Le Grand Depart
Truro Station never felt so threadbare cold
as my dumped case found a pothole puddle
precisely splashing taxi-rank water on my clothes.
Exit papers in a malicious man bag muddle,
passport dancing the fantangle with boarding passes,
flight reminders and kiss my asses.
Now we’re off and running:
Competing in the customary
100 metre Olympic Dash platform bridge event,
beam balance across the tracks,
floorshow with tepid coffee half spent
while the suitcase gains points for trampolining off cracks.
Crotch clutched by the bitter April breeze
my skin sticks to handle metal at minus two degrees.
On platform three, the shivering audience,
double parked on brown benches,
cocks an ear:
acknowledge announcements with mute intolerance
soundless cursing and silent fear.
Frigid buttocks clench.
Constipated by the clock’s failure to function
trammelled by the engine’s paralysis at the junction.
Sodden thoughts sift their slow way through the brain
as we look to each ignore the other on the train.
Like, I mean, what’s the point of Ivybridge
and who are they that do what they do there?
Why the stop at Par for Newquay, anyway?
And who is the stupid bloke with no fare
interrogated incessantly about his Tiverton Parkway awayday
on two separate lengthy occasions by loud officials who care
for his safety? And are not troubled that the bugger pays.
Definitely not. No, sir. We’ll charge your ticket online,
for your security, sir, protection,
sir, nothing to do with crime.
A weak struggling sun is thick cloud tracing
as I’m shoved in the corner, backward facing
at Taunton, by a front faced, beany bonced
chin jutter-nutter, in seat squirming nonchalance.
She munches putrid cheese and onion in my ear
spraying chips while declaring she feels queer,
hacksawing brayed laughter at anyone near.
To please him, she got a room at King’s Cross
he’s cancelled but she’s on her way to check
in just in case any of us give a toss: well, his loss.
Two fat sisters, clickety click on phones,
opposite and together yet with each other alone,
vacant grin, in silent sin, and whatever world they are in
is preferable to the company of their skin,
while Westbury wrestles with the eye
and shards of vapour dash across the sky
at Reading, a concrete grip of the throat,
distant glimpse of departing planes that float
to other worlds and places
leaving sad traces.
Quick shook speed, rushing miles faster,
the imminent approach of the grand departure:
black brick beckons now beyond limelight fields
and all the trees that shield London part, unveil and yield
up the acres of grim concrete clinker.
Windowed reflections show some old, frowned thinker,
a sad smile, yes, but at least a smile of some measure,
forward looking back to the years we will treasure.