Kelvedon to Liverpool Street

For thirty years the buzzer went at six.
You’d take your breakfast in the lonely half-light,
your milky tea, your marmalade and burnt toast,
the carbon whiff lingering till we rose
to fill the room with Coco Pops and squabbles.
By then, you were at your desk in Bond Street,
out of sight and largely out of mind,
our lives a giddy whirl of girls or Pogs.

It wasn’t till a summer job at fifteen
that I observed this quiet early ritual:
the briefcase and the brolly (ever cautious),
among the first cars in the station car park
which I believed gave you a sort of status
a short walk to the bridge and Trains to London.
Perpetually ahead of local bods
who went to work in Colchester or Ipswich.

The fat bloke who sold papers and bad coffee
and greeted tourists with a sigh knew you
a brisk nod and your Telegraph appeared.
You always had the right change, which he liked.
Then on the platform: Come Luke, we’ll wait here.
The best place for a good seat
. You were right.
And I believed, as only a son can,
that you, and you alone had cracked the system.

But coming back at half past five was different,
your straight-backed morning dignity was slouched.
You looked a good deal older then, as you
grabbed fitful scraps of sleep – a slow sad lean
towards the aisle, until, before you fell,
some well-worn sense would jolt you back upright.
Sometimes you’d snore, and I’d shoot eye-balled hatred
at flash young things that raised a sarky brow.

Oh Dad, some days you looked as if you’d walked
those tracks. Although it’s only now I know
that this was likely why you’d snip at me.
How flimsy and silly I must have seemed
next to the iron protocol of trains.
I vowed I’d never work that daily rut,
the trains I catch provide me varied views
but when I sleep on them, I dream of you.

unpublished poem, © Luke Wright 2015, used by permission of the author.

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