The Stain on London’s Dress

by Sophie Thynne

She walks among us, silently shouting as chipped nails
crawl across empty wrappers as Friday night’s
quick treat turns into a sick craving for more and
more until the breaking point leads to a moan
of agony as we blatantly ignore the dark stain
on London’s dress, scrubbing at the starving and
skinny mark that stinks of poverty and left-overs.
In the rain until we give up and turn away from
the suffering. Eyes skip past her as she lies on the
road singing of silver coins dropped down drains
and tossed into wishing water without any thought
of what it could mean. Her moans are silenced with a look
as we diagnose her as greedy, mentally ill, ignorant
of her hungry children. We are killing her slowly
and yet label her a murderer; jailing her guilty as she
skips one, two meals and then her child’s. She is young,
gambling away the pillows that she scratches at to ease
the itch of hunger. A broken welfare reform tells her
that her small crumbling home that is starving her
is her saviour, the sign of the money we know she doesn’t have.
Laughing at her tears we cry some more for our problems
and then turn and debate at cocktail parties in that stained dress
what is this thing that is coursing through the veins of the Thames
and washing up on our shores? Suffering of one turns into cries
of thousands and we think that this is a phase of estate
agents and a reason to reprimand children on the scraps of
green left on a white chipped plate. She is not the disease
to be cured and treated, isolated from society in the rags
of a failing health care system, but this city and our home
is. The stigma in our brains as we brand her with stores
and packaging that she cannot afford, scrubbing still at
the mark of ruin. Barcodes of black words blotted into thick
lines that read vintage teabags and old-fashioned bread.
We know what she is, what bleach will remove this stain
on an ugly and hateful dress, and that the person twirling
in the mirror to block out the ruin of hunger and poverty
is the skeleton in the closet. But we are tired and have had
life hard enough, so maybe tonight when we come home
we’ll order a takeaway from the chippy under her flat
because we deserve it, right?