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.


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