coming of age in Oxford

February gives way to March 

slinking off with stale memories

of childhood fun,

schoolboy ambitions,

hope-fuelled dreams

 

adulthood lurks at the door,

poised to engulf me,

I am destitute

of place and property.

 

Nobel Prize winners,

future presidents,

will relieve themselves

easing their bowels,

underground in St Giles’

where I curl, foetal-balled,

on condensation cubicle tiles 

 

beyond the reach of snow,

but not the withering cold

 

urgent workers rattle my door, 

‘give up playing with yourself in there!’

 

I wait for quiet and emerge 

blowing into my hands for warmth,

rubbing sleep from crusted eyes,

heading, to find a breakfast of sorts

in the bleakness of an Oxford dawn

 

the cardboard filling the hole in my sole

is wet right through -

my socks are sodden too,

rancid from a winter’s wearing

 

my eighteenth birthday

I’m now a man

get caught and

I’ll be busted

and battered

 

in the covered market

I wait for the copper

to patrol the farthest aisle

kneel to lift a canvas cover

and snatching at packets blind -

scoop dates for energy

and bourbons to dunk in the tepid tea

they dish up at the market cafe

 

with another tanner

I could buy a second cuppa

stay fairly warm an extra hour -

if I had another tanner

 

Oxford’s historic alleyways

stream thick with aspiring academics

allured by dreams of glittering prizes -

they never notice me

 

I spare no envy on the wealthy, 

or wonder at the stark beauty

of winter naked trees shyly budding

or the sedative of colleges

swaddled in dreaming histories

 

I walk head down,

sloshing through grey grit gutter slush

seeking a glittering prize of my own –

 

two bob or half a crown.

 

◄ hip hooray for lockdown

thoughts of Joanna ►

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