Photo By Jools Thatcher

Photo By Jools Thatcher

The theme for this week’s JVG Radio Method poem is “Henry ”

Ed Bates returns to  the guitar duties this week



“They’re a blight on this city, those magazine hawkers”
The talk back caller rang to complain
“No different to beggars – worse than the buskers”
Contempt as apparent as the language was plain

My thoughts turned to Henry and the first time we met
“Cheap at quarter the price” – his favourite phrase
Spruiking his wares near Collins and Swanston
Where he sold ‘The Big Issue’ round lunchtime most days

His age, hard to tell, but I’d guess north of forty
A face to suggest he’d been round a few bends
Skin twice as lined as his corduroy jacket
A crooked front tooth that could have done with some friends

Magazine aside, he could sell you a story
As tall as the buildings in whose shadows we stood
Always a punch line to have you in stiches
It was all in the telling cause his jokes weren’t that good

I came past one Friday as Henry packed up
He liked to slip down Degraves for a tea and a smoke
I asked where he came from – half expecting “My mother”
But he told me his story – no yarn and no joke

At age four, his father broke Henry’s arm
Locked him naked and suffering all night in the shed
“The boy fell off a swing” he told the doctor next morning
The crime Henry committed? Wetting the bed

In the middle of winter he’d be left in the car
Outside the pub, while his parents got drunk
He knew to keep quiet when his father was drinking
Those nights Henry slept under his bunk

When the bastard walked out Henry thought it was Christmas
But his mother’s new boyfriend belonged in a cage
What that mongrel inflicted on Henry and his sister
The words, out of shame, would not hold to the page

His stories were many and don’t bare repeating
Except as a warning of what lies in our midst
If there’s a God she must question her wisdom
To let something so loathsome even exist

From the age of fourteen Henry wandered the country
What home had denied him he found on the road
But his past shared the journey and refused to release him
Every thought, every word, every dream bore the load

The bottle and more; bought relief – although fleeting
While temperance left him exposed to the pain
Till ‘That worthless prick’ as his father would call him
Cried “He beat me once – he won’t beat me again”

“The grog – no more; been sober two years”
But the fags, he conceded were harder to toss
“I’m in publishing mate” with a smile and a wink
“People know me by name – and hey, my own boss”

There’s thousands of Henrys’, regardless of gender
Who’ve overcome more than I could endure
They should be encouraged, not brushed off the streets
They’re not the problem – they’re part the cure

© Copyright 2009 Ian Bland

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.