Written after Expo ’88, when the refurbishment of Southbank was taking place.
Fancy restaurants with food to make one drool.
Boardwalks and sidewalk coffee shops galore.
River walks, a man-made beachside pool.
Real estate with river at the door.
Car park, sky needle, gigantic ferris wheel.
Barbecues, a concert stage, taverns, inns and bars.
Train to the door, and buses. A festive feel.
A recreation playground for commoners and stars.
Who’d think it all spells homelessness and wretchedness for some,
Displacement from their stamping ground. from cheap housing and cheap food,
For those who struggle daily on West End’s bottom rung?
To most the lauded Expo and Southbank spell only good,
But they are drifting homeless, vagrants in Musgrave Park,
Or living wretched lives in to-be-demolished slums,
Moved on by heartless “cops”, and hiding after dark,
Waiting cold and hungry until morning’s warm sun comes,
Drinking metho to keep warm and eating from the bins,
Or counting on cold charity or on a generous few
To fill their empty stomachs (for stealing is a sin)
Though there’s bread a-plenty wasting daily, fresh and new.
Dwellings, too, are empty – here a penthouse, there a unit –
But if a fellow squats in some luxury address
Instead of in a run-down slum, then soon it
Will come to pass the law’s unfair redress
Will be to put him in the watch-house with other fated wretches,
Indigenous or down-at-out, looked on as a disgrace,
Put in prison for scant reason, for unreasonable stretches,
Blighted, dispossessed, a sorry drunken race,
Rejects, powerless and poor and denigrated,
Without a vote, without a hope, although the Powers-That-Be
Have solemnly declared their rights are reinstated.
(The “Powers” get their power through the votes of you and me).
We wealthy and we middle-class at Southbank, having carefree fun,
Let’s spare a thought for blacks and tramps we thrust aside without a prayer,
Greedy for the good times, for playing in the sun.
We forget an entire people, the poor who once lived there.