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I wrote this poem a few years ago and it came second in the John Clare poetry competition, theme ‘home.’
It’s based on my memory of the tramp ( as we then called vagrants) who I used to see roaming up and down the A23 road near my house. I wondered what his life had been like and why he was now sleeping rough.
It’s his belt of string I remember mostly, and so that image is in my poem.

The Tramp

I remember seeing you on my way to school,
shuffling along the road in the shadows,
rummaging in bins or picking over
the smoky ends that had smouldered
in another’s lips.
A huddled heap in scare-crow clothes,
you were like a mislaid parcel
tied tightly round
with string.

I remember seeing you in the park
spark out beneath last week’s news,
or sitting silently in the shadows
watching the world pass by
with dulled old eyes,
the dregs of broken dreams eddying
at your feet.

And I remember that day
they found your iced bones
on the memorial steps,
ribboned medals lay at your side
and faded poppies wreathed
your head.