The River


The sun was weak and the cold strong

He had his first meal in three days

And now sat on the riverbank

He had just come to think.

The old military coat

Now thin and frayed

Did little to allay the cold

And the river called him - Come.

Sitting on a park bench

That morning

An old man sat beside him

His hands shook and trembled

‘Parkinson’s’ he said

‘As a young man’, he continued

His voice wavering

‘I lived in India

And know what suffering is

As do homeless people here’.

Now alone on the shore

With only memories

Where he came to think

And the river called him - Come.

‘I know where we can get food

Why not come with me? 

It’s nearly mid-day.’

They went to the Charity Kitchen

Where it was warm and so too was the food.

He came to the riverbank to think

The peel of the church bell

The confetti, a bouquet rising high above them

A new beginning...

And the river called - Come

At lunch, Jacob talked about the Love

That everyone shared

And how it was not lost

In despair and sorrow

They parted and Jacob gave him a one-pound note

He had gone to the river-bank to think

Of needles and institutions

Of deep hopelessness - a marriage ended

Of nothingness 

The river of tears glistened on his cheeks

And the river called - Come

3.30 in the afternoon

Already the daylight was fading 

He pulled the old coat 

Tightly around him

Still, the cold air pierced his body deeply

He came to the river to think

Of years of wandering the streets,

Broken bottles - rotting garbage

Sleeping bodies beside a dumpster

Ever-increasing loneliness

And the river called - Come

Evening traffic rolls across 

The old bridge

Groaning and complaining 

They are all going home

To a warm house

They are bored and frightened

No different from him

A moment of love and compassion

When Jacob passed through his life

This morning

No judgement - no promises

Only love and compassion

Now the air is cold

And the early night frost 

Is settling

On the grass around him.

He gazed into the dark sky

The evening star shone brightly

And he knew that was home

He had come to the river to think 

And the river called Come - Come

A one-pound note clasped 

In his hand

And the river called him Come -Come…!

Who pays the ferryman?

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