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Sunday 15 April 2012

The Underground Can Age You

or a true subway tale for dVerse Poets Pub: Poetics : Subway.
Find them at:  http://dversepoets.com/

I am waiting for a train on the London Underground.
On the platform, at its furthest end from me,
a couple zipped into a sleeping bag. Shades
of Henry Moore's shelter drawings from the war * -
the cotton folds both hiding and revealing form.

All at once, assorted crisp bags, papers. tissues
and confectionery wrappers are taking to the air
like mini kites without the strings. I feel a draught,
a solid blast of air that's coming from the tunnel,
pushed before it by the not-too-distant train,
but still before I hear the rumble of it drawing near.

The people on the platform start to move,
 a fraction up or down. They go on making fine 
adjustments as the train slows down. They know
exactly where the exits will be at their destinations
and want to board the train exactly at those points.

The train is full, with people standing, hanging on
to straps. Unpopular, a man near me who has
a double bass - and rainbow veins in both his cheeks.
We are all squeezed into each others' spaces
though no one seems aware of anybody else.
Everyone an elephant invading someone's room!

We're studying the adverts above the seats of look
intently at the tunnel walls as they flash by. Anything
not to be caught out looking at our neighbour. I and a
tall girl next to me make accidental contact with 
our eyes. She lifts her nose and looks away. I
also look elsewhere - and catch sight of a woman
sitting only feet from me. She has the sort of face
I want to take between my hands to breathe it in.
And whilst I'm on the subject she is fragrant - very.
Someone moves, allowing me to see the rest of her:
sheathed in silky lemon yellow, she looks now as
though she is a flower coming into bloom. O f course,
I'm fantasizing. She stands - and offers me her seat!
Have I really aged that much since leaving home?

Apologies : unable to make the links work. Suggest you cut and paste them into your browser.


Claudia said...

your last line made me smile...you can age indeed on a journey...even if it's just a small one...and get a biter wiser as well..just saying...smiles..love all the details and esp. how you describe the woman, the wanting to take her face between your hands and breathe in..very intimate moment in a crowded train...like it much david

Rachel Green said...

Love this piece.
It's rare I travel in London but underground user fascinate me.

Christine said...

A lovely, gentle lyrical piece. I reallly liked your response to the woman with the kind of face that makes one want to take it in your hands and breathe it in.
There is so much to see on the Tube.

Brian Miller said...

smiles...and elephant in each others living room... yep...and have i aged that much since i left home...maybe...it will wear on you at times but i think a journey can have the opposite as well and make you feel younger too...smiles.

A Cuban In London said...

Maybe because I'm halfway through "Saturday" by Ian McEwan but I'm finding myself more attuned and attracted to the minutiae of human life. It's funny that I commuted for so many years on the London Underground and it was only when I stopped that I looked back and was able to break down those little details your poem so finely expresses. I loved the start. We very rarely pay attention to the people sleeping rough, other than to know they're there.

Many thanks. That was another powerful poem.

Greetings from London.

Elephant's Child said...

I loved this piece, from start to end. I am sure that I will come back again and again to reread it, and that I will get more from it each time. Thank you.

Mary said...

Interesting poem. Perhaps you can fix the link. When i hovered my mouse over it, it appeared that even your introductory words were part of the linkage, which would be why it wouldn't work probably.

Janine Bollée said...

Breathtakingly accurate in its descriptions and wonderfully light in imaginings.

David Cranmer said...

You have top flight endings, Dave. "Have I really aged that much since leaving home?" may be your finest yet.

Daydreamertoo said...

Wonderful read Dave. I'm amazed that so many people didn't know the underground was used as air-raid shelters during the war. Thank goodness they were there to use too.
Fabulous writing, you described and captured the instance of a train arriving so well.
Yes, it is a shame no-one notices the homeless, they are simply just 'there'
Loved the last line. Yes, traveling ages us, even if just a little. LOL

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave! Yes, that's happened to me before--not--ahem--the fantasizing, but being offered a seat unexpectedly, and more because of age than beauty.

I love the rainbow lines in cheeks, and the sleeping bagged couple and the flower!

(In terms of links--I go to a site about how to make hyperlinks--on google--there are a lot and cut and paste the extra bits of code.)

Scarlet said...

I haven't been offered a seat yet, thank you. I like the scenes you painted here Dave..the tight space, the adverts and trying not to make eye contact. The last stanza I like..the woman in silky lemon yellow. Have a lovely day ~

Unknown said...

