Friday, 30 April 2010


Lay your sleeping head the other
way, you're not my love

My seat-neighbour is sleeping.
Jiggety-jig at the traffic lights,
weeeeee at the corner -
not a good driver today,
but he's still sleeping.
He's well to the far side of sixty,
in a smart suit and everything,
with a briefcase, the mega-brick kind,
resting on his lap and his hands,
his very clean, white hands,
folded on top.
Where's he going, I wonder, it's a long

way to Penge, an hour or more.
Sunglasses, can't see his eyes,
but they're shut, presumably.
An enigmatic figure!
Weeeeee, another corner. We collide
in the seat, but he's still sleeping,
still and rather stiff. It's unnerving,
in fact: what if... not asleep, but dead?
- on the bus, next to me, dead?
No, no, surely, he's warm, very warm
where we touch. How long does
it take for a corpse to go cold?
On the next bend, I shall nudge him,
hard this time, see if he moves.
Weeeeee.... and nothing. Nothing!
Oh my god, is he breathing?
Watch carefully, narrow my eyes.
Yes, I think so, breathing,
I think so. Here's another bend, and lean
with all my weight and jiggle
(I hope no one's watching me).
Ah, movement! What a relief!
Yes. Sighing, refolding his hands and
the next time I look
he is sleeping again, sleeps
through Elephant, East Street,
Walworth and Camberwell,
Denmark Hill and Goose Green and
up the long rise of Lordship Lane.
When I get off he's sleeping still,
sleeping all the way to Penge
(I hope that's where he wants to go)
- south-east London lullaby.


Dale said...


For some reason totally obscure to me, this reminds me of Hart Crane.

alembic said...

Whew... you had me in suspense there, but also feeling the steady jiggety-jig of the ride.

Fire Bird said...

love this! I was there!

leslee said...

This is great, Jean.