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The Bait Man


Rusty Broadspear

Three in the morning, driving damp empty streets,

Ten gallons of potage as passenger, lid strapped down with tape.

On a corner, two solitary youths give me the finger,

I return the gesture…… they stand and gape………


As the wheels spray street filth over their designers.

I turn a corner, pull into the yard and reluctantly stand in the rain.

Struggling with the pan by Ted Beecham’s car

I back through the doors into the hall… it’s Christmas once again.


White bearded Ted, Santa to the street children, has the gas rings lit.

He grabs a handle of the pan, panting, we lift it onto the hob.

We sit, smoke, drink tea, talk life, talk women, agree, nodding in acceptance.

The soup blubbers and help arrives with more food; we wait for the mob.


The hand of the clock, on the far wall of the hall, shakily takes the time to six.

The Bait Man stumbles in. Says he’s twenty two. Digs worms. Drinks cider.

Looks rough. Great bloke and when sharing a smoke, has a tale to tell for one so young.

We may be the givers at Yuletide but the Bait Man and his like are the providers.


The stench is thick but homely and the Brotherhood is there, for all to see,

Sharing bread with experiences, with laughter, back slaps, slight mishaps.

The Bait Man is giggling, telling Ted how he was mugged for pleasure,

Kicked and doused with petrol. He played dead…… a way out of many traps.


I embraced the Bait Man, it was like I had my arms around all in the hall.

I saw them as winners. As I did every year. I gave way… and let loose a tear.

The Bait Man told me, “Time hangs waiting in ribbons,”

He said, “Hang in there, there’s promises to be laid – persevere.”


There was no sorrow in this hall, this Christmas night.

There was raw life, fighting strife, with the blade of goodwill.

And this was a sight of a glorious, humorous fight,

As I left, I saw humankind marching, to the top of the hill.

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