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Ray Evans





What a performance


She’s performing need, performing abjection, hands clasped, head bowed, in one unbroken curve of supplication, her rickety collecting tin an echo of the beakers on the table behind her which is not a real table, from one of which spirals a straw which is not a real straw, at the end of which is the zippered mouth of a shark, not a real shark, performing the action of sucking up non-existent water.


They’re all on benefits you know. We should give to our own.


She’s performing need, the way someone abroad without the language performs ‘where can I find somewhere to eat?’ She’s a piece of street furniture people manoeuvre around, with a glance at the shark and the beakers that registers nothing. The street is full of intentions, not all of them good.


She’s a gold tooth in her mouth. Must be worth something! We should give to our own.   


She’s performing need. Performs day in, day out, hard graft for slow returns. Someone knocked out the shark and beakers over a cup of coffee, just one more job for the agency, who don’t come cheap.


Must be worth something! We should give to our own.   


She’s performing need. She’s studied her performance with the precision of a Method actor – inhabits it down to her thinning bones.  The shark is sucking non-existent water. A few people toss her a non-existent living.


They’re all on benefits. We should give to our own.



The End of a Dream


Today I beg

 if I didn’t my children would go hungry.


This is not me, not the real me.

You can’t see the person locked up inside

this shell of worn out clothes.

I feel ashamed, but I am desperate.


Before, I was respected, a civil servant.

There that government was corrupt.

Because I refused to spy for them,

I was chained to a chair, cut, scratched

electrocuted. Then, they took my husband.


I never saw him again. I fled my homeland.

When I came here with my sons I thought

we’d be safe.  I hoped for a good life

where I  hoped for a good job, good school

for my boys, good house, good food for us all.

That was my dream. This is my reality.


Today I beg

if I didn’t my children would go hungry.



Jaws of the Shark


She has swum into the jaws of the shark.

Did she not know? Did she think

it would be better than where she came from?


She prostrates herself in the street,

in her shabby clothes like an old woman

in a fairytale, though there is no happy ending.


She’s too old for the men to see her.

They walk past and do not

even know she is there.


The women despise the headscarf

that proclaims her second class,

are angry at her submissive pose.


The paper shark above her

is less lethal than the gang

masters who brought her here.


Less cruel than the people

who walk past, heads

turned so not to see.


And perhaps she keeps her eyes

down, not from false humility

but so they cannot see the hate in them.



lords prayer 2020 

our government, which art in westminster

your name is far from hallowed

begging’s no fun

your work is not done

across this so called kingdom

give the homeless this day a roof and some bread

and forgive them their misfortune

as we forgive you your misgivings

·    the temptation of expenses

·    first class travel

·    a second home

·    the lies

you have the power

to write a new story

gain respect, even glory

until the next election


be kind.



This end of the street is closed to traffic.

So many feet, all moving quietly by.

Grey, the concrete, stippled

to make it easier to walk on in the rain

Today is cold, but not raining , I would still be here

stretched out on this slab, like a corpse under sedation

or a dog waiting to be let off the lead

and taken home for a quick feed and some water, perhaps.


Pranama, this position, it's devotional,

a reverence for one's self released

across hallowed ground with hands cupped to receive.

Respect yes, begging yes,

but not for someone else's profit, for my life, my soul,

an everlasting peace, safe in the Masters arms.


Sometimes I hear a voice, it's gentle, not like the road i'm on,

as if it was speaking just to me.

Rituals have a calm, another world opens up.

I feel sacred, not scared, the same life but rearranged,

surrendered for a moment or two.

My thoughts seem far away. like I did in school at assembly

when we sang of love for our country.

All my worries soaking through cardboard into concrete.

This would make a good photograph.

A powerful image in black and white.

Me silent, head down, my mothers fat back and head scarf

braced against the wind imagining my humble stance will

evoke sympathy instead of absolutely nothing.


They come by with their cameras and take pictures.

I hear the whirring. I always ask for money.

Do they think I do this for free ?

Do they work for nothing ?

Give me money I say in broken English.

My tongue feels broken.

What I wouldn't give for a long straw

in a tall glass of something fizzy

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