White Trash

I walked the road in terror

Fearing for my soul,

From Underground to hospital

A short ten-minute stroll.

‘WHITE TRASH!’ came out of nowhere,

I felt the scorching brand,

Abuse’s mark upon my flesh,

Its hot, igniting hand.

Inclusion up in smoke and flame,

Equality for all

Torched and cindered by two words,

So ignorant their call.

Even as I stumbled on,

‘That’s what I like to see’,

He pressed home his advantage

To create an enemy.

I’d never met the fellow,

I never would again,

I never sought hostility

From him or other men.

If only he had seen my soul

Instead of just my skin,

If only he had stopped to talk

Our friendship might begin.

Instead he swiped the legs out

Quite from underneath my feet,

Happy with his victory

And my manner of defeat.

For on I staggered bent beneath

This new, unwanted weight,

A thousand worries in my mind

Compounded by his hate.

See, mental illness plagued me,

It had done twenty years,

That’s why I crept the road in panic

Wracked by dreadful fears.

So, when I reached the hospital

Its grounds of safety swelled

Within my breast, though larger cares

Continued to be held.

My wife in ante-natal,

Far, far away from home,

Our unborn child premature

Too keen this world to roam.

I’d no idea at that time

What on earth life had in store

For any of us, good or ill,

It shook me to the core.

I really could have done without

A stranger’s scalding touch,

His kindness would have soothed,

I cannot stress this point too much.

But then it got me thinking

Of other words I’d heard,

Malicious comments made

Against me, each of them interred.

They singed the same as ‘WHITE TRASH!’ had

They came from just one source,

That part malevolent and dumb

Which deviates from course:

The course of honest policy,

The course of polite regard,

The course of empathetic thought,

The course of lowered guard.

And then I thought much deeper,

And then I swallowed quite,

For sudden did I realise

My own part in this fight.

Had not I also said to others

Words with cruel intent?

Dissatisfaction in my breast

Expressed without relent.

Was I not simply bad as he

Who sent me on my way,

Confused and hurt and lost

My fragile mind in disarray?

Did not I upset others

And worse, not even think

How impact of my careless words

Might cause their souls to shrink?

From tube to Overground

And city back to leafy town,

In safety of my car

I thought upon all this with frown.

I couldn’t square the circle,

I could not comprehend

Why we hurt each other,

Spit out words which do offend.

Now that I am home again

I often think upon

The way in which I felt

When I walked back and he was gone.

Relief he was no longer there

Regret that he had left

Remorse we had not chance to chat

Repose, although bereft.

I do not know, not for the time,

What it feels like each day

To bear the brunt of prejudice,

Discrimination, feel dismay

At how my fellow human beings

Only offer me slapped hand.

Feeling once the sting though

I now start to understand.

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