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by Elsie 

Posted: 23 June 2008
Word Count: 101

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The tube train pops and sucks
like robots kissing
coming into Hounslow station,
the early pale sky tinged coconut ice.

I pick up on the edge of my vision
a low, rolling motion -
tumbleweed, or a rugby tackle,
perhaps a puffer jacket, or a bin bag
caught by the wind on this airless morning,
swallowed by the front of the train,

in slow motion.
There’s silence,
then a single sob
and a scream.

The driver is helped out,
crumples as if he has no bones
and the guard is muttering into his lapel:
We’ve got one under, one under.

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Comments by other Members

V`yonne at 11:57 on 24 June 2008  Report this post
A suicide - I wonder how they do deal with that?

pops and sucks
like robots kissing

and I think that description of the driver in the last stanza is stunning. Also I liked the last line in particular. The uniformed, practised response to tragedy.

In the second stanza these don' t quite seem to me to fit together. tumbleweed is like enough the bin liner but a rugby tackle is such a definite surge forward by comparison, it confused me - the images are contrary.
a low, rolling motion -
tumbleweed, or a rugby tackle,
perhaps a puffer jacket, or a bin bag

Then this follows it up again suggesting an almost involuntary motion:
caught by the wind on this airless morning,
swallowed by the front of the train,

I like it very much. It feels so very final.

Elsie at 12:55 on 24 June 2008  Report this post
Thanks V' yonne. It was soemthing I saw happen when I was a teenager, and weirdly my daugther just had the same experience on her last day of school, and was really distressed by it. I remember a feeling of disbelief, of not being sure what I' d seen, it was a sense of something moving very quickly across the platform, then disappearing.It was hard to take in that it was a person. She must have moved with great determination.

V`yonne at 16:23 on 24 June 2008  Report this post
What a horrible way to die and what a horrible memory...

joanie at 12:50 on 25 June 2008  Report this post
Hi Elsie. This is excellent. I had no idea what was coming! There are some fantastic evocative descriptions in the first stanza. I like the way the tone somehow stays the same despite the horror unfolding. (I felt this in ' Delicate' too.)

It must have been a really horrific experience, for the onlookers too, but you convey the feelings of the driver and guard very well, especially with the simple but effective repetition at the end.


James Graham at 22:21 on 25 June 2008  Report this post
I agree with most of what' s been said. The rugby tackle seemed at first a bit incongruous, but on reflection I don' t think it is. We try to define something we' ve seen fleetingly, and cast about for comparisons, some of which may seem a little absurd. Your list of things that the ' low, rolling motion' looked like in that moment, captures that casting about very vividly - the way the imagination reaches for disparate images to try to pin down something that wasn' t clearly seen at all.

I like the transition between ' front of the train' and the four lines beginning ' in slow motion' . The formal change from longer lines to shorter ones - which are more staccato rhythmically as well - does just what free verse is supposed to do, at its best - it fits the meaning or feeling perfectly. The longer lines come before any realisation of what has happened, the shorter lines bring us to that realisation. The form is right for the transition. Of course, the space, the pause, between 'train' and 'in slow motion' is very telling.

In the last four lines your economy of language is telling too - 'crumples as if he has no bones' is all we need to imagine the driver's shock. We can tell it's probably the first time for him, but perhaps not for the guard. Another excellent, powerful poem.


Elsie at 14:17 on 27 June 2008  Report this post
Thanks, james. Perhaps it' s that the mind reads the movement as an involuntary action, therefore the action of the wind - because no-one would deliberately fall under a train - but also my mind picked up the determination and energy of the movement, as a rugby tackle.

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