Poem on the Underground


Iím leaning on the yellow plastic stirrups
that dangle from the ceiling
when it strikes me:
I can do whatever I want in this carriage.
Itís nearly midnight and there are no other passengers.

A thought slithers into my mind: the poem.
Iíve been admiring it the whole journey.
Its code has riddled with me and now
the text seems to stare down at me
from the wall like an admonishment.

I stand close to the window and reach up
towards the ceiling. Wobbling on my feet,
I stretch and put a hand out for balance.
I slide the card precisely to the right,
out from its slot. With a quick flourish
I pull it through the air to my side,
holding the printed front of the card
close towards me. I look up at the empty slot
and see rows and rows of hissing snakes,
a placeholder print as though a computer key were stuck.

Iím sliding the card under my jumper,
wrapping the curve of the card around my belly,
the ends almost touching at the small of my back.
I feel a shock as cold as metal on my skin.
It doesnít feel like an ugly thing to do.
The two ends of the card jut out behind me
as they fight the curve I am making.

I pause while the train slows: the next station
seems to take longer than usual to arrive.
The doors open; I leap
giddily onto the moonlit platform.
I start the long walk to the barrier.
There is an assistant at the gates,
ready to challenge me. I walk
towards the man, brazenly
holding his gaze at every step.

Michael Loveday
If you have any comments on this poem,
Michael Loveday would be pleased to hear from you.