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annie3.jpgAnnie Chance, a teacher at Royal Brompton Hospital, has been awarded an Irish Poetry prize of two weeks residency in the Tyrone Guthrie centre in Ireland to prepare work for publication. Here is one of her poems commended by the judges.

Down at Heals
 

The hard cold of Tottenham Court Road’s pavement

made him reach for his familiar – a blue sleeping bag.

As he shook it, pigeon shit flew. Hold on! That blue

was the exact blue of the sofa in Heal’s window.

There seemed to be a party on, groups stood laughing.

 
A girl poured chilled Pouilly Fuisse into his glass

and called Security.  He preferred red biddy or sherry

when footless in Camden or eyeless in Gaza .  The glass

though elegant  didn’t stop wine looking like piss!

A sign said Welcome to the Ideal Homes Exhibition 
so he lifted his glass to The Homeless, whose sleeping bags

were not colour coordinated – Lincoln Inns Harry whose

telephone imitations freaked out the lawyers; to Morris

 who thought he was a car and waited at the petrol pumps in

Finsbury Square . They told him  he ran on electric – a milk float.

 
The clock in Heal’s roomset had stopped at 5pm like a

shop assistant.  Laughter glittered, he drank on steadily.

People looked through him as if he were a window – he was

used to that – few saw him – kids and dogs.  A mat

ran under the table.  Unsteady now he needed to leave.

  
Passing the gift department he found a match, so he lit

all the forgotten  white candles  -  the souls of the faithful

departed  may they rest in peace, home sweet home, amen.

Back on the street he wondered where Pal had got to

that  wall-eyed mutt, that shivering rage of fleas.

 
He had saved a Big Mac for him that  a kid had binned

worried about germs.  Outcasts know there’s worse than

germs;  Eternity,  nights without a bottle. As he turned

into Euston Road, the wail and  lights of fire engines

made the stars blink over that part of North London.

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