Dave, this brings back so mant memories - recent and ancient now - of riding those cascading waves of steely notes hurtling through space/time. Your description brings it all alive again, growing into prportions that memory awake the past with its serene sentiment. You have some humor here, justly it seems, otherwise the journey might consume us raw. I found the following lines especially precise and providing that detail that the constant traveller must know:

The people on the platform start to move,
 a fraction up or down. They go on making fine 
adjustments as the train slows down. They know
exactly where the exits will be at their destinations
and want to board the train exactly at those points.

That is me, especially since one can get totally side-tracked, off course, losing precious time, if you don't have the precise point of exit. Great ride diwn memory lane here!

Ygraine said...

I can so relate to this, Dave!
Until I look in the mirror, I still feel about fifteen inside.
So it's quite a sobering thought that on my birthday tomorrow I will turn fifty-six, and that is what everyone else sees when they look at me!
So sad. Hahaha :D

Cait O'Connor said...

Wonderful - it could be from a novel - do you ever write fiction?

Carl said...

Wonderful. It could have been the 1 and 9 subway in NY.

Anonymous said...

great narrative. i like how you say studying the adverts. it's true. if you forget to bring something to read, you are so bored, that you STUDY something that simple

alive on subway senryu

Maude Lynn said...

That last line cracked me up! Marvelous write!

kaykuala said...

The Underground,Subway or Metro, they served a useful purpose. As people movers they pulled the crowds in and reduced the congestion at ground level. You pictured such a realistic incoming train, air movements and all.Great write, Dave!


Windsmoke. said...

The second stanza does it for me as what you describe does happen. It does seem like you've waited an age for your train to turn up :-).

Dulcina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dulcina said...

This story proves you are a keen observer and a terrific narrator.
The first thing which came to my mind when I read the title was an article about aging; it said that the higher you live, the faster you turn old, according to Einstein's theory of relativity.
So, you were lucky travelling in the underground; imagine if you had been in an airplane!
I compare people there to ice statues; that's why sometimes I smile at little children and they look at me as if I were an alien.
You have painted an underground picture very accurately: people behaving as robots, unaware of other passengers, but we are human after all and romantic feelings appear even in the coldest situations.
These lines can melt icebergs:

-She has the sort of face
I want to take between my hands to breathe it in.

Other lines I have enjoyed for their precise and original description:

- ...confectionery wrappers are taking to the air
like mini kites without the strings.

- Everyone an elephant invading someone's room!
- Anything to be caught out looking at our neighbour

Fantasizing is the best means of escapism: a flower in that stuffy atmosphere, wow!
Apart from aging, Dave, I would say you had lost your sense of smell, congrats!
The impredictable end made me burst into laughing, good!

Dave King said...

Thanks for this. The woman offering me a seat was a bit of a shock at the time!

A goodly while now since I ventured in to the smoke, but still treasure the memories. (Some!)

Thank you for your kind response. Yes, it was a rare moment - that didn't last long, as it happened!

Yes, I agree that it can. It wasn't so much the journey, of course. It was the woman's perception of me!

A Cuban in London
Interesting observation! It coincides almost exactly with my experience. I, too, travelled regularly in London for many years - largely on the tube - and didn't give these moments a thought. I do now, though! Thanks for your thoughts.

The Elephant's Child
Thanks so much - what a wonderful comment to have!

Thanks for the suggestion, but I did not write the link that way. I checked it a dozen or more times and could find nothing wrong with it. (It wasn't the only thing that was misfiring on the Google-Blogger front)

Thank you so much for your kind response. It means a great deal.

Actually I think I aged more later, thinking about it and what might have been!

Yes, I, too have been surprised at the number of folk who didn't know about it's war time use. Thanks for a fab' response.

Much thanks for both the reaction and the tip. Appreciate both.

Many thanks for all this. And yourself, have a great day.

Appreciate all this - and yes, it was me, too, a few years back, so determined to alight from the train right opposite my exit and thus to be one of the first few up and out of the station - esp. if there was a bus to catch!

Know what you mean! I've heard it said that we all have an internal age, which never changes. I am convinced mine is 40. I'm still 40. I've always been 40.

I did once, but not any more. Thank you for your response.

Thanks. Much obliged for this.

Yes, that's about it, I guess.

Mama Zen
Good to know how it took you! Thanks.

Thanks for this, Hank.

Yes, that's right. That was the idea.

Ouch! I hadn't noticed. It should have read:-
NOT to be caught out...

I must change that forthwith!
Thank you for your much-appreciated critique. Your comments are always invaluable.