As every arm and leg got wondrously tangled
In a seemingly endless game of Twister,
And as every dirty-dancing belly and bum
Writhed rhythmically to the railway’s rattle
Or else the operator PA’s hypnotic warble,
Quietly and amusedly, I sat agaze at
This trainload of deadpans contending
For the bleariest eyes and dreariest grimace—
As if any crinkling lips or crow’s feet among
Such faceless drowning in this sea of faces
Should belong to some wayward Jonah,
Destined to be thrown overboard for good—
Except for the smugly six-foot-two, reaping
Our canopy air with a snugly lot of headroom left
While sheltering the sardined with sweltering arms.
Throughout the unhappy chase for the happy light
At some end of our neverending tunnel—when
No eyes could see the locales above ground
Any more than an inch of elbow room around—
I wondered what I had done to deserve my seat
And to leave most of my neighbours standing,
And for what reason the rich were spared
Our daily ordeal by their chauffeured limousines.
At a nameless station where another crowd
Was flushed out by yet another wave of fresh,
Worn-out faces, a little girl, aged five or six,
Wobbled up to me in her pink leather shoes,
Her watery eyes pleading for a place to sit.
I shut my eyes and pretended to sleep, and
Turned my ears to the engine’s gentle humming
Instead of her mummy’s quiet sigh of dismay.
Secretly, I smirked at my triumphant reasons:
For what would I have gained if I gave up my seat,
And what loss had I suffered by withholding it?
I drafted this poem aboard a riskily overcrowded bus, where I stood through my journey, but adapted the scenario for a seated metro passenger’s POV instead. I intended this free verse to assume a mild structure verging on a blank verse’s, but without being balled and chained to the latter’s fixed metre (nor many awkward enjambments); I found this approach amazingly liberating to the flow of ideas and words, and I shall try it again some time. As for the poetics, by hyperbolising the mundane and normalising the bizarre, the creation of the delusional narrative, in my opinion, is fairly successful. I in particular enjoy the rampantly utilised semantic and dramatic contradictions, since they’ve imbued the poem with a style quite satisfyingly distinctive. The message is candid without pretence (well, at least, by unpretending it). I’m pleased.
Photo Courtesy: expats.hk