Luke Whitington: ‘Petals on a wet, black bough’

Petals on a wet, black bough
(With apologies to Ezra Pound)

Along the platform
Of the Gare de Lyon
Wheezing pauses
People’s faces, lives passing on their way

Doors glide open
And then whoosh closed
Pale faces float, bobbing by
In fish-tank windows
A passage of swimming faces
No eyes make contact
Perhaps someone, but one glance only

And the train shudders, shunting off
Steel rotation reaching for a rhythm
A crisp, knifing lullaby then a long low hum
The poet (Ezra Pound) wrote; “In the Metro
[Faces] petals on a wet black bough”—

I think about it in the gathering hum
On friends’ missing lives
Eyes and smiles that have passed
Faces, expressions on the way to somewhere else
Minds engaged in happier or darker moments
Faces expectant, shining with hope or dulled by fear;
Can no one be waiting?—Still standing there
Steadfast—in the wind and rain, at the end?

Or is a lover waiting, in raining sunshine
A shining illusion; a perfect smile with divided affections?
Oh such pale faces drifting on to wherever
To whatever will be an ending?
Human petals drifting in hope

Fear or even floating in carelessness—
Petals blowing, blown onward to other moments
Petals remembered or even forgotten—
The bough is gone, the old tree brought down
The train has gone also, a shadow absent from the horizon.

Luke Whitington

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