As with the previous piece, the setting is late at night in a residential children's home.

North Manchester, a night sliced wide
By rain for poor folk, wet like oil,
Dark as soot. Behind the bins a fox
Is chattering horribly & madly at itself,
Alarms howl in & out, sirens
Dot the borders of my hearing, wearily.

Shaun prowls the corridors like something
From The Shining, Malcolm
Hugs a monitor, destroying zombies with
A blur of calloused, practiced fingertips,
Samantha's out there, somewhere, missing
But not lost to anyone except herself.

Stephanie's on the run on bail
That's endless, a puff of dust at 15 years,
Craig begs rhythmically in sleep
That's not been sleep since he was 8
& overhead, upstairs, a stereo
Tattoos dull bass beats for the lonely & the late.

Two staff lounge in the office, soaking up
An O.U. course on Basic French
While I check each floor, each girning door,
Arrange some files, write brief & meaningless
Reports on what the 'children' did
Or wouldn't do today, & any other day,
& won't tomorrow, as they'll no doubt say.

By fag nineteen, coffee number ten &
Another risk assessment clear as mud,
The umpteenth poor attempt at blocking out
Life histories which should only now begin,
I must admit defeat, that I won't
Make that difference, influence a life,
Inspire a writer, scientist, explorer,
Football star to escape & change the world,
Any world. Why despair, when they
Don't even want to change their underwear?

Shaun yawns me out the door at eight
With See you tonight you baldie cunt...
Before he gives in to the struggle, goes
To bed & sleeps another day away
In a life filled, up to now, with nights.


A return of sorts ►


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Stuart A Paterson

Thu 26th Mar 2009 18:09

Thanks Frank & Anthony. I've been out of the residential childcare game for nearly a couple of years now, thankfully. However, I've been left with enough images, sounds & stories to fill a Life Story book five times over - which isn't exactly the welcome resource one might imagine it to be.

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Frank Burton

Thu 26th Mar 2009 10:10

I agree, this is a powerful piece. Well done for not dealing with this subject in a sentimental or sensational manner.

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Anthony Emmerson

Mon 23rd Mar 2009 12:01

Hi Stuart,
This poem drips with futility and sorrow. You describe the atmosphere and situation all too clearly, with the meaningless and ineffective bureaucracy and paper-thin resources which are struggling to make a difference to damaged and fragile souls who deserve and need more. One thing came across very starkly - the absence of any kind of love or affection, something that I guess most of the kids have never experienced. Instead we put them in a zoo and label them. What has our society come to, when this is all the remedy we can think of? A raw and touching piece of writing.

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