red, by Pascal Vine

For Shuggie

i made you a small shrine of red things.

original flavour lucozade, fiery roses from kenya you might’ve thought a waste,  a card with hearts on it you would’ve hated, a single cigarette with a tan end;

it was not enough.

i swept burning red leaves to the spot where you had cardiac arrest, now lined with flowers and well wishes in the daylight. people stop to read them all day long, people who might’ve have avoided you in your big issue jacket, people you would’ve been pissed at even if you were pissed af.

the space needed to be red so people knew something had happened and it was empty and it was wrong. I dug out a single copper coin. someone in a crimson anorak held me from behind. i bashed my pallid fist into the pavement until it grazed.

because it was red on that blanket you sat on each night. you were huddled with your skinny dog with the red collar, red in the cheeks in the rain. you were an unwilling silent protest, i said hi. knowing id see you like this again. i got told by a white sign my friend had gone in the night.

maybe if you were a pink bouquet people would have stopped to say hello more. if you were a beige victorian monument of limestone in this city they would have paid to make you a home. if you were grey clouds you could’ve been hungover as you like and no one would have looked down on you. they’d look up and call you silver.

i hope you’re reborn as a poem better than this one; people will listen to you this time. you spent your last night outside a furniture shop with a bed out front, haloed by blinking fairy lights in the warmth. all because you could barely work, because you were damaged, because you were hurting, so you according to policy you got nothing.

you utter legend, look at all the shit your friends got you, all you ever asked for:
beer, cards, flowers, lucozade, candles, cigarettes, tear-blinded rage.
is there anything we’ve forgotten?


Pascal Vine is a performance poet often found lurking around Bath and Bristol, but in actuality is holed up on the Somerset levels. You can find them on wordpress at pascalvinepoetry and youtube at pascalvpoet. This poem was written for Shuggie, a beautiful brave man who passed away last January who was a source of love and wisdom for five years to Pascal. Published with permission from his friend Sue.