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Profile: Mel Woodend

Mel Wardle Woodend is Staffordshire Poet Laureate 2019-2022.
Mel holds an MA Creative Writing, is one half of WORD Stafford, enjoys facilitating poetry workshops, and participating in spoken word. She is founder of dyslexia friendly publishing company Dream Well Writing Ltd, reflecting her passion for making reading and books accessible to all.

Corner Street Kid

He’s a street corner kid leaving school with nothing to show for the blazer the uniform,
Nothing to show apart from a report that says he ‘wouldn’t conform.’
He congregates on street corners with mates in labels they can’t really afford;
Unwashed, unkempt, and unemployed.
Standing together, they dress the same: An understated statement
Firming friendships as solid as cement.
Looking for fun found in their new freedom
Away from the mindless misery and mortification.
Every day a struggle at school:
He could not read so he was ridiculed.
Acted up, he played the fool,
You see, he’d do anything for acceptance, to look cool.
He’d do anything to detract,
To take the focus off the fact….
‘I can't do it, Miss.’
Anything but that.
But cool status is slipping; out here the real world is hard.
There’s no money to withdraw; the cashpoint’s swallowed his bank card.
He browses the Job Centre but each advert says you need at least three G.C.S.E.s
And minimum grades of A to C.
The apprenticeships look good but how can he apply when he can’t fill in the application form?
Couldn't they see it wasn't that he ‘wouldn't conform,’ he just couldn't conform?
Day by day, his trendy teen status starts to slip into disarray....
A cider can clutched in nicotine stained hand and a couple of spliffs get him through the day.
Choose ‘life?’ But how? When he can only just exist?
Hundredth failed job search result – he might as well just get pissed.
No job, no education, just an allowance from the state
That barely pays the rent, the food, the bills, the rates....
Mates slowly slip away.
Off to work or uni. Now he’s facing each longer, lonelier day;
He is purely existing.
He is not really living.
Existing on money borrowed for pick-ups scored from dealers in the park…
Existing only for his next hit now, that will surely get him through the dark.
What used to be hip, fun; a social trend
When hanging out with friends
Has become a slow descent down into misery
He’s locked in a despairing downward downfall with no way to break free.
Now injecting filth into life giving veins,
The irony is not lost but his addiction numbs the pain.
The pain of poverty - of purely existing -
Of not being able to embrace his life – he is not really living.
Until one day there sits a man slumped, veins pumped,
In the stairwell of the high-rise block – his worldly possessions in a bag next to him, dumped.
People stare and use the other door…
They step carefully around him on the floor…
Unwashed unkempt unemployable - in a heroin induced haze,
His eyes are glazed.