The dawn fog pads low, softening
footsteps to an anonymous purr
It sidles against buildings,
paws the fingers of steel and glass
as they grope for light and warmth
above the polluted gauze.
A yellow eyed sun winks through
a gap in the veil and is gone,
biding its time to pounce.
Each streetwise second waits
its moment to slit my pocket,
run off with my humanity
and lose itself among the crowds,
as they shuffle over bridges,
in and out of train stations,
or loiter at bus terminals.
Near blind in the murk, I smell
the diesel and damp pavement grime.
Hear the Babel of voices.
Small conspiracies, whispered behind
hands in cafes and doorways.
Inhale the whiff of a cityâ€™s
indifferent hostility, as it gets ready
to put on its business face
and hustle through another day.
I pass the husks of those,
hollowed by injustice or illness.
They offer up their misfortune
with eyes that follow, shaming
for a quidâ€™s worth of compassion
Signs that bleed: â€˜Hungry and Homelessâ€™,
behind upturned baseball caps,
open like the beaks of baby chicks.
My city smarts unravel
like a ball of string, that slips
from my fingers, chased down
the gutter by the fog. Hooded,
head down, arms furled round.
my face damp with fine mist
I join the dying on London Bridge.
Â© John Bowen
Picture 11999490, photograph by John Gay, 1960s, image copyright Mary Evans / Historic England
John Bowen is a widower in his early 70s, living in South London where he was born and grew up. He had a brief spell in professional football before going to university to study English. Most of his working life was spent as an Emergency Duty Social Worker until he retired in 2014. He has been writing poetry for well over 40 years on and off, but it has only been since the death of his partner, and the need to find an outlet for his grief, that he has taken the subject seriously.