‘At night on the station platform . . .’

By Roy Fisher b. 1930 Roy Fisher
At night on the station platform, near a pile of baskets, a couple em-
braced, pressed close together and swaying a little. It was hard to
see where the girl’s feet and legs were. The suspicion this aroused
soon caused her hands, apparently joined behind her lover’s back,
to become a small brown paper parcel under the arm of a stout en-
gine-driver who leaned, probably drunk, against the baskets, his
cap so far forward as almost to conceal his face. I could not banish
the thought that what I had first seen was in fact his own androgy-
nous fantasy, the self-sufficient core of his stupor. Such a romantic
thing, so tender, for him to contain. He looked more comic and
complaisant than the couple had done, and more likely to fall heav-
ily to the floor.
 
A café with a frosted glass door through which much light is dif-
fused. A tall young girl comes out and stands in front of it, her face
and figure quite obscured by this milky radiance.
 
She treads out onto a lopsided ochre panel of lit pavement before
the doorway and becomes visible as a coloured shape, moving
sharply. A wrap of honey and ginger, a flared saffron skirt, grey-
white shoes. She goes off past the Masonic Temple with a young
man: he is pale, with dark hair and a shrunken, earnest face. You
could imagine him a size larger. Just for a moment, as it happens,
there is no one else in the street at all. Their significance escapes rap-
idly like a scent, before the footsteps vanish among the car engines.
 
 
A man in the police court. He looked dapper and poker-faced, his
arms straight, the long fingers just touching the hem of his checked
jacket. Four days after being released from the prison where he had
served two years for theft he had been discovered at midnight cling-
ing like a tree-shrew to the bars of a glass factory-roof. He made no
attempt to explain his presence there; the luminous nerves that
made him fly up to it were not visible in daylight, and the police
seemed hardly able to believe this was the creature they had brought
down in the darkness.
 
 
In this city the governing authority is limited and mean: so limited
that it can do no more than preserve a superficial order. It supplies
fuel, water and power. It removes a fair proportion of the refuse,
cleans the streets after a fashion, and discourages fighting. With
these things, and a few more of the same sort, it is content. This
could never be a capital city for all its size. There is no mind in it, no
regard. The sensitive, the tasteful, the fashionable, the intolerant
and powerful, have not moved through it as they have moved
through London, evaluating it, altering it deliberately, setting in
motion wars of feeling about it. Most of it has never been seen.
 
 
In an afternoon of dazzling sunlight in the thronged streets, I saw
at first no individuals but a composite monster, its unfeeling sur-
faces matted with dust: a mass of necks, limbs without extremities,
trunks without heads; unformed stirrings and shovings spilling
across the streets it had managed to get itself provided with.
 
Later, as the air cooled, flowing loosely about the buildings that
stood starkly among the declining rays, the creature began to divide
and multiply. At crossings I could see people made of straws, rags,
cartons, the stuffing of burst cushions, kitchen refuse. Outside the
Grand Hotel, a long-boned carrot-haired girl with glasses, loping
along, and with strips of bright colour, rich, silky green and blue,
in her soft clothes. For a person made of such scraps she was beau-
tiful.
 
Faint blue light dropping down through the sparse leaves of the
plane trees in the churchyard opposite after sundown, cooling and
shaping heads, awakening eyes.

Roy Fisher, “‘At night on the station platform . . .’” from Selected Poems, published by Flood Editions. Copyright © 2010 by Roy Fisher. Reprinted by permission of Bloodaxe Books Ltd. (Great Britain).

Source: Selected Poems (Flood Editions, 2010)

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Poet Roy Fisher b. 1930

POET’S REGION England

Subjects Social Commentaries, Cities & Urban Life

Poetic Terms Prose Poem

Biography

British poet and jazz musician Roy Fisher was raised in Birmingham, England, and educated at Birmingham University. Describing Fisher’s exploratory, Modernist-influenced poetic style in a review of his Selected Poems for Poetry, poet Daisy Fried noted: “Sometimes prose, sometimes lineated, they are dense except when they aren’t, restless except when still, improvisational in feel inside a kind of nonce formal rigor.” Fisher . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Social Commentaries, Cities & Urban Life

POET’S REGION England

Poetic Terms Prose Poem

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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