The Commuters (rolling towards Betjeman)

Seven on the clock.

bathed in sodium, glare of overheads
haloed in the mist, casting lurid pools of light;
a morning dance for everyday, of waiting for a train:
the early birds, the judged-it-nicelys,
the just-in-timers, the runners for the door;

neither choreographed nor random but
played out around the rule-run railway,
they weave dance patterns in a framework,
as thinking individuals fitted in a set:
some try to seek advantage, left unspoken –

those who know or guess and care and plan
how loaded this may be when it arrives,
just where its doors will open
or the exit gates at destinations –
others just following the crowd….

action starts, reactions, as it comes in:
the shuffle as it slows, the tactical positioning,
the lowered shoulder, step, inside!! turn
left or right, quick movement: are there seats?
is a middle worth it? is there space to stand?

seen as moments of devotion, submission
to the beast that swallows sideways whole,
sometimes leavened, lightened in acts
of random kindness, considering the weaker,
sometimes burdened by the other’s selfishness;

while winter platform’s heavy carapace
is eased or shed, warming layers
of dark and black and grey and navy
cast to reveal coloured threads of narrative,
as close but separate as the parallels

of south- and north-bound tracks,
while packets of reserve create the signals’ space,
protection from those rushing on behind,
in separate triumphs of control, but consumed
by the obsessions to be or seem elsewhere,

that mean devices out! for task or prep or interests,
earphones in or headphones on,
while a very few, annoyingly, will talk –
of holidays, acquaintances, their families, some plans,
of schools and teams and fairs and boasts and all the rest –

flecks on a rolling tide, a rising tide,
of inertia and preoccupation, of focus and commitment,
of economic actors on a daily pilgrimage:
the commuters settle in, rolling fast and steady,
hurtling to our hyper-city hives.

14 Feb

I am a man!
for all it may be marginal, at times;

for all my weaknesses and
for all my decisions made
for what seemed the best
of reasons at the time,
that turned out to have only
been best guesses, with hope
and a bit of luck thrown in;

who knows what I want to perceive,
what’s right and good on my own terms,
who tries not to face believing
that I wanted to make it impossible
for you to come to me again;
for I knew that I wouldn’t, and couldn’t,
resist you, if or when you ever did.

burnt toast

we sit around in dust and gloom
playing scrabbled games of paltry words
scratched on pre-used cards,
to eke out time in shuttered basements –
unheated, draughty, shabby cellars –

far below the suite of mirrored rooms –
and terraced rooms, and galleries,
and a sunlit rooftop studio –
in which love and joy desported,
once, or twice, some time ago….

weary and dejected, not-quite-defeated,
close to the end of strength, diminished and
aware, sated by an absence, shorn of will,
we squabble over trivia, pennies,
scraps, and scratches magnified in dirt;

stories turned upside down in smoky candlelight
and seen through very different eyes:
on the one hand, even-, open-handed,
the other clenched and stricken;
stretched on a grill, heated and racked,

now cold and broken, crusts of burnt toast
smeared by scrambled broken eggs
mixed with rotten black banana skins –
the cream of last year’s fruitless crop –
a mourning breakfast, left uneaten;

who’d have thought it would be so?
when we were bold at play, imagined
we could dance all night
and still be fresh to face the dawn,
more childlike than we knew;

skating on thin ice of beauty
we sought betimes to find some truth
mixed and confused with what was good,
tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow:
sometime, somehow, it came to this…..

Victory through harmony

5-0 to the Arsenal

A cloud lifted, or at least cracked open, this afternoon. I got out of my own head, a little, and rediscovered some joy.

Even before the match kicked off, standing high up on the upper concourse behind the North Bank, looking out, I felt some of the excitement of the city, of London, and of being excited to be part of it, again. At last. It’s been a long time. Hallelujah!!

And then the team, in a competitive top flight match against a big club – albeit one fallen on disappointing times – and yes, despite making hard work of it for a spell through the middle third; the team began and ended playing outstandingly brilliant football. ‘Sumptuous’ per Arseblog. Ridiculously good in parts. Large parts. And scored five really nice goals; four lovely goals imo. And kept a clean sheet (ok, ok, I know how paltry Villa’s goalscoring record is this season). And came very, perilously, close to humiliating Villa before the end. And, looked like they enjoyed it; enjoyed their work; enjoyed entertaining us; enjoyed expressing themselves.

The best I’ve seen them play for a long, long time. I won’t even whisper how long since! It must be two years, possibly three, since I realised I had stopped looking forward to games, even big matches, season-defining ones (Bayern, bloody hell). How fresh it feels, coming back to life after a long journey through a dark night.

Football as a metaphor for life, indeed. If you mean it, and see it that way, it can be; it is for me (one of several, one of the strong ones).

And I enjoyed it so much!! And being with the boys, my sons. It was a liberating afternoon. I loved it.

And now they – whisper that chant – face the future brightly: “Tottenham Hotspur, we’re coming for you….” But let’s keep it steady. Positive anticipation, no hubris.

While I —- I rejoice positively, in the gift of life. And hope. And look forward to what is to come next.