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Leaves on the Line

August 3, 2012

It’s a wrap-around dress,
summery, swings illicit as she
walks the grimy platform –
+++++ her legs crackle expectation
+++++ and the red overnight bag
+++++ purrs behind

She sits, flicks messages
and blithely calls him through station hubbub
+++++ (line-side equipment failure
+++++ 12.09 to Edinburgh delayed)

In her stillness, I taste silence
and a sliding note of panic –

her words lost in the dragon whoosh
Euston express, rattling
the sticky air, swirling
oily draughts and lifting
skirt hems

She looks down, pulls
the purple edge of her dress
tight across her static


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  1. In her stillness, I taste silence
    and a sliding note of panic – nice…and this plays well with that last image, static legs, nice….you capture the sights and sounds and a very real situ that is easy to see and get into…well done…

    • Happy to hear that, Brian… was very much based in reality.. with a little poetic licence πŸ™‚

  2. everything and every nuance is fodder for your roaming eye and sure-shot pen

  3. hypercryptical permalink

    Oh just perfect imagery…just perfect.

    Anna :o]

  4. Clever, tight, very well-depicted. K.

  5. Wow. This is incredible—one of my favorites. So sexy yet restrained, wrapped up around the ankles when she’s still.

    I love your opening lines:
    “It’s a wrap-around dress,
    summery, swings illicit as she” … It seems like your describing her dress, but by the end I feel like it’s a covering for safety, a containment device to protect her or other people.

    If leaves are on the line (at stake), what do the leaves represent? I always go spiritual, so Adam and Eve covering themselves first pops into my head. The things we use to hide our private areas, our skin, our sexuality, our nakedness.

    Obviously you also mean that she is leaving on the line/train.

    This is one of my favorite lines: “her legs crackle expectation” … And I also love the next, the purring bag. This could mean different things. I love that your cell phone references are vague enough so as not to date this poem. When she “flicks messages,” certainly she is texting. But ten years ago or ten years in the future, this might mean different things. I also think of nonverbal flirtations and communication. “Blithely calls him” could also mean to call out to someone; it doesn’t have to be a cell phone.

    This is my favorite line: “In her stillness, I taste silence” … And then you go and add this: “and a sliding note of panic,” taking it to a whole new level. This was masterful really. The way you changed my emotions as I was reading, just from one line to the next. Fantastic.

    Silence can be a beautiful thing. But some people cannot handle it. For some, silence is torturous and induces anxiety. There are those who live in constant introspection, but there are others who cannot fathom being alone with oneself for even a moment.

    There are different kinds of silence as well: peaceful, relaxing, meditative versus painful, sorrowful, lonely.

    These two lines (my favorites) also make me wonder if the silence you taste is hers, as if you are studying her, or if the silence you taste is yours. Perhaps you are envious in some way. Perhaps you are forcing yourself to be silent. Perhaps you are constrasting her bubbly demeanor with your own quiet nature. Is the panic attack hers, or is it your own?

    I’m sure this is much more surface level and she is actually just nervous that the train is delayed and she is trapped down there in the grunge and grime. After the panic, suddenly you are describing in detail the surroundings. Perhaps she now pays attention to where she is and the fact that she will be there for a while … “buttoning up” a bit tighter.

    And this—“tight across her static”—along with your clever line break (dangling “legs”), makes me think of static versus dynamic characters in literature. She is flat and unchanging … which leads me to think that although you’ve described her throughout the piece, it is more about you—the real, concealed protagonist who is constantly changing and growing. You are the more interesting woman. And you don’t have to flap your skirts to prove it.

    Certainly, “static” also describes the cell phone connection, the noise of the underground, and her dress clinging to itself. Perhaps you even find her personality to be irritating in its “crackling.”

    I’m sure you are really just people-watching and I’ve made it much more complex than you intend it to be. But I can’t help it. πŸ˜‰

    • Thank you Shawna for your amazing in-depth reading of this narrative. I’m delighted you’ve thought about the narrator and the main female actor and wonder about them both. I wanted there to be a change in the wrap-around dress woman – she is forced to wait, which is painful for her and that is why I set her up as a dynamic presence – I was thinking of an opening shot in a movie. In contrast, the observer is still, but atuned to what is happening – as you say, people-watching.

      This was based on real observations while I was travelling on trains last week. I’d forgotten how grungy it always is and how communications – phones, delays – impact travellers’ lives in quite powerful ways.

      Great to hear your responses to these words and that they give you enough information and emotional flavour to build a satisfactory story – doesn’t have to be exactly what I had in mind – that’s the fun of watching people.

      As for leaves on the line – that’s a specific Brit reference to a particular autumn when numerous trains were delayed due to fallen leaves – a bit of a seasonal commonplace! It caused a lot of derisory mirth in the press.

      Thansk, Shawna – really appreciate the time you take to read and write down your responses.

  6. Becky, I’m in awe. There are so many perfect images in this–the whole poem vibrates with your choice of active verbs.

    I’m going to miss your skilled critiques at FEPC. I hope you’ll continue to do the same when you happen upon my posts!

    • Thanks, Victoria, I really appreciate your comments. Yes FEPC has been a wonderful place to learn and I look forward to reading your work in the future and if you want the crit, I’m happy to leave any ideas that might help… and please feel free to do the same. πŸ™‚

  7. love how you capture her and the hustle bustle around on the train station…you took me right there becky

  8. hedgewitch permalink

    This is very cinematic, in the true cinema verite style–complex and atmospheric, where the tension and mood is palpable visually. A tight and expressive poem, Becky. (Thanks for explaining the leaves–I was thinking of someone who ‘leaves on’ the train line.)

    • Great to hear you say that, Joy.. and your reading of ‘leaves on the line’ is the alternative meaning I was playing with, so works fine even if the specific idea I had in mind isn’t picked up by readers.

      It unfolded in my mind’s eye as a rolling film, so very happy to hear your initial comment.

  9. Love the intrigue of this….

  10. A sexy Spy ?

    006 E

    espionage or relationship trouble?
    conspiracy or lack of intimacy?

    licence to thrill mishmoneykillshby . . .

    i’m hanging my umbrella! πŸ˜€

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