The Escalator

I’m half way up when the stranger topples.
Her clumsy lack of balance becomes a heavy,

dangerous weight I cannot right. As her body
repels the force of dirty treads, my shoulders

block her petrified bulk. I grip the wide
rubber rail, feel it shudder, her black hair tangles

in my mouth. My other hand gropes her coat;
a very intimate struggle, the abyss behind us

getting deeper all the time. Those on the descent
look embarrassed as they glide down to trains,

until at last, the top, where I lever her upright,
let her go. She walks right into the street

without a thank you. I want to cry and behind me
commuters rise, straight as candles, from the dark.




  1. Wonderful poem. Travelling on escalators is hazaardous but now whenever (and I’m on them nearly every day) I’m travelling I shall think of this poem and photograph. Thank you.

  2. Very much appreciate this poem, its contained emotion – I’m reliving a similar experience where I finished flat on my back at the top of a long, long escalator in Tate Modern. The photograph packed with atmosphere.

  3. That’s an incredible image of the woman just carrying on without any acknowledgment, as if she hadn’t realised that she’d fallen back and you’d been holding her! I would have liked to have seen the escalator from the bottom going up. Another interesting collaboration!

    • Yes, that’s a very strong poem. It was tricky picking the photo. I spent quite a bit of time hanging around taking pictures and avoiding the station staff, so there were quite a few to choose from.

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