The Commute: A London Poem

Step outside. It’s raining, nothing new. 

You take out the umbrella, you always have it with you.

On the sidewalk, a river of umbrellas stream by, most of them are black, there’s the occasional colourful one that stands out, that one makes you smile. 

On the street, black cabs, grey cars, and the bright red double-deckers. The world is grey and red. 

Walk fast, walk faster, don’t stop, people don’t like it when you stop in front of them. They must walk fast, they must walk faster. There is somewhere to go, somewhere to be, always, all the time. 

Stop. Wait. Push button. Wait. Look left. Green. Go. Cross. Walk, walk faster. Keep walking. There it is. Red circe crossed by dark blue, so iconic, and yet so mundane.

Underground

You better have it ready, don’t hold up the line, they don’t like that.

It better have credit on it too. 

Tap it on the yellow pad. Beep. You’re in. 

Down you go. Stand on the right. Keep your arms squeezed in so people rushing on the left won’t push you. 

Stand on the Right

Down, down, down, deep, deep, deep into the Earth. 

Heads, faces, and voices blur. Some go up while you go down. 

It’s warm in here. Warmer than outside. No rain in here. Umbrellas down, dripping, making it slippery. Take care. Mind the gap. 

Take a step. Now walk, walk faster. Keep left. Know where you’re going. Follow the arrows, the colours, and the names. Red, westbound. Walk, walk, walk, up some stairs. 

The next train will arrive in 2 minutes. 

Underground train

Wait. Stand back as the train approaches. It screeches to a halt. 

Move in but stay to the side, let people off first. 

Doors open. 

Mind the Gap

Mind the gap between the train and the platform.

Footsteps, off the train, minding the gap. 

Mind the gap, please. 

No one else? Then in you go! Hurry, or the door will close. 

Mind the gap, please. 

Find a seat. Not on the corner. Sit. Look down. 

Doors close. On the way. 

Don’t look at them. Look up. Look left, or look right. 

Look at your phone, take out your book, look at the page. Look anywhere but into their eyes. They don’t like that. It makes them uncomfortable. 

Commuters

Smiling? Useless. Speaking to a stranger? Unthinkable! Forbidden?

By who, you ask? Why, by the law of politenness, by the law of social awkwardness and common sense. Just leave everyone to themselves. You will be happier that way, so will they. Withdraw. This is not the place to make friends.

Oh, don’t look so sad. Look at their shoes instead. You might learn something about them that way. 

Oh, and look! Poems on the Underground! Everything changes.

“Everything changes. We plant trees for those born later”.

Everything Changes

There are things that are worth in this world. You smile. There’s hope. 

You want to tell them, but you don’t. Best leave them to it. Mind the gap, please. Mind the gap between the train and the platform. Mind the gap. Mind your businesss. Mind the gap between us all. 

You feel eyes on you. You look his way, he looks quickly away. 

You smile to your shoes. If he only knew… 

The next station is… Yours. 

Get up. 

Doors will open on the right hand side. Walk to the right hand side door.

Mind the gap, please.

Step off, minding the gap. 

Now walk. 

Way Out

Way out, follow the yellow sign. Fall in line. Merge with the crowd. Footsteps, all grey and black. Step on. Up you go. Stand to the right, or rush on the left. But you are done rushing. You decide to stand. Let others rush by. Late for work, late for class, late for life. Late, eager, or only rushing for rushing’s sake. Because this fast-paced life is the meaning of success. 

Is it?

I will still decide to stand. 

You’re on the top. 

Now wait your turn, have it ready, tap it. 

Minus £2.40. Sigh. No time to dwell on it. Keep walking.

Step outside, it is raining, nothing new. 

But maybe for you, everything is.

Published by Mariel Torres

Wandererer whose feet follow where the pen leads...

One thought on “The Commute: A London Poem

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