Matthew Paul is a poet from Thames Ditton and a very active blogger. His most recent collection is The Evening Entertainment (2017) from Eyewear Press. Matthew told me that he’s an ‘inveterate user of public transport’ and sure enough both of these poems use public transport as a backdrop. Although these poems are both very serious treatises on human nature and urban alienation, in these times they also acquire a rather nostalgic glow as poems from a time when all walks of life would find themselves confined together on regular journeys. Remember those times?
ON FLYING ANT DAY
I’m boxed in a Victoria line service,
Vauxhall to Walthamstow Central.
The person next to me shucks pistachios
with nails the shells’ shape & colour,
biting the nuts furiously & seriously.
Winged ants have hopped on board.
Someone describes a flight from Moscow
to Tashkent, on which she had to stand
‘for friggin’ hours’, riding the turbulence
by hanging from dangling straps
like I am. When they gave her lunch,
she ate it ‘cross-legged on the filthy floor’.
I flinch at my own memory, of glimpsing,
from a District line train to Wimbledon,
the scuttled face of a teenage boy
pegging it onto the platform at Parsons Green,
seconds too late, pursued by others
dead-set on mayhem & murderous affray.
THE 281 TO HOUNSLOW
The windows are all steamed-up.
It’s throwing it down outside
& onto the roof—total tin-tacks.
You know if you wipe the window,
the back of your hand will be soaked
& there’ll be nothing to dry it on
except the mucky seat. You’re stuck
in that space & you can’t look out.
You have no idea where you’ve got to
& no possibility of daylight, let alone
the syntax of sun. It’s like sitting
in a windowless meeting room,
battleship-grey on all six surfaces,
The only consolation is the heat,
heat that plumps-up the bubble;
heat to render you gentle, & caring
of the woman in tears behind you,
sobbing to her mother on the phone,
her young voice saying she’s got no
friends & nobody gives two fucks.