The Ballad of Christmas Eve 2017

One shivered on the cold pavement, another in Pound Land’s door

One shivered on the cold pavement

another in Pound Land’s door

but a third saw a star

over Superdrug- glistening like never before


Then a figure framed in a shop window said:

‘There’s a baby – have you heard?

down by the Tents..’

and something about him made them believe every word


They picked up their dirty old blankets

carrier bags and special brew

starting the trudge to the end of town

though they hardly knew what they were going to


‘The Tents’ were in some waste ground

no one knew who owned it, so

there were brambles and old sofas

and those who had no-where to go


But the baby was wrapped up well there

in the glow of a battery lantern

and its mum on a mat in a tent

looking like it was all meant to happen


And they knelt down to see inside there

those three lost homeless men

and from feeling outside and empty

they felt a small warmth again


Then 3 smart-looking people arrived there

stepping round the old bikes and dumped tyres

they’d had calls that they needed to come there

while they listened to Kings College Choir


‘Did you make yourself intentionally homeless?’

asked one, making notes on a form

‘What benefits are you receiving?

Where was the child born?’


‘We’ve just got to get them accommodation

that’s the first thing’ said another

‘But the emergency shelter’s full’

The third gave some cash to the mother


‘And what’s your immigration status?’ said the first

‘For God’s Sake!’ said the second

‘Let’s stay calm’ said the third

But as he turned, the mother smiled and beckoned


And it seemed the baby laughed

though he was much too little for that

and a peace and a pleasure came over them all

the way sometimes babies do that


And there was a pause in the run of life

and the night just sharp and clear

and the stars shone like gifts through the hawthorns

they’d never seemed so near


And there were tears in their eyes

those men from the street

and those from comfortable houses

all knew they were incomplete


And if you asked them after

they’d say they didn’t know

what changed, but the world had altered

like an overnight icing of snow


it was alight and beautiful

but it was stark and cold

a need, but what could be done

beyond a story being told?


Beyond the hard bed on the pavement

Or an argument in the office

Beyond trying again tomorrow

Beyond a hope or a promise


Beyond a moment’s comfort

or the conscience’s cold snap

beyond a chilly hallelujah

or coins dropped in an old hat?

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