Formerly with the Royal Signals, British veteran John Quinn, contributed these two poignant poems he discovered about homeless vets. BONNIE
Through My Eyes
By Brian Chenier
You don’t know me or what I’ve done
You don’t care where I’m from
So I have a question for you
Why do you judge me the way you do
I wonder what it is you see
Every day as you pass by me
What’s on your mind, and in you head
Looking at me on my cardboard bed
All I have left in this world is here
But all you see are the cans of beer
You try not to look or stare
But I see your eyes, I see the glare
The disgust I see it in your face
As if it’s me that’s a disgrace
But if you knew what I’d done
That look might be a different one
You go to work all clean and shaved
On a street of gold that’s nicely paved
But you have sent me off to fight
Without a care for my future plight
The drugs and beer, the homelessness
The disheveled look and the tiredness
None of that is a choice I’ve made
I was a soldier of the highest grade
You don’t see that, you don’t care
Why should you, life isn’t fair
I don’t want pity, especially yours
But spare a thought for those that fight your wars
Sleeping Out at Christmas
2nd December 2008
Winter has descended white on the hills above the town,
And below, are streets where shoppers browse, hunting bargains down,
Preparing for a Christmas time of food and drink and fun,
Forgetting those less fortunate, whom society will shun.
Neglected and alone he sleeps, wrapped up against the cold,
His belly filled with acidic beer or whiskey’s fiery gold.
He remembers years when he too trod that route around the shops,
Buying up the trinkets and the tunes by next year’s flops.
Those days are gone, so long ago; he lost them bit by bit,
He struggles with a world in which he feels he does not fit.
He saw so many things at war, which people should not see,
They stayed there in his mind, still now; they will not set him free,
How could he speak to those he loved and those he would protect,
Of his trauma and his helplessness as his mind was slowly wrecked?
Instead he sank into himself, withdrawn, so scared and tired.
Until eventually he lost it all and began his life outside.
He lost his wife, their kids, his job, because he couldn’t cope,
He felt he had nowhere to turn; his mind destroyed his hope,
If you could only see the scenes which play inside his head,
Then you would understand sometimes he wishes he was dead.
It consumes all his energy and leaves him hollowed out,
And the silence of the freezing night is punctured by his shouts,
He wakes in shock, completely lost; not knowing what he’s done,
But very quickly realizes the old enemy has won.
This is how his mind has been for years and years and years,
It stalks him all through day and night and preys upon his fears,
Inside he craves understanding from those who hurry past,
But they just see a begging drunk, not worthy of their cash.
He’ll drink it, sure. He has to do, to keep the cold at bay,
But he wishes that his mind would let him earn a good day’s pay.
Instead it takes him back to war and shows his mates being killed,
This isn’t what’s supposed to be; it’s not how it was billed.
A soldier’s pride will hold him back from asking for a hand,
From those he paid his subs to, while marching to the band.
He gave his money willingly for the ‘Boys of the Old Brigade’
But it’s he who now needs charity, he now needs that aid.
Do not forget that this begging drunk, you pass on the other side,
Was once your willing protector, for you he would have died.
His mind was ripped to pieces by a war fought in your name,
Too many die on freezing streets, don’t make him do the same.