January 24, 2020

How does our society dispose of its unwanted people?

Maoliosa Magill, 57

The inspiration for this poem came from a thought I suddenly had one day about homeless people – what happens when a homeless person of unknown identity dies? Who buries or cremates them? Where are they interred? Who pays for it? Researching this, I discovered that local authorities kindly take care of these duties. The unknown departed is most often cremated and their ashes are scattered in a garden of remembrance. I then began to consider the financial meltdown of 2008 and wondered how many unfortunate people ended up scattered in such a garden, perhaps far from home, while the greedy financiers responsible counted their enormous pay-offs. In North America, a person of low social standing is called a “no-account”. I find this expression very revealing about how capitalist societies measure their people – having no bank account or utility bill means that you are a nobody, a non-entity, a blank page. In the poem, I tried to subtly link financial terminology to the sad story of a no-account Scotsman making his way to rest in some distant garden, unknown. The unanswered question is this: how can we prevent people dying alone in streets or parks in the first place?

Blank of Scotland, 2019Poetry