I board the bus en route to London
Pause on the platform, sense the glares
School-kid out of class on a weekday
Risk my lungs and climb the stairs

“Hold tight please!” the clippie sings
Slaps the wire - plays two sharp dings!

I rise above the shoppers’ chatter
As driver lurches into gear
No “Mrs Next-door’s had another!”
It’s dark, conspiring mutter here

Sullen heads and hooded eyes
Stubbled chins and crusted lips
Donkey-coated stench of sweat
Fug of smoke and smell of chips

Hasty survey – clock the nutters -
Calculations all complete
Shuffle across against the window
Dodge the chewing-gummed-up seat

I clutch my sweaty two and tenpence
Counted from palm to palm to check
Uneasily a dozen times
‘Til the clippie erupts from the lower deck

I proffer my pass to prove my youth
And school-stamped note as further proof
I’m allowed out on the streets, it reckons
Hospital appointment beckons

“De blessed ting!” the clippie wails
As pink stripe heralds new roll needed
“It always do dis when I’s bizzy!”
Her patois complaint goes unheeded

I take my pink-lined, hand-turned ticket
Attempt a smile with lips closed tight
Disguising orthodontic wiring
Not a very pretty sight

As clippie moves on down the bus
To check the fares she might have missed
I set to practice capital skill:
The safety of the solipsist

Folded in upon myself
Form the ticket I am holding
Artfully turn the paper’s edge
Security blanket folding

Intent on crease and fold and crease
I press my nail against the glass
Scenes unnoticed fill the window
Goodmayes, Stratford, Mile End pass

And then the slimmest paper girder
Stands erect twixt thumb and index
Dented, curled and then extended
To form the twisted mini-helix

A symbol of the ordered mind
Secrete within my DNA
Mathematical the mantra
That even seeps into my play

Hermit-like within my shell
Safe enwrapped in paper whorl
I think not of the here and soon
Finding comfort in its curl

Voice of authority - “Tickets please!”
Disparages my corkscrew vectors
As has ever been the case
Innovation’s frowned on by inspectors

And then my destination looms
I fear its cheery “Open wide!”
Technicians prod and poke and probe
No comfort-coil in which to hide

I give it a spin as I cast it aside
It spirals as I flick it
And disappears amongst the rest
Just one more used-up ticket

Ding! Ding!

FARES please

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