The old woman told me
Age assumed, for her mouth pressed
The words together like embrace.
Today people keep them typed
- And spaced
She would speak, then smile, then speak again
I look for eyes as if they’re dead.
Then curled her legs and slowly sighed
And took cold tea on the broken train
Still going of course, as everything does
But the morning was sold, and nobody spoke.
Forcing looking up into something held
Scrolling strangers rather than life in the next seat
Where the old woman turned and said
Why I gave up success so I could see the sea…
A screen flickered in the aisle (a reminder of what was to come)
It was corporate, we lived for time, she said
And now I’m seen as its end, and a sloping mind
You know why a clock has hands; they are sticks for the drum.
There was no question, stopping in London at 5 am
Though ‘stopping’ only expression, as everyone swamped
Through that single aisle and into the station
Everyone busy, nobody spoke.
Beside the old times she addressed like a caution
The streets were still darkened, I offered my coat
In the form of an arm which is she took like a service
Hearing the opening of darkness on Portobello Road
No voices, but the coughs and the ticking
Of unfolding tables, those cold wooden chests
Thrusts forwards, too early to be ‘market’, they saw us
Presumed, bound by blood, or a trouble, a threat.
Yet holding the arm, in the street once called a stranger
I saw her to the door of the corner shop
The metal cold in my pocket but the story beyond it
To see the sea, was to see – to be looking up.