Canto LXXI

It’s just after eleven and each soul
on the Victoria line reads from their phones
or thumbs their way onto the next level

of Angry Birds, when suddenly some loon
begins to shout before the doors slide shut
at some young man who’s just got off the train,

“That’s right, you better get off, fackin’ caaant!
Go play them fackin’ drums in Africa!”
We stay silent, there’s not even a tut,

until a black guy opposite me mutters
“He’s obviously a good friend of John Terry…”
And after stiffled giggles I rejoinder,

“There’s drums in Europe too, apparently”
And like that final scene in Sparticus
when all those faithful men stand up to cry

that it is their name too, other commuters
state other places where they play the drums
like Scotland, South Korea and Croatia,

and after each location named there comes
a louder round of chuckles til the man
that made the racist comment sits and squirms—

and after drum location number ten,
he sullenly whispers “I’ve calmed down now.”
His stop arrives, he shuffles off and then,

the man across from me grins and bellows
in a voice that echoes through the platform’s rafters,
“Be careful mate, there’s drums in Pimlico!”

and the train carries off our ridicule and laughter.


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. peter litton
    Nov 10, 2011 @ 09:49:59

    It’s nine thirty in the morning…to damned early to read poetry of this brilliance and complexity. Like Arnie, “I’ll be back”


    • Niall O'Sullivan
      Nov 10, 2011 @ 10:10:52

      It’s not that complex, just a true story about a racist idiot on a tube train and how the whole carriage dealt with him. 🙂


  2. nattyknitter
    Nov 10, 2011 @ 15:29:02

    And THIS is why London is the worst place and the best place in the world. Oh yeah and the poem is brilliant.


  3. Niall O'Sullivan
    Nov 10, 2011 @ 20:04:04

    Thanks nattyknitter. It’s just a shame that the young man that was initially shouted at didn’t stick around to take part in the pisstaking. He did give the racist a little sideways kick as he got off though.


  4. peter litton
    Nov 11, 2011 @ 00:01:20

    For the first half hour of my waking day everything appears complicated.
    But in truth, this is just a good bit of story telling. I like the idea of garnering ideas on public transport this is a great place to observe people.


  5. Trackback: Stoke Newington Literary Festival 2012 « Sabotage

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