Longlisted Poem 2012

Henry St Leger-Davey

Winchester College, Hampshire

Off to Interview: A Regular Journey by Train

The journey has begun. I try to stare
at printed words I’ll soon need to repeat
but all I hear is the jagged stroking of steel on
steel, with a feral screech’s climax
when a tunnel’s riveted glooms encounter the train.
Some landscapes roll on by. I try to stare
at scenery that someone will no doubt
ask me about, but standard locomotion
shudders through my feet and seat
with echoes of the tremors that will stir
my hand within my pocket deep within the
Room. They’ll notice my quick elbow, ask
Why are you shaking? and send my thoughts coursing
back into the corrugated shades
of memory where TIME TO GO ONSTAGE
glitters like a shameful heirloom, like
the ruby-encrusted skull of a native.

My eyes are fastened shut. I think of pens,
papers, papercuts and wounds, and intercoms
spouting lines of Eliot; a tunnel’s
shadow slides throughout the car before it
falls on me. The bustle of the next stop approaches.
My eyelids escalate. The light revealed
welds my trainers to the glowing carpet
as the rectangular sign stating CLAPHAM JUNCTION
jerks through dark-red pipelines in my optic
nerve, scraping off its cells.

My hands crack their knuckles, and my watch
seems to be pointing out the window,
so I look. There’s only a girl
upon the platform, either clad in a scarf or
blessed with a walk like a swaying scarf.
Skin, tanned and hazy, like the indistinct
glower of strip-lights onstage in a theatre.
With cog-less fluency she turns, blinks and
reminds me of a spectacled and Spanish
model I saw on TV. She walks,
up the steps, my vision left with lingering
blurs of bronze, and something dull like wool.
The carriage hasn’t started moving yet.
My eyes keep looking, out of the glass expecting
something different every time but the
empty platform stays that way and I
exhale, as the focused train’s grey heartbeat
clinks, into motion, once again.
© Henry St Leger-Davey

Project Details

  • Date January 7, 2015
  • Tags 2012 Voyages - Longlisted Poems