By Michael Barley

He stutters along lanes in a grey spell

Silent over the broken pavings

Citizens pass by but barely notice

The earth-red pallor of

The fever eczema scoring his dread face

His flicker-flicker eyelids

Too fractiously unwell and unprepared

To be glared at

By a cleanskin’s eyes

This man, just a boy really,

Hiding in his moth-brown cloak

Riddled with cold holes

That small gales push through

Winding around his ribs and sliding over

The bones to weasel out and strip off

Any skerricks of spirit or truth that

May have collected as life-lichen

Flogged into a half-life of habits to

Keep away pain, become numb, to use

A tawdry anaesthetic that only exacerbates

The cycle of head to foot eczema

On the outside as on the in.

A loathsome self

Banished to the margins

To exist as a transient inhabitant in

That unnerving dimension

I hated with all my heart

That skin crawling eczema

Each body hair drilling its own pinhole

Across the scarred universe of my body

Each tiny irritant covered and recovered

By blood-cracked scratches

I feel for that boy


With no mouth to speak

No hand to touch

No compassion or rest

I feel for that boy

Alone and mauled

Caught in the fallen prison

He knew nowt about I send him this message:

I remember, I don’t forget

To be kind to you in the grey zone

Sense and feel for you

Hold your carved-up opaque souls.

I promise not to stroll on and

Not recognise the person buried inside.

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