Charlie by Lesley Quayle

They snatch him from the DSS each year,

around Christmas time, when he’s in to sign his giro,

for an annual check-up, bath, delouse and shear

and fresh clothes – with his name inked-in in biro,

..

just in case he can’t remember who he is,

the system’s not designed to cope with ‘nameless’ –

or the gormless, hopeless, sad apologies

for humans, who don’t wash or brush – are shameless

..

in their relentless, endless quest for alcohol.

He dances into Waitrose unaware

of the manager and her ‘spring-fresh’ aerosol,

following as close behind him as she dares,

..

de-skunking his wake with chemical daffodils.

He checks-out at the management’s discretion,

rarely paying for his Special Brew and Pils,

stealing’s a sin, but what priest would hear his confession?

..

No redemption for his dark, satanic wheeze,

even Jesus draws the line at halitosis

which could bring celestial hosts ‘unto’ their knees

and fell Father, Son and Holy Ghost. It’s

..

criminal, his breath, but who’ll indict it?

He sleeps in the allotments by the station

and hunkers down with leeks, chrysanths and shit,

Charlie’s a stinking boil on the arse of the nation

..

lanced once a year, at Christmas, for a treat,

abducted from the dole queue, stripped, scrubbed, perfumed,

fumigated, re-clothed, hair cut neat,

then it’s back to Waitrose, sanitised and fresh groomed

..

to get himself some festive alcohol.

He sashays through the aisles feeling sublime,

wafting malathion, Dettol, mothballs, menthol,

and a ticket for the old folk’s pantomime.

..

Charlie sleeps in the allotments by the station,

and he stinks of halitosis, shit and sweat,

he’s a festering boil on the couldn’t-care-arse of the nation –

but he hasn’t died yet.

Merry Christmas Charlie.

..

Research by charities Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation suggested “informal” methods used by councils to tackle the homeless problem had masked a 9% rise in 2013-14 to 280,000 cases.

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