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.
I like to watch a smoker –
their claims on dank
public space just to stop
and inhale; their outdoor defiance,
their expelled clouds
There’s something unkempt
about the one on the left.
Her hair, that hoody
she hides inside. Each suck
flashes the bird swooping
on her wrist, as she makes
that smokers bond; shares
secrets with a stranger
for the duration of a burn.
One last drag, then the hiss
in her polystyrene cup.
Stuck down here,
far from any field or moor,
awaiting the tunnel’s promised
light, I lean towards its dark
and spot coarse grass
sprouting in the track.
Not long before the smell
of heather comes,
and my feet seem to sink a little
into soil. Other passengers
do not move, keep their hands
inside stuffy pockets,
don’t react to this underground
tract turning green.
I resist their swarm
to the approaching clatter,
bend down to touch
the bracken at my shins.
They board and doors
slide closed, moss thick
at the platform’s lip.