More Waiting Rooms – Please

[A prose poem]


East Croydon could be LGW or the upstart crow Milton Keynes station – each we passed through to BHX – those visited identikits of brand-stamped sub-city intersections – of yellow lines and low-hung fixed-font signs – there are no seat comforts – no – no more on any platform – no shuttable waiting rooms – no blistering braziers – a common risk in ’72 – when our choices were gas fumes or freezing – Provide us with indoor benches and free heat at connections – Do not risk-assess our comforts – Do not then tell us to stand and wait before the cold blasts of fast-passing services


 

14th February 2019

Held by a red signal in south London –
in a balloon of wifi – of library silence –
this being a price-hiked compartment –
a restricted remnant of empire days
still served up by rail franchisees

as our ticket collector mis-quotes WS –
Juliet’s soft words as cuffed banter
towards serving staff –
parting is a sweetest sorrow
and he then regrets these modern times
of –
changes to language – to luv cld b not bad

Then a roll forward like a sneaking suitor –
an incline takes us without that rumble
from diesel complaints – this carriage sways
over switched points – under lopped trees –
those leaf-spill hazards

alongside a thousand-thousand
other prunings met behind drawn curtains –
those many lovers’ shop-cut flowers
presented in cellophane in south London
on this Saint Valentine’s Day


EDITED 170219

Australia

Between Townsville and Tasmania
there is every conceivable season
now that the rules have been lost –

my route north thirty years before
faced airline upset – home to roost
and other such haggard platitudes

sit at the brink of my old thoughts –
a recall of North Shore, Sydney where
I wrote my first unfinished novel –

the green opulence under verandahs –
but still a whiff of being at the edge –
But not until Cairns did I finally trip

 

GMT

I used to reset my watch
when flying over la Manche
An engineered engagement
of small clicks and twists –
spinning hours from the east
to Greenwich Mean Time

Our first rented house
was about a hundred yards
from that scientific mark
which cut a line through
my old school atlas
of blushed exaggerations
and empirical remains

This trip was a reset trick
of handheld smart devices
which knew the differences
and needed no fingernails
to lift the watch’s crown
and turn back lost time

The Crossing

The night’s timed howl outside
is of another wheel-rattled diesel
slowing over the level crossing
which is now closed to us

It reminds me of the distance
which we can no longer walk –
out to the suburb’s grip around
the kibbutz’s old burial ground

As if a sacred place can be safe
in this country of rude expansion –
of tightened grips on settlements
and the troubling of neighbours

They blocked the road over the line
and so all remebrance is diverted
via town in a short car journey
of blasting air and Arab music

The lock is turning into rust
as we the gatekeepers follow
the steps to where death rests
in this scalped remnant of other lives

The dead are watched over not by God
but those who live in the high blocks –
the commuters and the city workers
who pass these crumbled bones

on each day’s journey to and from
their own short hell of Tel Aviv’s pull
They pass my brother’s white grave
without knowing how far he travelled.

To Deny

That preterist way
of completed schemes
here sound as raw
as infants’ screams

I watch the place
where parakeets nest
in weighted boughs
they make protests

Those trees which grew
a heightened shade
on this claimed place
which Jews re-made

The pool’s loud shouts
a stone’s throw there –
to that shared space
we now repair

Here parents stand
in thigh-deep games –
their inflated kids
play out their day

Distances

We are existing on two shifting continents
still being dragged apart by the slow forces
of nature – her spiteful ways have set us asunder
through more than time differences and flights

This borrowed bed is without the weighted duvet
which you may have reclaimed in my absence –
I sleep under a single sheet and the turning fan –
I am woken on work days by tipping trucks

I am here to consider my place in the world
with the set distance fixed like a short sentence
from which I will be released – but still without
any solution to deal with my mounting crimes

A long call brings neither of us new insights –
only the confirmation that the future is foul
and my recent behaviour is another indicator
of everything that is wrong on our edged shores

I shall return weighted down by foreign gifts
to home soil – I will not step well across that space
which we cannot pull back together –
because the landmass drift still exists

Lag

In this removed state from sleep’s cycle
I wander drunk down the high street
picking my stick tick way past the woken
to sit in a barber’s chair and almost doze
through clippers and cuts of grey hair
to then return to the air and blown rain
to confirm I am here back in England.

Returns

We refilled our disgorged bags
doing that roll up and re-stuff
necessary due to the rule of travel
which dictates a greater volume
is required on every return
another thirty
or more
hours of transfers and trolley bags
before we find our own pillows
the soft heart of our home.

