The commute

And the girls in Boots
And the boys from Fitness First
Convene before the Clinique counter
Who knows what they say

From above its like a river
People flow into the station
A tidal wave of brown shoes,

Grey shoes, white shoes, black shoes

Every pair matching shoes

Trip, slip, tap.

Tickets at the ready
They follow lines they cannot see
Ebb, flow, flow like the tide
They bend around the ticket machine
Over the waterfall stairs
That lead to the toilets

They constant rhythm of a beeping gate
Ticket holders seep along the platform
At first coalescing but then,

The lines grow ragged and thin

The front of the train
The back of the train

In reverse on the platform

There is the faint smell of coffee
And clutched newspapers
Doors open

They swish, they shush

Commuters ooze inside
Each one gaming for that favourite spot
Their coveted seat

By the window

Not by the window.

Mythical non-existent leg space
Space for a bag

If the centre of the station is a stomach
These are the chambers for waste disposal

Its 6pm and its convulsing

People chewed up,
Churned out.
Allocated, randomly

However conscious it might seem

There’s a late platform change

A tidal surge
From one place to another
Like a lunch being heaved

From one bin to the next

Its peak hour

Its like the station has diarrhoea

No one stays
Everything goes straight through
Sometimes fast.

Sometimes slow

But everyone has a movement

All played to the soundtrack,
of a security announcement
Don’t leave your bags alone
Even if that means leaving your children behind

Although they don’t say that

We all know thats what they mean
They blow up bags not children
Make sure your children aren’t dressed as bags

All of us can recite it, that announcement,

But none of us have ever heard it

There are stairs and toilets
And side attractions that we never see
There’s an information desk somewhere

We are altogether

And yet all alone

Except for the couple kissing

We all look away

And then like a sick child

Denied the bathroom for too long

The station throws us out of every orifice

We plummet out of holes into the darkness

Headed for the sewers of suburbia

Before tomorrow

When like a recurring virus we infect the station floors again.

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The Umbrella Dance

All along the platform
Scarcely noticing the rain
A company of umbrellas
Are waiting for the train

Its like a sea of manhole covers
Who’ve upped and taken flight
Leaving gaping holes
To catch cars in the night

There’s a nip and a duck
A weave and a tuck
A subtle sway of hips
And sometimes just good luck

Some hold it high
Some snuggle down quite low
But one arm is always ready
To deflect any blow

Its like a giant turtle
With a long and stretchy back
A giant patchwork quilt
Yet mostly grey and black

Wait, there’s one with colour
That cannot be right
It snakes through the crowd
In the early morning light

And that one is a painting
From an artist we all know
She bought it at the gallery
She didn’t see the show

It’s a wily platform herd
A mass of classless cattle
Stood against the rain
Against the daily battle

He uses shoulders
She moves her hips
Its sensual and its practical
And their umbrellas miss

We all know how its done
We all know the trick
When the umbrella is too close
And you have to be quick

A dance among strangers
Before we all get on the train
An early morning ballet
That takes place in the rain

And the train takes the bend
And its lights flash us all
There’s a uniform drop
A shake, shake and a twirl

A giant sucking in of fabric
Like someone pulled a chain
A moment where we all get wet
Before we board the train

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The Last Carriage

We of the last carriage
Every jerk, slide, push or pull
We, in the last carriage
We get to feel it all

We dawdle down the platform
Frowned on by the guard
Last through the barriers
Searching for our card

Warriors of the feel good
Into work a little late
Stopped for a coffee
Chatted to a mate

We slide into our chair
Around about ten past nine
You should be glad for us to be here
Because we’re not all the time

We probably spent ten minutes
Tizzing up our hair
We look at the computer
As if there’s something there

Then we chip a nail
And leg it for the loos
We probably come back again
Around about ten past two

And then its nearly time to go
Yeh, officially its five
But ten to four is close enough
Work less and stay alive

We have no regard
for your silly stupid rules
The ones that chain you to the desk
They make you look a fool

We had a ticket for the train
At least we did last week
It’s a season ticket
Oh it might have been, I think

There’s a reason we haven’t got it
How it came to be lost
Yeh for the price of the fine
Not bothered by the cost

Here in the end carriage
It’s like a second home
Everyone is someone
And no one is alone

Sometimes its like the train
Is going to jump its tracks
But we all just chill
We just stay relaxed

We look on with scorn
At those early carriage prats
At the man with the fold up scooter
But really –in solid black

An act of half rebellion
can’t make you woke
We in the last carriage
share another joke

The conductors never make it
Last carriage, their place of fear
You should think about joining us
We’d love to have you here

The train

One bald man gets out of his seat
So another bald man can sit down.
They don’t speak to each other.
They don’t know each other.
The do know each other.
Its like a dance.

Every day.

That is his seat,
that is the other ones seat.
They wear similar suits in dark blue.
With a light blue shirt
And a medium blue tie and brown shoes.

I plunge myself into my seat, melting.

And what was he doing there anyway?
Half naked.
In a stripped down phone booth.
Leering at every woman,
As if each one should be grateful.
With his 90s hair.

Today of all days.
They are not grateful.
They just hurry past.
He leans on a strut that once held a pane of glass.
His best days are behind him.
His best days are behind the booth.

There is no air conditioning on this train.

He is playing a childs game
On ear phones that don’t work.
Colourful little animals jump small bridges.
Everyone can hear the arcade tinkle.
He does it deliberately.
Plays it loud.

Most days.

Plunging thumbs,
into a control panel.
It annoys everybody.
It’s a protest.
You are not allowed to watch porn on the train.

All around me the world of trains and men, I feel like a freak.

He holds his head high.
The wi-fi was a little slow this morning.
The trainers are glossy.
He really smashed that avocado
Into the whole grain toast.
A sheep in wolves clothing.

A bit yesterday.

With that beard.
More a toad resplendent in cloth.
Still a toad.
He catches himself in the window.
Looking good, looking good for a toad.

Still after all this time, I don’t belong on this train.

The Gloves

It was late. The train was nearly empty. She didn’t notice the woman get on. She was suddenly sitting across from her, hands folded neatly in her lap. As if she wanted her to look.

She looked. The gloves. Red leather, quilted at the wrists. The police had said to call. She should. Call. Now. Where was her phone, in her bag? But hadn’t it been a man?

She had only caught a glimpse but it had been a man. She had seen through the crack in the door, heard heavy footsteps running away. It had been a man. She was sure.

Was she? Those were the gloves. Distinctive gloves. Red leather, quilted at the wrists. She should call the police. It was not possible. She could not be that wrong. Her phone was in her bag. She just had to take it out. Call. Hesitation.

She was staring at the gloves. Drawn. Drawing in her head, the scene. A crack in the door. The red gloves, pressing hard. The victim. She thought there should have been noise, there was no noise. It all happened silently. Except for the footsteps running away, great heavy footsteps. The footsteps of a man.

The woman sat there with her gloves on. Unbothered. The last of the other passengers got off the train. She sat across from the woman, staring.

Then the woman looked up. Smiled. Those gloves. She was caught staring. She looked at the woman’s shoes. Boots, out of kilter with the rest of her clothes. She looked at the arms, muscular, then the neck, stronger than she had first thought.

Her gaze drifted. Back to those gloves. It wasn’t possible. She had just caught a glimpse, through a crack in the door. She’d heard, what had she heard? What had she thought? Those gloves, so unlikely. She should call the police.

She looked at the woman, still smiling at her. Knowing. Knowing what? It was her stop. She got up. The woman followed, stood behind her. She could feel breath on her neck, a soft leather glove on her back. Panic. It can’t have been. No.

Call the police.