Men with Blankets

, ,
carrying the last the possessions: blankets

as much as they loved
the bright blankets with whales
and fancy embroidery

it was the old
blue blanket

that suddened his face
into a smile.
and made me realise

he knew what it
felt to be cold.
his mate grinned at the pillow

clutching it tightly
eyes widening
when I pulled out the sheets

‘the boys will love this’
and I realised
they hadn’t volunteered

to walk (I’ll go!)
a ‘k’ or so to my car
just for themselves

blankets would be shared.
shared with the ancient man
grinning white teeth

and Australian ebony skin;
shared with the bearded man
jeans, flannel

and an old smile;
shared with the young man
no shirt,

suspicious red eyes;
shared with all the rest.

‘you would have to sit
with us for a day and three quarters’
was his answer to my question

‘to hear all
the stories’
‘you would have to sit with us

at least a day
or more’
he laughed.

we walked passed muddy mangroves
dirty brown water at our flanks
fringe dwellers’

‘that’s south bank clan’
as we passed abandoned camps

of sodden blankets
‘yeh they got a motel in all this rain’
and my head turns back.

‘the police come down today
tipped out my beer
sometimes we see them

five times a day
or more, leave
then comes another one.’

‘they demand
yeh if that girl was near us

that night
she would have been safe
still here’

and I believe him.
3 years under a bridge
and under 30.

it rained later
while I sat in my car waiting
for a friend

I wound up my windows
and wondered about the girl.

Passing the riverwalk from my car to the Southbank of Brisbane, I met some homeless men living under the freeway bridges. At the time I was in the process of selling all my possessions to move to the Philippines and as we chatted I suddenly realised they would love the blankets and pillows I had packed up in the boot. This poem is dedicated to their independence and brotherhood.

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