Shelley Hansen - Lady of Lines

Poem of the Month

March 2019

This year's Rabindranath Tagore Award was judged by an international panel from France, USA and India. I am delighted that I was awarded third prize behind a Canadian winner and Indian runner-up. It is a challenge for a rhyming poet to capture the essence of a subject in 25 lines or less, especially when pitted against predominantly free verse, which is characterised by its vivid word pictures. So I'm very happy that the judges saw fit to award me this prize. The sobering subject of my poem is certainly not limited to Australia, but outlines a problem felt worldwide.

© Shelley Hansen 2018

The morning shines on city streets that sparkle in the light.
It's time to go to work for most - the coffee shops are bright
with chatter - while in dusty corners serving as a bed
lie those who in their homelessness, see darker days ahead.

The foetal curl of desperation, flanked by cardboard walls,
the public toilets all they have for times when nature calls,
the pitiful possessions in a faded shopping bag,
the threadbare blanket serving as a torn and tattered swag.

Apparently oblivious to sounds of early day
they sleep until they're moved along, to slowly melt away
in tracks of anonymity, to seek another shade
as days are cloned like soundtracks that are endlessly replayed.

But when the streets are empty and the failing sun has set
they turn again, reclaiming space wherever they may get
protection from the elements and shelter from the sky,
and there, in wordless unity, they watch the night pass by.

The youngsters who've been kicked from home, or run away from where
the scourge of sick brutality transcended thoughts of care.
The saddened souls whose past is filled with loss, who cannot cope
with visions of a future world denuded of all hope.

We bustle through our busy lives, determined to discard
unsolvable dilemmas which we feel are just too hard.
Confronted by the multitude who find this world a place
of solitude and dark despair - do we avert our face?

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