On an Afternoon Train from Purley to Victoria, 1955 (1995)
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Hello, she said, and startled me.
Nice day. Nice day I agreed.
I am a Quaker she said and Sunday
I was moved in silence
to speak a poem loudly
for racial brotherhood.
I was thoughtful, then said
what poem came on like that?
One the moment inspired she said.
I was again thoughtful.
Inexplicably I saw
empty city streets lit dimly
in a day’s first hours.
Alongside in darkness
was my father’s big banana field.
Where are you from? she said.
Jamaica I said.
What part of Africa is Jamaica? she said.
Where Ireland is near Lapland I said.
Hard to see why you leave
such sunny country she said.
Snow falls elsewhere I said.
So sincere she was beautiful
as people sat down around us.
Poem © By kind permission of Bloodaxe Books