coming of age in Oxford

February gives way to March 
slinking off with stale memories
of childhood fun,
schoolboy ambitions,
hope-fuelled dreams
adulthood lurks at the door,
poised to engulf me,
I am destitute
of place and property.
Nobel Prize winners,
future presidents,
will relieve themselves
easing their bowels,
underground in St Giles’
where I curl, foetal-balled,
on condensation cubicle tiles 
beyond the reach of snow,
but not the withering cold
urgent workers rattle my door, 
‘give up playing with yourself in there!’
I wait for quiet and emerge 
blowing into my hands for warmth,
rubbing sleep from crusted eyes,
heading, to find a breakfast of sorts
in the bleakness of an Oxford dawn
the cardboard filling the hole in my sole
is wet right through –
my socks are sodden too,
rancid from a winter’s wearing
my eighteenth birthday
I’m now a man
get caught and
I’ll be busted
and battered
in the covered market
I wait for the copper
to patrol the farthest aisle
kneel to lift a canvas cover
and snatching at packets blind –
scoop dates for energy
and bourbons to dunk in the tepid tea
they dish up at the market cafe
with another tanner
I could buy a second cuppa
stay fairly warm an extra hour –
if I had another tanner
Oxford’s historic alleyways
stream thick with aspiring academics
allured by dreams of glittering prizes –
they never notice me
I spare no envy on the wealthy, 
or wonder at the stark beauty
of winter naked trees shyly budding
or the sedative of colleges
swaddled in dreaming histories
I walk head down,
sloshing through grey grit gutter slush
seeking a glittering prize of my own –
two bob or half a crown.

© coolhermit 2023
Views: 584
critique and comments welcome.
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Locked in and locked out. Fresh cardboard and off to collect the glitter…caught in the middle of two cups of tea, the search is on. Between things at the mo poem, brings back memories!


For some reason I could never get my head around Oxford. Whenever I went there it always seemed to fall short of expectations and that was just the supermarkets. Sure we did the tourist thing seeing as we lived fairly close, but only once. After that it was just a town and pretty bland. I liked the canal, but not much else about the place maybe because they were (are?) so pedantic about parking. Certainly if I had to spend a night like that in Oxford in those circumstances it would be ingrained in my memory forever, much more than… Read more »

Flag Content