Monday 29 September 2014

New Poem: Underground

It said, ‘Please use the stairs’, so everyone turned

right at the end of the platform. Someone with a

buggy hesitated and there was a blockage behind

it. Someone grabbed the front and the flow carried

on. At the bottom of the steps there was a tunnel.

It turned sharply. We followed it round. There

must have been hundreds of us. Someone was

whistling. A man near me was doing that sniff-cough

thing: sniffing hard, which made him cough. We

weren’t really walking. Shuffling, more like. Then

the tunnel turned again. More steps going

down. We glanced at each other. Just because the

escalators weren’t working, surely we didn’t need

to be going quite so far down? At the end of these

steps there was another tunnel. It seemed temporary:

no advertisements on the wall. And no tiles either.

Just raw cement. Then the lights flickered and

dimmed. That set off some shouting. A child up

ahead start to scream. A few people were talking,

asking each other if they knew this part of the

station. Someone near me said that it was the

‘Transit Route’ for the maintenance crew and we

would come out by the post office. Someone

way back shouted that they were sorry the lights

had failed, asked us to be patient and it would

be sorted as soon as possible. We carried on

shuffling, though much more slowly. The floor was

untiled too. More like gravel.After a spell of this, it

became less dark, and the tunnel opened out into

a chamber, a kind of hall. Now there were one or

two station staff, holding out their arms at full stretch

sideways, as if they were making a passageway. And

nodding. I thought, what’s with the nodding? One of

them was saying, ‘This way.’ There was no other way.

As people filed into the hall behind me, another

station person started making an announcement

on a megaphone:.. ‘...thanks very much for your

patience...not an

held here for a short while...’

Then she said that it would greatly help if we could

separate into two groups, those who travelled regularly

on the transport system and those who were new to it.

People started filtering right and left and I heard an

argument near me when someone said that a child

couldn’t be someone who had ‘travelled regularly on the

transport system’. The father - if that’s who it was - started

shouting, ‘What do you want me to do with him? He’s

five years old. Send him over there on his own?’ And

he got the reply, ‘Well that’s what they’re asking.’ One

or two people couldn’t understand what was going on

and were trying to find out more. So people were

pointing over to the side of the hall for people who

don’t travel regularly on the transport system. I had a

sense that those of us who do travel regularly on the

transport system were being let down another tunnel

and we shuffled off down it and there were more staff

with their arms out, nodding. The people who didn’t

travel regularly on the transport system stayed behind in

the hall. At the other end of our tunnel there were some

steps up to the street but it wasn’t by the post office. It

was nowhere near the post office.