Three blokes on the over-crowded train
are teasing the woman in the sober coat
who’s taken the fourth seat at their table.
When it’s tickets please they grin
and stack their pile of lager cans in front of her.
She should not be on this train,
power lines are down,
she’s been re-routed.
They shouldn’t be on this train.
They should be in their transit
halfway up the motorway,
but their full load of booze and ciggies from the Carrefour
weighed heavy on the axles.
The chassé didn’t sit right.
They tried for personal use and family party,
that didn’t sit right either.
So Customs took the lot. The van an’ all.
We thought we’d be all right this time.
This time? They swap a look
part sheepish part bravado, we did it once before,
six weeks back, we thought we’d double our redundancy
and lightning doesn’t strike... not twice.
This time they’d used the Christmas money.
She wonders how she looks to them
leather briefcase, city clothes.
They’re hoodied, baseball capped,
the sort of men you might call ‘lads’
who HMC at Folkestone would call ‘chancers’.
You daft sods, you bloody stupid sods
their wives will howl when they get home.
And there’ll be hell to pay. The last steel works has gone,
the furnaces stand cold. Trade hasn’t cut it for these three.
They joke about Lord Sugar – we were giving it a go,
we fancied wheeler dealin’ but...
They leave one stop before the city. She wishes them good luck,
they’ll need it. Light from the platform
spills on debris by the line and wreckage from the winter weather.
Jan Dean is mainly known as a children’s poet. www.jandean.co.uk. Her poems for adults have been published in Heavenly Bodies (Beautiful Dragons), Double Bill (Red Squirrel), The Austen/Bronte/
Shakespeare Project (Like This Press), The Robin Hood Book (Caparison), Fat Damsel, Ground and New Boots and Pantisocracies. She is from the NW living in the SW. She is a Forward Arts NPD Children’s Poetry Ambassador and works as a poet-in-schools.
thistles stretch their prickly arms afar