Pallbearers

Original Text: 
Matthew Tierney, Full speed through the morning dark (Toronto: Wolsak and Wynn, 2004): 36-37. PS 8589 .I464 F84 2004 Robarts Library
1Something is wrong the train hasn't
2moved in 20 minutes. Commuters run
3off the escalators claim the remaining
4spaces and if this were a boat
5we'd sink. I'm buried to my neck
6in Japanese my head rising clear
7the first to go in a sniper attack.
8Worse yet I feel a sneeze coming
9and can't get my hands free.
10The chime sounds at long last
11the train a train again and departing.
12All flirts are out of luck Mormons
13too there's no room for eye contact
14even a charitable thought. Everyone
15breathes shallow and a pall settles.
16The train rolls into the station
17a little embarrassed inches towards its
18mark pauses a four-count before
19activating its doors. Nobody exits
20passengers keeping their shape like
22the platform would've been better off
23boozing at the bar a few more hours.
24Something always gives at midnight.
25An old man in a three-piece suit throws
26an elbow into the wall of people and
27drives with his shoulder to roll in
28backwards. Nice move but hey ref
29where's the call? Everybody squeezes on
30somehow the doors close and we launch
31towards urban myth or at least the land
32of bonus questions. The next station
33is an artery and if nothing else
34will demonstrate the give and take
35of the heart. Those who haven't heard
36about tonight's two track suicides must
37suspect anyway snow and death the only
38things that ever hamstring this city's
39transit system. It's difficult to give proper
40pause knowing the victims' families
41reimburse Japan Railway for each minute
42of lost time. Busier lines exact higher
43compensation. The rest of us are still
44paying customers the train makes
45all regular stops open its doors
46on cue. The outpouring is cathartic
47old and young rich and poor
48knocked about like clichés. An arm's length
49away someone's grandmother subsists in
50a state of continuous fall kerchiefed head
51no higher than my waist. A student caught
52in the surge turns and claws back
53onto the car as though climbing
54the drowned to reach the surface.
55I single him out for my one prayer
56not the dead or the dead's loved ones
57but this boy whose tragedy is simple.
58He wants to go home.

Notes

21] salarymen: Japanese white-collar businessmen working on a salary generally paid by a corporation. Back to Line
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
2011
Rhyme: 
Form: 
Special Copyright: 

Copyright © Matthew Tierney and used by permission of the poet. Authorization to republish this poem must be obtained from him in writing.