the death of me
Her mother pants as she hauls the pushchair
up the final steps to her daughter’s flat.
Why can’t they fix the bloody lifts? Get it sorted?
She shrugs. Nothing works round here, Mum. We keep telling ‘em.
Yeah, she sighs. They don’t listen. Well, I’ll see you tomorrow, ok?
She watches her mother slowly disappear,
Trudging up the gloomy stairwell.
She calls out after her, Lights not working again?
In her kitchen she tips cornflakes into his Batman bowl,
grabs some cat food from the fridge. The light flickers inside
on and off, on and off. She kicks the fridge door shut.
Scooping up his cereal he shouts, Sing me the song, Mum!
He learnt a new one today at nursery - such a clever boy!
And handsome, they said to her. Sure to break a few hearts!
She pulls him onto her knee in his Superman pyjamas.
They both sing the familiar rhyme - London’s burning! London’s burning!
He claps his sticky hands - Fetch the engines! Fetch the engines!
She carries him to the window in her arms
to look at the lights scattered across the city at night,
shining like jewels in a vast treasure chest.
Swallows circle the Tower, skimming
through the soft summer skies.
Soon the sun will set like a fireball.
Lisa Rossetti was born in Devonport in 1950, and grew up in Cornwall but now lives in Chester. She is a community creative writing practitioner working with people in Recovery from drugs and alcohol, and those with mental health issues. Lisa is a former board director with Lapidus International, promoting words for wellbeing. Her poems have been published in online poetry blogs including Blaze, Mad Rabbit, Brevis, and I Am Not a Silent Poet, and in Write on the Farm (Harestones Press). She has written for Lapidus Journal, the Journal for Applied Arts & Health, and Mslexia. Her poems have been selected for open mic performance at the Women of the World (WOW) festival in April 2018. She volunteers for Soul Kitchen - an action group feeding the homeless, is a member of 'Outside In' - a local provider network addressing homelessness in Chester, and a story researcher for West Cheshire Foodbanks. She is also a co-founder of a local Momentum group.
Far below, a boy in a red hoodie
kicks a football in and out
of the concrete bollards.
In the night, she hears him cough,
But she’s knackered and turns over,
completely dead to the world.
Fire-fighters find them in the morning,
huddled together under the blown out window,
A cat’s skull lies close by, and a blackened toy;
just a blob of plastic, stuck to what was once a small hand.
The onus for Fire and Safety provision should lie with the Fire Services; not with the Government. Furthermore, we do not believe water sprinklers may be the best method of putting out fires. In his parliamentary office, the Minister casually flicks up and down his Smart Phone’s screen. His property market portfolio is doing very well, he notes. He reaches for his brandy.
(For the Many)
I watched as folk flocked
in their thousands,
filling the streets
of Durham's fair city.
I watched as they lifted high
their history, bright banners
flying in the sun, honouring
those who went before.
When we are amazed,
when our common feelings
bind us together,
we hold up our arms.
They pour into the sunlit field.
A powerful surge of hope,
for all those yet to come,
lights up their faces.
Jervis Street is steep, its terrace houses wary,
remnants of cobbles and gentility.
That neglected patch of weeds
was once a village green.
Now soiled nappies spill from bins.
Nobody’s door bells work.
Guard dogs fling themselves at letter boxes,
barking like it’s Colditz inside.
A youth with earrings gives you the finger,
laughing out of his grimy window.
An old man shouts “Go Away”
from an upstairs bedroom.
I catch a glimpse of a far away horizon,
as a watery sun paints forgotten Hope
onto the green hills.
Stained glass apostles look blindly down.
It’s cold in the nave today.
But not as cold as the streets outside,
where pavements can be as hard as hearts.
I push my hands deep into my pockets,
stare up at a ceiling embossed with golden stars.
This is where we put twelve camp beds, the manager says.
In the morning we serve hot sausages for breakfast.
Today we have Severe Weather Emergency Protocol training.
Those in the know call it SWEP, proud how it rolls off the tongue.
We are naming safeguarding principles, and waiting for our tea.
The homeless are waiting for the temperature to drop.
This evening the temperature has dropped; feels below zero.
SWEP has been triggered; light streams from the church door.
A few dark figures huddle outside the iron gates, smoking.
One of them calls over to me: “There’s twelve of us. We all got in!”
thistles stretch their prickly arms afar
The drums are drumming.
A reckoning is coming.
In the crèche the children play
with coloured beads.
One toddler tries out his words:
Here’s Red and Blue and Green.
His mother is spruced up
in black boots and white trousers,
hair piled high above a pallid face,
lines etched into her forehead.
I bring her coffee and cake;
it’s free for food bank users.
She’s waiting for her partner.
She doesn’t want to talk.
He’s out there fending for his family,
doing his best. He’s tracking down
that vital red voucher,
somewhere in this city.
Two plastic bags will hold
three days’ emergency rations.
We throw in some treats for the kids.
Vouchers and rations? What kind of war is this?
Early morning, the geese fly over the frost-rimed rooftops.
into the winter sky, cold and luminous. The pattern
undulates, spooling like a black thread, holding each bird
in perfect placement.
I walk to the park with my gift of sandwiches.
The fields and paths are filled with prescient fog,
I am afraid of slipping on ice. But today
my path is quite clear.
You’re waiting outside the pavilion, just like you said,
with hot drinks, and cake spread out on the table.
There are bin bags filled
with warm gloves and hats.
“They can’t stop you having a picnic in the park,” you say to me, “Can they?”
They walk out of the mists, trudging up the path
away from the frosty meadows towards the city
hoping for warmth and food, for shelter tonight,
for friendly faces.
You will not tell me where they sleep. “Too vulnerable”, you said.
“They’re everywhere.” There are hidden tents,
and doorways, doorsteps. “They sleep under cars at night
to keep themselves dry.”
They slip past us warily – skinny pale youths
with grey faces and bad teeth, in thin tracksuit bottoms
and beanies. You give them drinks, and your smile.
Last night was too cold.
“We will look after everybody,” you say. “Everyone.”
I put my sandwiches on the table. The morning is still so cold.
“Community is the answer,” you say; I nod. It is
always the answer.