The Reckoning

In these fractions I seek solace
That infarction is no menace
To my own unknown condition
Though my colleague lies on trollies
As they fill her veins with serum
Hoping vasos are dilated
I’m surrounded by the vision
Such careers are overrated
In my secretary’s costume
I must take on further duties
Try to prop up one more rostrum
And ignore last rites for loot. He’s
Working from his home computer
While I ride the bus to nowhere
In the misty morning chatter
That’s conceived to make me go there
How much more am I allotted?
This existence, mere survival
Will I too go out, garotted
By a heart attack unrivalled?
As my logic fails, convince me;
I’ve decisions that are burning
Every inch would rather lynch me
Than continue painful earning.

Although I rarely explain my scribblings, as I prefer to let the reader interpret them at will, this poem, and the one that follows are written in response to a recent event. The woman with whom I share a desk at my day job suffered a heart attack this week. The events on that occasion and which have followed have caused me to question our place in the universe with perhaps more focused ferocity than usual.

Untitled

This is the place we come to die
We secretaries, in our rows
Two frozen stiffs, a living lie
Few care to note, and no one knows.

While patient, we sit out our time
In managing capricious men
Whose fruitless whims, though not malign
Wear lines on brows and fray each hem.

One more may chew on dust this hour
No more to block electric space
In diary; a heart lacks power
To beat a path through empty wastes.

We are not dumb, and yet, we wait
Preparing meeting rooms, hot drinks
Awaiting proof; appreciate
A mind, unheeded, soul that shrinks

And though the autopsy infers
What killed her was nobody’s fault
That one can prove, (except for hers)
With such a sedentary vault

Of memories of closet, desk,
A filing cabinet to store
The means of murder – this slow death
Made up of tedium and chore.

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Humanitarian Crisis

I worked late today
In the usual way
Then stood long for a bus
While ignoring the fuss
All the placards and song
Of a protesting throng

When the first one came full
Joined the back of the queue
‘Til I hopped on the second
No wiser, I reckoned
To pressure or purpose
That brought out the workforce

I sat in my headphones
Absorbing through eardrums
The tunes of a playlist
Unchanged through two ages
And stared through graffiti
At people beneath me

Not knowing, nor caring
What fate we were sharing
Familiar landscape blurred
Into the sounds I heard
Hopped off three stops early
Finished one journey

I trudged ‘cross the common
To see if I’d find one
More bus driver’s hubs
Standing still by the pubs
Sure enough, there I saw
Not just one, but some four

When one finally, late
Put his pedal to plate
He pulled up to the tavern
Waved me past his cabin
For NFC, broken
Would not zap my token

I settled inside
Chose a tune for my ride
But two stops, no further
We stopped in a lather
Five kids, come from school
With no change to fare-pool

Tried to board, barter, beg
But compassion was neg.
As commuters grew restless
One woman, well-dressed, stressed
Their selfishness loudly
“Eff off!” she yelled, proudly

Some gentleman, small
Added footage to gall
Thus the youths took offense
At this lack of good sense
And a row quickly rose
As his phone met his toes

While we waited, suspended
To see what might end it
Some ran for the next bus
Some added their voices
And called for policemen
To make them see reason

It took three more stops
And a call to the cops
But not one among us
Could hit on the obvious
Tempers grew heated
As workers felt cheated

Ashamed, I forgot
Or I simply did not
Check I had enough money
Available, on me
To throw them a bone
So we’d all make it home.

Two cigarettes

17:23

Fingers shaking, she fumbles to light it
Lips quivering, cornflower eyes over-large
Underlined, ringed in runny mascara
Bronzer and orange paint

Long blonde hair fashionably streaked
Hanging down like a dingy waterfall
She clamps her clutch beside her
With a slender elbow, shivers

At unseasonal weather in a short skirt
Trying not to cry, this nymph
Ankles wobble on the too-high heels
Waiting for a bus in the rain

Sucking in gasping lungfuls
She smokes her sadness
Twisting suffering to submission
In a single cigarette

18:02

His rumbling growl is subsiding now
The stream of curse words unbroken
Since he staggered down the aisle
Pushing past each passenger

Heading for the back bench
Of the almost empty upper deck
Something inside him is angry
It cannot keep still or quiet

A familiar double click precedes
The billowing clouds of calm
He thunks a window shut
Clad in a cloak of smoke

That may obscure the world
Of see-through stickers
With their pious proclamation
‘No Smoking’, red ring, slash

Ex-Albania

“I like your face.”
The stranger smiled
A friendly eye
In a hostile world
Not to be ignored
At the end of a week
Whose gentle slide
From bad to cess –
Pitiable
Until she could feel
Herself yawning
Over the abyss
Clutching at nothing
More than the last
Frayed threads of temper.
Clearing consciousness
Not minding this overture
To a careful discussion of
Meteorologic insignificance
And closing with
Best wishes for
The weekend’s rest,
“Thank you” she said
And meant it.

