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Love and Money

by Mickey 

Posted: 21 November 2017
Word Count: 191
Summary: These are my latest two written last week

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End of the Line
(“It was never about the money”)
It wasn’t until the dispute
had been resolved
that they found him.
Sat in his customary corner seat
of the third carriage,
his eyes closed in perpetual sleep
and stubble on his chin,
with last year’s crossword
half completed on his lap.
He’d been sat in the sidings
since the strike had begun
and all through the months
of negotiation
no one from the rail company
or the union
had noticed he was there.
Once, the guard would have found him,
but it’s driver only now.

Door de L’amour
Love is that plate glass door
that you didn’t see coming
until it hit you in the face.
You didn’t realise it was there
because all you’d known till then
had been the revolving doors
of one-night stands of
in, spin, and out again.
Or older relationships
left slightly ajar
because no one had
closed them properly.
The semi confinement
of the half stable door
and the evasiveness
of the sliding pair
didn’t prepare you for this,
the bloody nose
and broken heart
of that plate glass
slammed in your face

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Comments by other Members

James Graham at 21:11 on 22 November 2017  Report this post
‘End of the Line’ - Mike, is this a true story? If so, it’s shocking. A dead man left on a train in the sidings because there had been no guard to check that everything was OK at the end of a journey? Even if it’s fictional it’s credible, something that could easily happen. It makes me angry – they should get hold of the tax money owed by Apple, Starbucks, the Duchy of Lancaster, etc etc and use it to save the Health Service – and pay train guards. Sorry, I tend to go on about this just now – I’ll do a proper comment on both of these poems soon.

Mickey at 21:51 on 22 November 2017  Report this post
Hi James

Sorry.  No, it's not a true story, just a pointed comment on the dispute between Southern Rail and ASLEF that has been going on since April 2016.  You wouldn’t have heard about it outside the south-east I suppose, but it has been misery getting into and out of London for the last year and a half, and has been a subject of utmost concern to MPs in this neck of the woods.  Southern Rail want to implement DOO (Driver Only Operation) but ASLEF have been claiming to be only concerned about passenger safety (and the future of their train guard members of course).
In the event, they have just 'reluctantly' agreed to a 28% pay rise taking their potential earnings to £75K, although “It was never about the money”.  Not sure if the misery for passengers is over yet though, because the RMT train drivers’ union are calling them 'scabs' and are continuing with their action.  The situation is complicated by the franchising arrangement between Southern Rail and the government which means that they can't just be stripped of the operation of the Southern Region trains as the travelling public was calling for.
ASLEF originally had the public on their side but, over the intervening eighteen months of strikes and rail disruption, have since lost that support.  The point of this poem was to point out the misery that the bully-boy tactics of the union and the utter intransigence of Southern Rail has inflicted on the travelling public.  Many innocent customers have lost their jobs and livelihoods, have had their marriages suffer, and even lost their homes while all this has been going on.  I know personally of a bloke in Brighton who, because he couldn't get into work, lost his job and had to sell the home he had lived in for ten years.
My poem was intended as an exaggerated comment on the whole sad affair

James Graham at 21:21 on 23 November 2017  Report this post
Hi Mike – Yes, I did hear the news about the driver-only dispute and the disruption, though not about the effect it has had on families and people’s jobs. It’s a bad situation. The last time I travelled by train it was Scotrail, which is just about as bad as Southern. The train from Inverness to Glasgow ground to a halt at Stirling and we had to wait nearly an hour for a bus replacement ‘service’. However, at least there was a (nice, female) guard who went along the train explaining and apologising. I agree with anyone who says DOO is wrong.
As to the poem, it’s as I said: even if it’s a made-up story it’s credible. So much so it could be a TV news item. Indeed, I’ve taken the liberty of formatting it as one – but there’s another reason for doing this, as I’ll explain. The news presenter, Jane Hill or whoever, introduces the item then brings in a reporter on the spot, who says:
‘It wasn’t until the dispute  had been resolved that they found him. Sat in his customary corner seat of the third carriage, his eyes closed in perpetual sleep and stubble on his chin, with last year’s crossword half completed on his lap. He’d been sat in the sidings since the strike had begun, and all through the months of negotiation no one from the rail company, or the union, had noticed he was there. Once, the guard would have found him, but it’s driver only now. Back to you in the studio.’

I don’t know if you see any value in this, but I think I do. First, the credibility of your idea is already pretty clear from the poem, but imagining it as a news item just underlines that. Second, it prompts the question: is your poem just a piece of chopped-up prose? Would it be just as well to write it out as a prose paragraph? The answer to that is No. There’s not much poetic language in it. It’s quite plain. It’s basically the language of prose. But dividing it up into lines of verse makes a difference: it means that whatever each line says gains that little bit more emphasis, more importance. ‘The third carriage’ – we pause to reflect that he was very much a creature of habit, and that it’s quite endearing. ‘All through the months’ – yes, months of negotiation. Of course we pick that up from the prose, but in verse there’s a momentary pause to let ‘months’ sink in just a little more. Almost every line is like that. So I wouldn’t call this a great poem, but it’s a very effective piece of polemic verse.

‘Door de l’Amour’ does have poetic language, well handled too. It’s an extended metaphor: love is a door. In its various manifestations love is different kinds of door. Each variation is witty and clever: the revolving doors  - that’s often said about politicians who effortlessly segue from ministerial post to company director and back again, but this is a new connotation; the doors that should have been closed but are never quite – ‘We can still be friends’; the ‘half stable door’ – I think I know what you mean by that; the ‘evasive’ sliding doors. Altogether you’ve made the most of this metaphor, and it’s cleverly done.

A couple of points. The only doors I’m not quite sure about are the sliding doors. Do you mean a relationship in which neither of the two is quite sure what their feelings are? Something like that?

And the title. I don’t think your mixture of English and French works very well. ‘Door’ and ‘l’amour’ rhyme, but putting the two together is a bit strained. How about simply ‘Love is a Door’? Any reader looking at that title thinks, ‘What do you mean?’ and reads the poem to find out. (They’re not disappointed.)

It would be intereesting to have your feedback on this.


Mickey at 11:37 on 24 November 2017  Report this post
Hi James
Thank you as always for your thoughts.  It’s surprising how genuinely ‘newsy’ the piece sounds written as prose.  I don’t think that I had intentionally wrote it to be anything other than a (slightly) barbed poem though.
I think any sane commuter would prefer the continuation of guards on trains, but I am surprised that you hadn’t heard of the devastating impact the dispute was having on the travelling public.  Every night on the local early evening news there were reports of people not being able to get to their places of work or arriving hours late.  Some had understanding employers, but there were several reports of people either losing their jobs or deciding to find alternative employment.  Many people hadn’t seen their children (awake) for months as there were limited train services running for their return journeys in the evening.
I can’t exactly remember the background to all this but many people in the south were calling for Southern rail to be stripped of its franchise (its performance is absolutely abysmal at the best of times).  However, I believe that the government were paid by Southern as part of the deal and were therefore kind of complicit in the affair, although that was never highlighted.
In view of the incredible annual season ticket costs, I always thought that someone (Southern Rail or the government) should have been made to compensate financially.  I’m sure that would have concentrated minds!
As for the doors poem, the reference to the ‘semi confinement’ of a half stable door was meant to imply an open relationship with only little commitment, whereas the ‘evasiveness’ of a sliding pair was intended to describe a casual relationship where both parties are ‘slippery’ and probably involved in simultaneous, equally casual, relationships at the same time.  Thank you for your opinion regarding the title, but I think I prefer to keep it as it is.

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