The Girl on the Jubilee Line

It’s too early on the Jubilee line

and too many stations until mine.

The high voltage jolt of caffeine

from two hours ago

has dissipated like

sunburnt mist.


A girl with caramel for skin sits opposite

losing her fight with wakefulness.

Eyes melt, head wavers

Like harvest-ready corn in the gentlest of breezes.

With hair corralled by an Alice Band

she gives herself to the gods of sleep.


I’m dozing too by now, 

Subconsciously counting stops

instead of sheep when a savage,

panicking shudder jerks us awake.

The first thing we see

is the depth of each other’s eyes.


Her eyes ache to close again

which they do as

a warm, lazy smile crescents her lips.

We have shared a secret,

intimate as long-time friends

becoming one-time lovers.


Her breathing settles,

keeping rhythm with the universe;

wave in, wave out.

Later at Bond Street,

she scrums a path to the platform,

the last leg, I guess, of her job-bound journey.


An angular, scissor-faced women

with damp bird-nest hair takes the spare seat.

She is all edges, petty stresses, 

fuss and agitation and we do not connect at all.

I start to miss the girl

whose name I will never know.


◄ Advice for Poetry Slammers

A Haiku: Political Correctness Gone Mad ►


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Yvonne Brunton

Sat 26th Jan 2013 19:35

lovely poem . Great contrast in the two womem and in vocabulary used to describe each. ( long vowel sounds/short vowel sounds.Scrums is a great word - never seen it used as a verb before.

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Harry O'Neill

Sat 26th Jan 2013 16:39

Trying to home in to what I said about `scrum`.

I feel that she should have been absorbed in some way out of the dreaminess - instead of fighting her way out through a `scrum`.

(and - by the way - what happened to the `judder`...the `savage panicking shudder`.(imo) also militates too harshly against the dreaminess)

The contrastive astringency of the first four lines of that last stanza made it a very good poem....I look forward to your next.

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Cynthia Buell Thomas

Sat 26th Jan 2013 15:02

Mark, check the typo in 'woman'. I forgot to mention it yesterday.

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Fri 25th Jan 2013 19:10

I enjoyed this. It's a nice smooth easy read with no bumps. Also, one I can identify with, being an ex London commuter. Chance meetings/connections are great food for thought.

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Cynthia Buell Thomas

Fri 25th Jan 2013 16:04

'scrums' is excellent, and does exactly as you intended. I enjoyed this work, highlighting such responsive encounters that have no reason for being except a high antennae sensitivity, a kind of mutual receptivity. Would you consider simply: 'a girl with caramel skin'? It avoids the rhythmic hiccup of 'caramel for skin'.

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Mark Niel

Fri 25th Jan 2013 13:23

Thank you for the comments which I'm finding very useful. Regarding the use of the word "scrums": this poem describes a real encounter and as such I'm trying to be true to the events that happened. When the girl left the train, it was packed and she had to push her way through the pack of commuters at the door. I struggled for the word and eventually settled for "scrum" as I hoped it would add a new, contrasting image to the sleepiness of some of the verses and would again bring the poem back to the reality of the day. It was a forceful, not graceful exit. However, if the word is taking away from the poem, I'd be grateful for suggestions.

How about "she melts through the scrum to the platform"?

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M.C. Newberry

Fri 25th Jan 2013 12:46

Agree with Harry in general, and more specifically with his comment about "scrums".
With the "wave/wave" before...why not "weaves"
(I see her doing that gracefully)?

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Harry O'Neill

Thu 24th Jan 2013 23:00

I like the slow, dreamy, pace of this ...the `judder` the recognition, and then the lapse back into the dreaminess...followed by the contrast of the angular, fidgety, contrastivefinal stanza.

But that `scrums` in the penultimate stanza seems out of kilter with the previous four.

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Mark Niel

Thu 24th Jan 2013 11:46

Thank you Greg. it's always nice to be appreciated by a connoisseur!

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Greg Freeman

Thu 24th Jan 2013 11:39

Brief encounter on the Jubilee Line: I'm a connoisseur of train poems and the hopes and possibilities they offer, and like this a lot, Mark.

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