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2 poems by Caroline Am Bergris


The bus-cold pierced my belly,

making me heave:

outside, swarms of giant white butterflies


against a choke grey sky.

Memories of sleeping rough

were in my stomach,

each icy stab.  spurring me

into checking where I could sleep that night,

under a set of dark, dirty trees

rooted in the clouds.

I still had a foil thermal blanket


in my bag.

Even the sleet and snow had been scared for me

in my outdoor mosque,

with a scarf covering my head, nose and mouth,

claws clutching Christian bowls of hot pasta

charitably delivered at night.

I had never


on homeless pavements

or homeless bus seats,

so I proudlyclamped my lipsshut now,



the recent rough past -

donated sandwiches from a food lorry;

coffee granules full of flies in a hostel;

cheap, bubbling, steaming water

that was a sauna in a cup.

Just a few minutes more,

then I got off,

rushed to my home,

crouched over the inside toilet I had now


and threw all the cold,

wrapping myself in

a toasty

flannel robe

and curling up

in my

palace of radiators.

How Tall is Civility?

“It’s the height of civility,” I said.

She looked at me with disgust -

“how can you say that?”

Occasionally, I escape. This time it was The Dorchester, where front

of house

floated my coat away

in a snow-white restaurant.

My leg and stick were given a stool each. A plate of gougères rejuvenated for each guest’s arrival, a tight trio of waiters poured truffle velouté into porcelain eggs.

“It’s paid-for fawning,” she continued,

but service is suave, not swaddling, to needs divined or murmured. Only here are chairs moved to atomic accuracy when you sit, stand. Only here do these feel like moving meditations.

Unlike paid-for realities

of cabbies stating, “no man’s going to have you, disabled, but I will,

we don’t have to have sex straight away”; nurses macerating me in urine for three days,

ignoring pleas to be changed; agencies sending carers

hours late as the vulnerablati

have no lives, don’t mind waiting.

Yes, give me the special world of politesse that spins on an axis

of just asking



Caroline Am Bergris is mentally and physically disabled and is half Pakistani and half Colombian. She has won the Over The Edge poetry prize in Ireland and Eyewear's competition to be included in an anthology of the best new British and Irish poets. She has been published in Europe and America.


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