by Stuart Rawlinson
The morning commute begins on the hour
As nighttime and daylight adjoin in friction.
Buses interrupt as I squint for my number;
Balanced and hovering on the kerb’s edge
In front of staring commuters like a set
Of unglazed statuettes, wide-eyed and empty.
The bus pulls up and as always not empty:
Bursting at both ends like an overfilled hour-
Glass. Doors open and close, passengers set
To go, but eyeing each other with palpable friction.
With each turn and jerk the people edge
Back to equilibrium. Without name, without number,
In this cattle train – turn down, be number,
Desensitise, pour hope out empty;
Ignore the jostles or be pushed over the edge.
On the 113, seconds like minutes, minutes like hours,
More bodies like atoms increase the friction
And the bus starts to sweat – windows are set
With droplets of water. The bus’ course set
For the pale white offices, where number-
Less hordes sit in cubicles constricted,
For work that is meaningless and empty.
Punch-in and wait frustrated for the punch-out hour:
No wonder so many end up on the ledge.
There’s nothing else to do as the bus starts to edge
Forward but observe the young workers who sit
Without moving for old standers, who for hours,
Incalculable hours, have accepted they’re no longer number
One in this city of self, of missing deeds and empty
Words – an entire people in a constant state of friction.
No-one speaks on board, just project a silent friction.
Nearing my stop, I balance on the step’s edge –
The bus shudders stop; compressed air empties;
Alighters and boarders – on your marks, get set…
Suddenly the doors open and the number
Mix violently – this space is mine, mine, not ‘ours’.
Every day, every hour, numberless people set
In a position of permanent friction.
Edging forwards towards empty lives.
Deep in derelict
back and forth
as sharp as anywhere
a crooked frieze
plaster intact if
a little shabby
stab across the gap
between the palm
leaves and pastel
walls. Geckos crawl
crouches, bent but
in the making
in the turning
petals to the sun
The ground, though frozen
vibrates at a frequency
hard to discern, to tune in to
you hold your breath
for the harmonic, synchronous
on the field’s longing tongue
drawn in a wave by the
swallows’ sky sweeps
each season in microcosm
rises and sleeps
the song plays on
are the ones
like a garden
city in a
bristles at the
thought of its
moulded and fired
keep it inside
About the Author:
Stuart Rawlinson is a Brisbane, Australia-based writer, focusing on poetry and currently writing his debut novel. He released his first poetry collection in 2015: Encyclopaedia of Trees is a 19-poem collection on a theme of time and memory and each poem accompanies a piece of original music. He is also a regular contributor to Project 366, a collaboration between poets and artists. Stuart’s website and blog is at stuartrawlinson.com.