Battle of the Bands

‘What does music mean?’ I asked
The day you demanded to know
Which bands I liked,
What songs I knew by heart
What right I had to hold you?
The darker tones you rationed me
Those reserved for seduction
Sent delicious spinal shivers
As you so righteously accused
Me of musical treachery.
Standing in the rain by the bus stop
People looking us up and down
We stood like strangers, past-less
Wild hair blowing across your glasses
Peering into my face to try to
See how I might fit into your
Careful constructed fantasy
Defiant in your metal tee and boots
I smiled at your adherence to these
Uptight social conventions.
Unblinking, I considered my response
As if there were a wrong answer
Forming on my tongue.
I knew your little lover’s heart
Was restless, wanting to trade bedfellows
You were so obvious, waiting
For my careless chosen gift
Lovingly bestowed by
Another doting devotee of
Bad boys in black jeans;
A perfect excuse for you
To end whatever strange
Fantasy we were living.
I could see the angry words
Taking final form in your
Deep brown eyes, watch you
Later, sat in the comfort
Of your local haunt, The Bush
Surrounded by bandmates
And potential conquests
Younger and dumber than I.
‘She just didn’t get me, man’
You would say, accompanied by
An obligatory eye-roll,
Well-rehearsed, and all
Would sympathise
Pouring cheap words and
Libations. ‘Drink of us’
While First Year Goths
Bat heavy lashes and
Casually bounce off the beat,
Showing their interest.
Alas, the musician’s daughter saw
All this and still felt minded to foil
Your planned escape with a trick.
Ignoring her eidetic recall
You didn’t know how to respond
To cry or to laugh
As I sang all your favourite tunes
Word-perfect, as always.

Identity Crisis

The boy on the bus
Was a scared little man
With his feet on his bags
And his mind on The Plan

The boy on the bus
That I left undisturbed
Though his nervousness made me
Uneasy, perturbed

The boy on the bus
Blew his nose, picked his ear
Buried face in a book
To pretend no one’s near

The boy on the bus
Didn’t flinch, looked away
When the hipster beside me
Screwed his top off to spray

The boy on the bus
Caught in bubbling splash
Of cool mineral water
Dripping seat, cuffs and lash

The boy on the bus
Friendless did not react
Kept his mind on the journey
To survive it intact

The boy on the bus
Struck a chord when I saw
How he treated the paperback
New from a store

The boy on the bus
Had I seen him before
On the flickering screen
Or in newsprint galore

The boy on the bus
That I couldn’t be sure
Was the one some authorities
Were searching for

The boy on the bus
Unremarkable, odd
With the face of a saint
Knelt in fear of his God

The Gawker

Sat in traffic, late and tired
Surrounded by my counterparts
You planted face in front of mine
And spread legs wide to air your arts

As busy fingers made your aim
The capture of my interest
With visage gurning wild acclaim
Did set your eyes upon my chest

Tongue darting out suggestively
To garner thoughts libidinous
In front of mother, child and me
Was not a qualified success

As rolling eyes and shooing hands
Made comedy of willing wiles
Gyrations of explicit glands
Wrought giggles from our sober smiles

Though not a glance we spared for you
Beyond the eye-roll of disdain
Discouraging displays so lewd
Our thoughts must have been pretty plain

You sat it out with kissy face
And pouted seven stops or so
Embarrassed by so little pace
Eventually you let it go

Vocational Draining

Hereditary traits
Insomnia, for one
With poor examples set
By siblings, dad and mum

A workaholic way
As conscience trips and taunts
The child that cannot play
At unproductive sports

The tendency to take
On tasks as yet unbid
Anxiety to shake
With tired limbs and head

It dulls the senses well
Self-medicated, thus
Until few feelings spill
To interrupt her thoughts

Her duties, she won’t shirk
It marks her one of us
She drags herself to work
Eyes closed upon the bus

Top Deck Tipster

I don’t want to hear your voice
Your teleconf’rence, on the bus
Is leaving me without a choice
I have to know your business

Project’s going down the drain?
Well pardon me, but what a shame
I couldn’t help, but note the name
You’re indiscreet, so who’s to blame?

If only I’d a big remote
To mute what’s pouring from your throat
Your tendency to grin and gloat
Intruding on my slow commute

What could I do, but profit here
From tyranny without much fear
But act upon the careless steer
And hope to gamble back my fare?

Aspire, respire, perspire

Searching for beauty
In the crumbling pavements
The chickweed shoots
Bringing colour to each crack

Fishing for rainbows
In gutters pooled with oil
The water slick and dirty
As an inner-city fast-track

Squinting in sunlight
Huddled in a cheap coat
Thin layers for protection
Against the chill of springtime

Doze in back of buses
To dream up something better
Than another year of hardship
And a terminal decline