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WHAT IF? for Focus Ireland

Words by Stephen James Smith

In association with Body & Soul

Video by Design for Life

Music by Kormac

“If you're lonely

when you're alone

you're in bad company”,

Someone said to me...

Here at the corner of Back Lane

There’s some shelter for now,

Allowing you to be

Philosophical with the pain,

By blocking it out and makin’ a vow

To survive this city.

Such a pity.

Freedom is what we do

With what’s done to us.

So what’s to be done?

It’s the boredom that’ll get you...

“Somewhere in the streets,

In between

Where the ground and sky meets”,

Well meaning people pass by

Talking on phones,

Who walk by chalked poetry on paths,

Beckoning a coin, or to be seen, visible.

Now you know, things aren’t all statistics,

Lives aren’t divisible!

What if

You don’t assume you know me,

Or where I’m from.

But if you’re rootless,

Being ruthless, can be necessary

And you’re only quick to judge

So as not to be judged.

When suicide feels like an option,

Opinions tend not to matter.

But shame can keep you alive...

What if

You could save a life?

But didn’t know you had?

When we can only count the lost,

It’s all adding up to some cost.

I pick flowers,

And make a bouquet for myself,

I tell myself I’m OK, I’m OK, OK...

I’d like to give these petals away,

But who can carry that truth?

What did Larry say?

“Roses are red, violets are blue,

I’m sorry I’m outa me head, I still miss you…”

I didn’t take him for a poet,

But even bravado can lose its guard.

In the backyard pigeons gather,

Some bright morning I’ll fly away...

What if

Life begins,

On the other side of despair?

That’s where I’m reaching for,

Not much more,

A spare smoke,

A dirty joke,

A distraction,

An honest interaction!

I used to be innocent and

What if?

In a sense, I can’t remember

That version of me


And the truth is too far away,

And you can’t carry it with you,


What if?

I don’t get a bed tonight?

What if?

I can’t sleep again?

Why is this my life?

When it could be yours?


Behave, don't dare cave, to rise up,

But be grateful for your bonus,

And that you’re not me.

What if?

We talk about empathy,

But hide apathy,

When we proclaimed

At the foundation

An estate of equality.

Hide the dirty laundry,

It’s not good for Big Business.

What if?

There’s an exciting opportunity,

For novelty socks and shares...

Who cares for accountability, decency?

Sprinklers soak my marrow to the bone,

While this land is being rezoned.

To stay still,

Is to lose ground,

And any real generosity

Towards the future

Lies in giving all to the present.

What if?

The present story

Could learn from our past?

A history of tenement slums

Can be forgotten fast.

This needs to be addressed,

Not dressed up in rhetoric,

With hashtags to amplify

Our academic outrage.

What if?

Homelessness didn’t mean hopelessness?

What if

It was us, not otherness?

So go on,

Take Back The City,

Raise The Roof!

But don’t bite the hand that feeds you...

When greed keeps the lights on,


You’re only one paycheck away

From the likes.

Don’t stereotype,

We hail from every community.

Why is youth homelessness rising?

When we’re meant to cherish

All the children of the nation equally?

And why can’t we,

Prevent care leavers

Leaving State care,

From going nowhere?

Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.

It’s time to cease,

Sister Stan’s calls

From falling on deaf ears,

Cos couches don’t count!

Evictions and

Emergency accommodation,

Aren’t a solution!

This is a call to action...

What if?

We didn’t rely on the market,

And marked out plans

For social housing?

What if

This wasn’t seen,

As radical rabble-rousing?

Let’s Focus in on kindness,

Focus on what binds us.

What if?

A sea of sleeping bags,

Weren’t seen as well worn out chrysalis,

As weary eyes stare out above a paper cup, into the abyss.

What if?

We thought about this beyond Christmas?

What if?

A hardening state found time to transform,

And a butterfly effect emerged reborn...

What if?

I got a home and didn’t die?

What if?

You could save a life, but you didn’t even try?