Thursday, August 2, 2007

Stranger on a Train

Like meercats herded on the train,
Packed much too close for poetry,
We swayed as bounded by a chain
In steady, rhythmic harmony.
Body odour churned like glue.
Somewhere near, strange tongues poured forth.
And several strained to catch the view
As we careered insanely north.
A brush of skin against my arm
Cracked louder than a power shock,
Withdrawing hard in mute alarm
As we slowed down for Castleknock.
Furtive glances, slyly thrown
At strangers welded in too tight,
Each one cocooned and quite alone
Upon this nervous evening flight.

Besandalled boy – a Pole or Czech?-
With handbag firmly clasped to chest,
A fearsome boil upon his neck
And eyes that never seemed to rest.
The office girl in worsted grey,
With horn-rimmed specs and double-chin,
The schoolgirl, chewing, faraway,
The one sock slipping down her shin.
The tousled youth with sullen stare,
And hair cropped tightly to the roots
Caressed his molten jaw with care
And eyed a pair of pinstripe suits.

Beneath my high and outstretched hand,
A pretty woman blinks twice, bored.
Feathered lashes, deeply tanned,
Lightly perfumed, shoulders broad.
I’m close enough to see each mark,
Each imperfection on her face.
Each tiny pock screams loud and stark
Like snags upon a cloth of lace.
I have a sudden, strong desire
To run my hand through plaits entwined,
To twirl those strands of blackened fire
And feel the contours of her mind.
If I should stoop and kiss that cheek,
My lips upon imperfect skin,
Would she emit a frightened shriek
At such an unforgiving sin?
Would she slap me loud and hard
Or turn away with panicked shove
And push back deeper in the crowd,
Stung by the barb of strangers’ love?

So I did naught – taboo dictates
Such raw emotion does not flare
Beyond the dull impassioned gates
That fortify each cushioned stare.

I watched her as she left the train,
And joined the queue into the night
To breach the bound’ry into pain
And disappear fore’er from sight.
Undoubted, she will never know
What wonderment her closeness stirred,
Attraction in this leming’d flow
That never dared to speak a word.

I journeyed on – deep-frowned, ashamed
Of how the mere proximity
Of some cheap stranger, lost, unnamed,
Could rouse such torrid thoughts in me.

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