Copyright 2015, S Hartwell

Reflections on a modern age


(Or "How he Carried the Package from A to B")
Sarah Hartwell, 2015

(A short excerpt from an epic poem detailing the rise of a cycle courier from his first bike with stabiliser wheels to final ride in pursuit of a personal best while delivering a small packet from a solicitors office to an estate agent.)

Nary a signal did he make as he shot across the road,
But made the council lorry brake and nearly shed its load,
Then to the crossing set his sights, his aim now straight and true,
No matter the colour of the lights, the cyclist must go through!
Then to the busy roundabout, of courage a daily test,
The unsignalled cyclist shot right out, en route to a personal best.
A white van slid to a sideways halt and a hatchback hit its side,
And all the speeding cyclist's fault on his record-breaking ride.

Ten precious seconds he had gained, and to save another fraction,
Without warning he switched lanes and prompted evasive action
From the S.U.V. that occupied the lane the cyclist sought,
Or else his epic cycle ride would have ended there, cut short.
Across two lanes of traffic then, oncoming headlights flashed,
But he ignored the sound of horns as he made that final dash.
With only a single junction left, he was running out of luck
Thus ended his quest for a personal best beneath a ten tonne truck.

(With apologies to Walter de la Mare's "The Listeners")
Sarah Hartwell, 2015

'Is anybody there?' said the traveller
Knocking on the streetlit door,
With his car on the pavement, parked illegal,
(Not that they checked any more),
Its tyres crushing the dandelions -
For the forest ferns had fled,
And only the weed-cracked tarmacadam,
Stood in its place instead.
A pigeon flew up out of the gutter
And a scrawny street-cat fled
So he knocked upon the door a second time
'Is anybody there?' he said.
No-one opened the door to the traveller,
And no voice called back from within,
The only sound came from loose guttering
That rattled in the lonely wind,
But only a host of phantom listeners
That dwelt in the old house then,
Midst old newspapers and cobwebs,
And debris from the world of men,
Stood thronging the amber pools of streetlights
That fell through the dust and grime
Of the unwashed webby windows
Of a house weighed down by time.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
Their stillness answering his cry,
As his mobile bleeped with some message
And the vibrations of his own voice died.
He suddenly rapped upon the door a third time
And through the broken letter flap bawled
‘Tell them I came, and no one answered,
That I kept my word,’ he called.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
Though every word he spoke
Fell echoing through the shell of that still house
And eddied its dust like smoke:
Ay, they heard his key in the ignition,
As they were left to once more dream alone
In their now-neglected suburb,
When the traveller's car was gone.


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