On Platforms and in Plate-Glass Waiting Rooms

By Leontia Flynn


On platforms and in plate-glass
waiting rooms, people are pressing
towards the sliding doors.
The rails stretch out

before them into the future.
Everything streams
from the station’s loaded bow.
It is early morning in late August [brittle light].

A news banner on the wall-mounted TV
is scrolling, without surcease,
from left to right
like the station names,

vivid in LED,
on signage boards
over the siding’s seats.
Then: footbridge. Guardrail. Cable. Tower.

Then: house-back. Town-edge. Margin. Hinterland.
Everything streams
away and into the future –
with the train car held

to its horizontal shaft,
and the sky unspooling
beside the aisle’s ribbon –
away from the moment

towards the border
over the boonies
from the mind’s
sprung trap

a bolt.


O hinterland
O thresholds of various sorts
O border guards at personal history’s checkpoints
O declarations:
Oh I’m so very sad…

This morning when a really big plume
of magnolia cumulo
nimbus rolled
in the pre-dawn hours
over the empty house

as I leaned
out the window –
its timeline and sidebar
passing above the trees
with my credit, data, genome and algorithm.

With my passcode, thumbprint, content and preferences –
softly, down
the rosary of my days,
I sang my joyful mysteries
and my sorrowful mysteries.


On platforms and in interior
waiting rooms, women press softly
towards the sliding doors.
Their journeys stretch

before them to the border.
One border is The Loved One.
Another, middle age.
The border

in this poem
for my purpose,
is you.

Summer is fading.
A light circling breeze
stirs some litter by the verge.
And I take my dream

and carry it over the threshold,
through the severed connections,
the roads
let fall to misuse,

with my body held
on the engine of my mind
as rolling stock
holds to deviant Irish gauge.

As the superego holds fast to the id.
As a poem would carry the self far beyond the self.
or as people were carried
on the drive of The Railway Age,

piston-charged, steam-powered,
propulsive and intent,
thundering across
a continent and era

in half-crazed pursuit
of 'progress'
and 'civilisation.'


Directed by Matthew Thompson.

From Taking Liberties by Leontia Flynn published by Jonathan Cape. Copyright © Leontia Flynn, 2023. Reprinted by permission of The Random House Group Limited.