Shade in Samui

Below the Big Buddha I took shade
like an aged cat
ready to refute contact
as you took the significant steps
to stand under the god

Here
stroked only by thick leaves
which weighed on the near rotten pagoda
I could hide from the sun
and the burn of phone lenses
on these tourist attractions

Speingle holy water with monk
your life for good luck
Take off your shoes

With my stick and stomach
topped by a beer brand hat
I look like the visitors
who buy genuine crap

You took in the views
which I imagined
as the sun was shadow cut for less than seconds
by the landing flightpath of another jet

In this holy place there are bins and litter
the common markers of men
alongside the spirits which were captured
in the name of this mess

The monk chants
the same intonation as football scores

there must be more than this.

Heading North

This coach reverberates
and ever, ever, rolls north
with us four and a dozen
back-packed younger souls
in various curls of inertia

as a million, or more,
palm trees are passed
plus the same number
of shacks and scooters,

those and a thousand
roadside spirit houses
are disregarded
in favour of tourism’s
sleep of death.

The highway’s ghost island
has been raised up
for hundreds of metres
in concrete dormers
to reduce the risks

and we pass our final
7-Eleven before the ports.

Real Chang Mai Night Market

Genuine fakes
why leave
why leave?

Here the lights
sometimes not lie
about LV bags
sat above silver
winking watches

Here in the food market
The Nolan Sisters sing
streamed off Spotify

Here fat white men
plod with Thai wives

We could be in London
and the list rolls out
of brands and lies
here in Thailand

Returning to rain

I have only seen rain here
once before
when hitch-hiking
across the north
I was on the run from banks

A night around Bilbao’s industry
on my journey east towards
the mountains’ clear attraction
of duty-free heights in Andorra
where gold trucks delivered cash
and the coffee was twice as much

But now I look out at the tarmac
and at men in their high-vis attire
me
with more baggage than last time
and heavier weights on my ankles

Back then I owed a thousand pounds
but now a hundred times more
which buys me a lounge pass
a front row seat on planes
and the back row comfort in cinemas.

The Sex Tourist

His urges worked to remove him
for a month to another place,
to lie with girls in hotel rooms,
face down in their paid-up disgrace:

He breakfasted after lunchtime,
smoking packs of duty free:
the afternoons sweated in bed,
soaked in counterfeit Jack D.

Each night was a dark playground,
of bars, birds, and no time for drouth,
he spat his vestige of manners,
with his foul-spun English mouth:

Then he woke in a concrete room,
dried piss as his cold mattress:
“The sex wasn’t ever that good,
not worth the spunked-up cash”.

Exeter St Davids (sic)

Is there nothing more
depressingly British
than pacing wet stretches
of railway platforms?
Laid grey under long runs
of iron-beamed roofing,
wlith those fret cut fascias
– hundreds of vertical slats,
above us, there, suspended,
‘Up’ and ‘Down’ indicators,
all part of the railway’s
once national language,
which forced the idea of time,
across the country, to be fixed
against the nature of space;
hours regulated, queued by law,
and compartmentalized by class
inside the carriages,
a big difference in leg space,
but all on a standard gauge.

Return

For CM

You are waking 10,000 feet above me,
a fact I haven’t Googled,
more an ill-educated guess,

that precursor of the internet
when my intelligence was never doubted
by you, or me.

The sky will be different over Alpendorf
when you wake in a rented bed
before your coach-trip return,

when you shall try to slumber, bundled
on two thin seats, plugged into BBC
downloads,

as low Austrian, and dull German
suburban views
lull your plunge, infected to sleep.

Then your swallow-dive off the highs
of steep black runs, into the deep-end
of the dream pool.


Alice

Down by the empty river bed,
the Todd, ‘usually dry’,
amongst litter and remnants,
sat a lone Aboriginal, dazed,

as if all this had just occurred,
and she was the last on her land:
her rheum-run eyes fixed mine
and she knew everything about me:

‘Miss Pink’s gone,’ she said,
as she pushed a black strand
of such dark hair from her face,
and she turned away, her work done.


 

The End of the World


The men of Darwin don’t dance,
they prop their lagered weights
on arms over beer glossed bars,
as turned-from-Sheilas oscillate,
in girl-twisted-girl disco shapes:

We had them, choreographed,
in moves (swifter than drinks poured
by locals), the lit-girls entranced,
by us, the few English horde,
we rout of travellers took the floor.

I woke late at the end of the world,
with a forced order to bed rest,
the night had left me pain-curled,
in that ghost town, now unimpressed,
the ideal spot for a nuclear test.

Days later, I limped, gingerly,
to Uluru, to her sunken otherness,
but I was floored, by my jiggery-injury:
Propped at the shaded base,
as Aussie men shimmied across her face.