Small change, by Jackie Biggs

When you give a beggar a coin,
a pound dropped into
a ragged cardboard coffee cup,
do you feel good?

When the guy looks at you,
nods unkempt gratefulness
for your little gift,
your small change,
does it make you feel better?

When you sit with your
fat £3 a go Americano
and carrot cake on a china plate
do you wonder how he came to be
a beggar on the ground
outside Embankment station?

See his tent, there,
just around the corner under the bridge.
You think, at least he has a tent,
it looks sound.
He’s better off than those
who lie on cardboard sheets
in parks and shabby doorways.

And as you eat salmon and avocado
in a restaurant by the theatre
before going to see a drama on the stage
do you wonder how
he’ll spend your pound?
Tea, coffee, cider?

You give small change,
does it make you feel better?
And there’s another,
wrapped in a wornout blanket
on the bridge, cup in hand.
You give another £1.

And as you tuck into dessert,
your favourite strawberry tart,
you think of
a woman on the bridge
holding out her empty palm
no cup
skin brown with streetlife.
You put two fifties into her hand.

And you pay £15 to see
an exhibition of photos
by Don McCullin of 50 years
of war and poverty around the world
where you see pictures of
homeless men in 1970s England
asleep, standing up, capped heads lolling,
because there was nowhere to lie down.

And here’s another today,
along the side of Southbank centre,
in a doorway.
You drop the rest of your silver coins
on his sleeping bag,
before you go into the warm concert hall.

Small change.

 

 

 

 

(Jackie Biggs has had poetry published in many magazines and anthologies, both in print and online. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her first poetry collection, The Spaces in Between, was published in September 2015 by Pinewood Press (Swansea). ). Her second collection, Breakfast in Bed, will be published by Indigo Dreams in Autumn 2019. She reads her work regularly at spoken word events all over west Wales, where she lives, and is a member of the Rockhoppers Coast to Coast Poets performance group. Blog:  http://jackie-news.blogspot.co.uk  Twitter: @JackieNews )

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