A prose poem about Birmingham’s biggest train station.
Sometimes at New Street it’s a Monday morning. Peak time. Crisp sunlight and a rush of lukewarm air, soaking her skin as she passes through the automatic doors. In the continuous and urgent bustle of the commute she is enveloped, inaudible chatter fluttering around her ears … the occasional soar of a high-pitched laugh, echoed from the high ceilings. Clusters of black blazers, bright rucksacks, black shoes squeaking on the floor; she wonders briefly if they will be late for school. Bullnecked men with stocky builds, a thick overcoat and a briefcase – tight grip. Students with flushed cheeks, scuffed boots, scarves wrapped around three times, a grave eye on the departure boards, tired eyes revived with the pressure of time. A lone pigeon pecking at pastry on the scuffed floor, but soon ascending in a flurry – lean men bound towards unknown platforms, breaking up the walking crowd. Towards the barrier. Queue multiplying, quick, ticket, in, out. One minute spent with accountants, nurses, retail workers, and the crowd disperses. Fifteen minutes … ten … five … one. Train approaching. STAND BACK. Young mothers noticed holding their fidgeting child, with apologetic eyes for surrounding passengers and concern to get a seat. A different purpose in every face. Sometimes at New Street it’s a Friday evening. Big night out. She hears more echoes now, drunk stragglers and late night workers, dotted around the white and grey landscape. Linked arms, skin against skin, stumbling towards the ticket machines glowing before them, ominous and abandoned. Station shops shut until 7am tomorrow when everyone does it all again. No memory of boarding the train. Drunken stares into the tunnel blackness, drunken laughs into the train’s calm silence, the clinking of vodka in her bag. The tide of the city has gone out, but, in the morning, thick and fast with countless destinations, it will come back in again.