On Church Street

The truth of it is I only ever saw this character once, but it was on Church Street in Liverpool city centre.  Anybody from Liverpool will immediately get the reference to Wavertree and Ugg boots.

There’s a singular man in my home town,

Who appears to live his life completely upside down –

Take a stroll along Church Street and you’ll see him any day,

Turning shoppers’ heads as they make their frantic way

Past the bagladies and buskers and the Scooby Doo balloons,

Past the painted human statues and the man who plays the spoons,

Past the signs upon the lamp posts that warn of petty theft,

Past the sad Big Issue seller who’s only got one Issue left…

From his size eleven boots swaying gently in the breeze

To his head stuck in a bucket so that no-one ever sees,

Our man remains oblivious as this human river flows,

Exuding inner calm from his top up to his toes.

And whenever I pass by the same old thoughts go through my brain

Like: is he going to drown if we get torrential rain?

Where does all the blood go when it’s run down from his feet?

How does he swallow upwards when he’s had a bite to eat?

Does he have a wife at home? Kids? A dog, or cat?

Or if he had a pet at all, would it be a bat?

Is he from Australia and pines to be back there

With his bronzed and boozy Sheila and his tame koala bear?

He’s a topsy-turvy question mark, an enigma, a riddle –

Which reminds me of another one: how does he have a piddle?

These questions churned me up inside, I couldn’t sleep one night;

The conviction hardened in my soul, this man had Seen the Light,

My head was filled with cosmic thoughts too numerous to mention;

His upside down serenity had a spiritual dimension.

So still wearing my pyjamas I rushed into the street

(Like those girls you see in Wavertree, with Ugg boots on their feet).

Church Street was deserted (it was barely half past three)

Apart from Upside Down Man and, of course, me.

Reverentially I crept along like a pilgrim to a shrine

For an audience with the Master, hoping for a Sign;

Beside the bucket on the floor I laid my mortal head

And clutched my knees up to my chest, like a human letter Z.

“O, Wise Man in the Bucket, with your feet up in the sky,

I’m bound upon a wheel of fire, please can you tell me why

In the midst of life’s uncertainties and spiritual futility,

By living upside down you’ve found immaculate tranquillity?”

Almost imperceptibly I felt he’d turned his head,

And speaking through his bucket wall, the Sage of Church Street said:

“I’m sick of all youse knobheads who wake me in the night

To talk about Nirvana and all that eastern shite.

You’re always saying stupid things, like, ‘Show me Inner Peace’

But I’m just another busker, saving up to get to Greece.

I don’t want to be a juggler outside St George’s Hall,

Or stand in Lime Street underpass and murder Wonderwall,

Eat fire at the Arena, to entertain the queue;

I just put my head in a bucket. It’s what I like to do.

If you’re after words of wisdom, then try this lot for size:

Men Who Live Upside Down Are Not, de facto, Wise;

Never Trust a Southerner With a Double Barrelled Name;

Never Play a Twelve Year Old at a New Computer Game;

Never eat a plate of food that’s bigger than your head;

You can lead a horse to water but a pencil must be led;

Be Careful What You Sow in Life, For You Will Surely Reap.

Now piss off with your mystic crap and let me get some sleep!”

I still walk past Upside Down Man several times a week,

But no longer feel the urge to go up to him and speak.

I’m not searching for salvation, Buddha, Christ or God,

And I hope he gets to Greece one day, the miserable old sod.

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Random poems, thoughts and blogs from Tony O'Neill