Sixteen by Lesley Quayle

“Sixteen – homeless and hungry.”
In a shop doorway,
placard round his neck,
picketing the early shoppers,
paltry in a dirty rug,
unsmiling, a pouch of bones,
labelled in brown cardboard,
A trivia of human remains,
bagged up and dumped,
avoided like a rat corpse,
sidestepped with all the other litter
strewing damp, December streets.

Some mother’s son,
some father’s boy,
familial comfort
faded and forgotten,
bereaved of a warm lap,
nestled in an unloving cleavage
of cold brick and plate glass,
a goodnight kiss of exile.
Sunless skin, eyes tournaments,
of contempt, tongue cowed
but eloquent in cardboard.
“Sixteen – homeless and hungry.”

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