Last week we had a short holiday in London. Rosa loves to go there to indulge her love of art, and though I feel more at home among my northern hills, I can always find something to engage me on our trips to the capital. I worked in central London for sixteen years, but I’ve worked my way through its museums and other interesting places much more thoroughly in the years since we moved north (also about sixteen, coincidentally).
It was a good little holiday, but on this trip I was reminded of one of the things I didn’t like about working in London. Arriving at a tube station at half past five en route to Waterloo I found myself on a platform so full that there was barely room to move. Then, when the train arrived, packed with people, the few who were able to get on it barely made a dent in the throng. Somehow I managed to position myself in the right place to squeeze into the last bit of space on the next one. For the next few minutes, I was then wedged, unable to move, between the door and half a dozen other people, through whom I had to push to get to the far door when the train stopped.
Anyway, all this reminded me of a poem I wrote a good few years ago when this was almost a daily occurrence ….
In a Tube Train
Forgive me; weight of numbers, not my will
imposed this man upon your private space.
My eyes have little choice but rest upon
this woman’s face that fills my whole perception.
I feel I know you: hollow cheeks and lines
too deep for one your age all speak to me
of sleepless nights and proud hopes long eroded
into sand. Upon the breath we share
I taste the sad perfume of love decaying.
I am a part of you; imprisoned, thumbnail
size, I stare back from your fishbowl eyes
that hold without possessing.
At last the train
sets free its captives, flesh recoils and lungs
receive the air denied them for so long.
You leave in haste, but at the door you stop,
look back, you realise. We were more close
than lovers. I was in your eyes ..
… and you in mine.