October 2019

October 13, 2019

I scan the faces on the train.
Did she vote Leave? Was he Remain?
But each one’s in a private world,
And gives no hint what thoughts are curled
And dreaming darkly in their brains.
British people packed in trains
Will by instinct always take
Some pains to make their masks opaque.
That grumpy-looking man for sure
Seems a Leaver caricature,
Whilst she there with the hardback book
Has maybe a Remainer look.
Or maybe doesn’t – I can not
Do more than guess who voted what.
Nor can I know what made them choose,
And how far they’re impelled by views
Perhaps known to themselves alone
And incoherent as my own.

Britons are private people; we
Rarely go shouting publicly.
Even where people think they’ve cause
For grim impatience with the laws
And lawmakers, the towns are quiet,
Feelings don’t find vent in riot.
There may be rude ill-tempered tweets,
But no disturbance on the streets.
In Paris water cannons drench
Protesters passionately French
Who in their yellow vests have stormed
With grievances quite vaguely-formed
(It seems to me) that find their vent
In actions loud and violent.
Here no uprisings, just a tense
Feeling of impermanence.
A few may champ impatiently
For when the nation will be free,
While others seethe: ‘We should not go!’,
But many shun the news, won’t know,
Preferring to live in a haze,
And many fear we’re in the days
Before catastrophe arrives
To cost us livelihoods and lives.
Of nothing much can we be sure,
We don’t know how long we’ll endure
Politicians with divided aims
Who plot, manoeuvre and play games,
And can’t combine for a conclusion
But rather multiply confusion.

As I think this, the train proceeds
Delayed, along the line to Leeds,
Past Dewsbury, that broken town,
Left behind, depressed, run down.
A place whose hopes seem minimal,
Though its Victorian Town Hall
Shows once its confidence ran high;
But History has passed it by,
And History will rarely care
For losers, or for places where
Unwise decisions have been made.
(Or worse, where reckless games are played).
This month three years of inconclusive
Search for brilliant but elusive
Solutions that might not exist
Come to a crisis. If we’ve missed
The chance, well then, the nation’s lost,
And future years will pay the cost.
And we’ll waste time allotting blame,
And nothing’s going to be the same.

George Simmers

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