Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Stand tall, we're off...

There’s a wise saying that the journey is more important than the destination. Unless you travel on Northern rail.

I’m forever hesitating at the very thought of my commute to work that I have to empower myself with poetic teasing just to get me out of bed.

Today it’s Invictus by William Ernest Henley.
“It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishment the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul”.

Stand tall, we’re off. The train arrives two minutes too early or thirty minutes too late. When the carriages do arrive the beast awakens inside as the race for empty seats instigates. Seats become like free candy. Literally I stick to chairs cascaded in last night’s booze and unloved used chewing gum.

Faces bewitched by phone screens. No one talks unless you’re fortunate to have your best friend with you. Maybe that’s why they’re looking at their phones. Longing to connect to a connection that’s not connecting. I’m always in hope that a tall fetching stranger will be seated beside me and reveal to me stories of how they voyaged across worlds, ate exotic fruits, swam in the deepest oceans, to the outermost stars and saved the planet from Donald Trump’s rampant hairpiece. They rarely do but I daydream of conversations, and write verse to piece complications to turbo the speed of the stubborn clock combinations… 

What hidden tales come and go?
For snap conversations
Brief gazes with swollen eyes
You an embrace too frightening to ignore
Is warmth too grazed?
Fading into cold shadows
The gentle sorrows sink a bouncing verb
The sentence lingers
The words ruined
Scrape away skin to bones
To true self
Am I nothing?

If David Attenborough narrated my train journeys he would sum it up as “drinking from an empty cup”. When it’s too cold the heaters are unsympathetic. When it’s too warm the spaces enclose to a claustrophobic airless vacuum. The ticket inspector is much like the thought police in Orwell‘s 1984 examining your right of place. I wonder this is how it feels to be a refugee always in fear that you’re not welcome. Big brother is watching you… 

“Tickets please”?
And why is it that you never know where you put your ticket. Is it in the third pocket to the right?
“Tickets please”?
Is in in my bag? Thinking of sticking the ticket to my forehead. I’m here; maybe I should emigrate to a carriage.
“Tickets Please”?
Yes I live here. Leave me alone.

I’m with my thoughts again. “I am alone here in my own mind. There is no map, and there is no road”. Anne Sexton must have been a routine passenger. I read Socrates yesterday and I ponder his quote further “I know that I know nothing”. 

So I scribble a poem:

I have witnessed kindness be unkind
Works of selflessness show selfishness
Deeds of humanitarianism be inhumane
Observed a fight for equality create more inequality
A push for more aid redistribute more poverty
A war against discrimination birth more discrimination
Words of poets talk about love and remain loveless
Evolving humans dumbed-down by smartphones
Expert’s knowledge less

I have read of socialists rule by the lust of power
And liberals be unliberal
And fascists be humble
Heard prayers of sin and evil come from believers in a loving God
And many deny God and cry to him for fear of death
I have witnessed many fall yet think they’re standing
Many schools less education
I have seen much and yet nothing.

Maybe the great philosophers wanted us to keep questioning and never take anything for granted. I’ve never liked labels or vague stereotypes they always put people in boxes. We’re so much more. Oh look I’ve finally made it to my destination. “There has fallen a splendid tree from the passion-flower at the gate she is coming, my dove, my dear”. Tennyson knew how to depart a train.

For me when the day is gone
As I return to start my way back home
I go to sleep reminiscing
Everywhere I went to roam
To the utopia I’m off getting…


Steve Rowland said...

I really enjoyed this Curtis; an excellent debut and a thought-provoking piece in which your 'voice' comes shining through. Looking forward to reading more from you in the coming months.

Lady Curt said...

Yes...kind of takes the "romance" out of train travel...

Anonymous said...

A great read.

Adele said...

A remarkable and highly entertaining read Curtis. I hope that you will entertain us often.

I travelled to work in Manchester on the 6am from Blackpool North every day during the very cold winter of 1981, a train affectionately called the 'cemetery express' by her regular occupants. We were so few when we set off that we soon developed a rapport.