Dalston Incident

This poem comes from the anthology From sleep-dark tower blocks. This was published by Hackney Library Services in 1976 and was a collection of poems from the 1974 and 1975 Hackney Poetry Competitions.

Dalston Incident

“If anybody is in a hurry, they want to catch a bus…”
said the guard on the train.
Some person had spread their body across the track,
messing up the timetable.

Death is like that;
it happens when no-one is looking;
creeps up and transmutes a person
into meat and so much
inconvenient mush.

No-one saw it;
the most important happening in his life!
No cameras zoomed in,
no blood squirted, curving through the air.
It was graceless, under-rehearsed,
and untimetabled,
emptying bag of humanity,
bruised beyond recognition.

Maybe he had decided upon the futility
of catching this train for the 26,327th time;
perhaps he was protesting against
the 6.39 from Dalston
being late yet again.

The train was late because somebody
threw himself in front of it—-
somebody threw himself in front of the train
because it was late.

Which came first,
the timetable or the train?

Most likely he was hurrying home
to happiness and
a fresh-young-bridegroom’s-Utopia
and was given
a slight twinge of death –
British Rail Division.

Brian Abbott


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