Lucy Vickery

Station to station

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In Competition No. 3123 you were invited to submit a poem that begins ‘By Waterloo Station I sat down and …’.

Some of you begged, some swore, others slept. But most, in a pleasingly sizable entry, took their lead from weeping Elizabeth Smart. There was a welcome influx of newcomers this week, alongside the familiar names, and the tone ranged from the comic to the poignant.

Honourable mentions go to Paul Freeman, Gloria Brown, Ian Barker, Tim Raikes and Alan Millard. The winners below pocket £30 each and include George Simmers’s natty twist on Matthew Arnold’s friend Arthur Hugh Clough’s ‘Dipsychus’ (‘How Pleasant It Is to Have Money…’).

By Waterloo Station I sat down and prayed

that the 2.10 to Bruton would not be delayed;

it’s beastly at Eastleigh, it’s tangled at Wool,

and lately at Grateley the toilets are full.

The shambles at Hamble’s a blot on the line,

and folks down at Pokesdown have started to whine;

they’re surly at Earley and grumpy at Fleet,

and from Havant they haven’t a standard-class seat.

It’s simple at Whimple: the network’s a hash,

it’s choking at Woking, it’s smoking at Ash;

at Oxshott the clock’s not in time with the trains

which are filthy at Hilsea and squalid by Staines.

At Clandon abandon all hope for the day

for the track’s bent at Bentley and buckled at Sway;

from Wareham to Fareham there’s been a malfunction,

so I’m walking from Dorking to Effingham Junction.

Nick MacKinnon

By Waterloo Station I sat down and reckoned —

‘By’, notice, not ‘in’, ‘on’ or ‘at’:

My timing was perfect, spot-on to the second

(I’ve long been a stickler for that.)

I went through my anorak pockets: a toffee

Appeared, somewhat hirsute with fluff,

Plus a fifty-pence coin; ‘I quite fancy a coffee,

That’s sure to be more than enough.’

I’m one of those fellows who don’t mind a wait,

Within reason, ten minutes or so;

She’d said quite emphatically, ‘Meet me at eight.’

I muttered, ‘She’s not going to show.’

I seethed as I breathed: I’d been chucked, stood up, bounced,

My feelings now bitter and rancorous;

Inside the concourse the Tannoy announced:

‘Welcome to King’s Cross St Pancras.’

Mike Morrison

By Waterloo Station I sat down and glued

My hands to the walls, my eyes to the street;

I was nauseous, noxious and totally nude.

But never for sale like your ailing elite.

The change in your pocket is jingled at will;

The change in your head is too distant to hear.

I’ll stay on this road till you pick up the bill

And see what it costs when our worlds disappear.

By Waterloo Station, I made my insurgency,

Urgent and angry and candid and cold,

Tattooed with the legend ‘Our Climate Emergency’,

For you say you won’t listen and won’t be cajoled.

I am your pipsqueak, grotesque and appalling,

A clown who comes round with a bucket of bile,

A baby who’s proud to be squalling and bawling,

But I will be here for a very long while.

Bill Greenwell

By Waterloo Station I sat down and cried,

Displaying the bitterest grief,

When a smartly dressed woman appeared at my side

And with fervour declared her belief

That suffering frequently serves to redeem,

And may generate truly great art.

A rascally poet named George, it would seem

Had wantonly broken her heart

Yet so spurred ambition that she had composed

A work that won widespread acclaim.

Pretending an interest in verse, I proposed

To my comforter (Liz was her name)

We repair to a boozer that stayed open late,

But fearing it sounded mundane

I disguised the true cause of my lachrymose state:

I had missed the last Basingstoke train.

Hugh King

At Waterloo Station I sat down and preached

That climate change targets can only be reached

If you ordinary people are each and all fired

By the values for which I’m so rightly admired.

How pleasant it is to have virtue, heigh ho!

How pleasant it is to have virtue!

We’ve blocked crucial roads and caused chaos on rail,

Which has greatly disgruntled the male, pale and stale,

So we lecture them fiercely — they must take the pledge

To exist on a diet of sermons and veg.

How uplifting it feels to have virtue, heigh ho!

How pleasant it is to have virtue!

Some carpers have snarked that I came here by jet

(It was Amal’s and George’s) but that’s been offset,

By planting fine trees to replenish the Earth

And to advertise my quite incredible worth,

For I can afford to have virtue, heigh ho.

How pleasant it is to have virtue!

George Simmers

No. 3126: what’s in a name

In Holy Tango of Literature, the puzzle writer and editor Francis Heaney rearranged the letters of the names of poets (e.g., T.S. Eliot: ‘toilets’), then wrote poems of that title in the style of the poet concerned. You are invited to do the same with the poet of your choice. Email entries of up to 16 lines to by midday on 20 November.

The closing date for Competition No. 3125 is 13 November, not 20 November as was incorrectly stated last week.