This is another one from my back catalogue. I wrote this whilst working as a part time crew bus driver, when I was raising money to pay some big bills. The scene was London’s Gatwick Airport South Terminal. The Northern terminal wasn’t built at the time of writing.
I found it in a folder whilst unpacking some boxes that I took out of the loft.
So here it is…..
Yellow sodium lights, string upon string, row upon row,
Casting a yellow aura onto the pregnant clouds,
Whilst the world slumbers, this is a land of insomnia,
Never sleeping, teeming with life
I pass through the doors, into this concrete and chrome citadel,
It’s artificial warmth engulfs me, bright neon and noise,
Smells of stale burgers and stale humanity, crowded yet empty,
A different world – an alien place
Wandering through this manmade canyon, yellow stalactites offering directions,
Avoiding the endless cleaners, driving their powered brooms, scarabs of the night,
Ever watchful, vigilant, evading mobile cages of luggage,
Destined for who knows where?
Dante’s hell here, tens of sentient corpses, in limbo,
Strewn like victims on stereotype couches – the un-dead,
Awaiting their flight into the future,
The cheerful obnoxiousness of a giant orange kiosk, serving processed juice.
Musical, the chimes demand attention, the disembodied voice,
Reaching into the furthest nooks and crannies – no escape,
Calling the faithful to the altar of travel,
A tired policeman, gun on hip, drinking plastic coffee from a cardboard cup
As I walk by a party of arrivals dribble from the customs hall, motley collection of searching faces,
Meeters and greeters surge forward clipboards held aloft like religious talismen,
Their overspill of emotion floods me, drowning me, relief, tears, tiredness all at once,
The elderly couple tightly embrace, oblivious to anyone but each other
Deeper I penetrate into this strange land, my eyes assaulted by TV screens that force feed data,
Boldly, I step onto the rubber walkway, driving me into the maw of the machine to be processed,
Journeys end! Departures, and I go to the check in desk,
The uniformed clone launches a computer designed smile at me, chants a litany of questions to appease the gods,
I’ve passed the test, and weigh my bags,watching, devoid of emotion, disengaged,
They lurch away, into a dark oblivion, nostalgia hits…will I ever see them again?
I stand and appraise my fellow travellers; the lady in the two piece, face taut, fearful,
The drunken louts in suits with Nikons round their necks
I see a weary figure, a foreign lady, pushing her cleaning cart like a mobile penance,
How many toilets has she cleaned today, how many will she clean tomorrow?
Will the pretty girl ever see the soldier she’s kissing goodbye again?
The future seems so uncertain, and I share their insecurity
I am alone. No one to wave farewell to, no one to miss, or send a card,
A piece of business flotsam, jostled by the tides of commerce,
Cast wherever the capricious winds of profit blow me,
Oh no – A loud stag party with braying laughs and cowboy hats,
Happy and sad, birth and death – it all happens here,
The total gamut of human emotions and life; deceit, betrayal, love and loyalty,
But emotions can’t be X Rayed, or found by customs – prohibited articles?
Just people, all suffering the common condition of confusion
At last we’re moving towards the rubicon,
Passport in sweaty hand, boarding pass clamped between gritted teeth,
Shuffling like convicts towards the scaffold,
A bored security guard barely glances at me or my papers as I pass through,
Out of the warm cloying fugg, and into the drizzle, the smell of kerosene in the air like mist,
The sleek belly of the aircraft, illuminated by intermittent flashes of Amber and red,
I’m dwarfed by its size, and the impatient whine of its power,
The raindrops hit me, disguising my tears, as I shuffle forwards to embark
The night is then ripped apart, as I stand at the hatch, mesmerised,
A cluster of lights race past me, rotating, clawing their way up the fabric of the night,
Suddenly absorbed by the clouds, with only the lonely baying of jets to testify to it’s existence.
I turn, and see yellow sodium lights, stirring upon string, row upon row
Mark Charlwood© August 1989
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