observations on sardines for breakfast and the tramp i meet on the train home.
Sardines (edited 11th December 2020)
Sardines, furst bite of the morning,
on toast, dripping in butter –
there is nothing better –
first of the fartsome mourn
hotlipped bread soaked in futter
add baked beans – organic of course –
and i can say there is nothing better.
add a bowl of porridge – and juice,
i forgot to say pineapple juice: O’s like me,
you should know, can’t mix citrus and dairy products,
so just the prickly parted’s thick sweet stuff –
boiled seven minutes with sultanas and almonds,
constantly stirred: never let it burn –
add dates and prunes if you absolutely must –
then served with a chill of rice milk for those
depleted, deficient in the sugar department.
Sardine smell conjures up this tramp,
meet him on the train coming home,
the circle line from Moorgate up,
personal space stiffly staked around,
spread out on the seats, sardine can
open beside him, a bread loaf
unsliced, one face buttered, untouched
and a knapkin containing salt,
thick sea crystals, the same i use –
beggars belief! Kinned he and i:
the stench of the street he does not carry,
pinned to his lapel a badge writes ‘Harry’;
his face is lined with a weariness
only those many fettered confess –
the office man, the long houred man,
pictures of his children pinned
upon his cubicle walls,
his wife’s smile strained from the camera
to haunt his days, remind him
of past lives, shared personal goals
both once conspired to one day achieve.
As far as Farringdon i pipe
then slide out – have to cross over –
leaving behind the sardine smell,
“Harry”, head hunched, slowly swinging
between jerking sleep, the motion
of the train threatening the order
of his meal, his body riding
the bend, the brake and roll, floating
past through the tunnel from my view
throat whetted for the evening.
I write a note for the Filipino:
“Only sardines in olive oil, please.”
Hi, Bhi. This is a strange one, isn’t it… but enjoyable nonetheless. I had a chuckle. It has a dreamlike quality to me. It also leaves me wondering who is ‘O’ and who is the Filipino? One and the same? (I agree, by the way: Only sardines in olive oil, I’m not keen on the tomato variety.)
This is one those poems which forced itself to be written. The trigger was the man “Harry” i regularly saw on the underground. It was always the same – as described above- and he would be half awake, almost in a stupor, and you would imagine that he had been doing hard labour, but his clothes said to to the contrary. And then the link to the salt and the sardines and the poem was born.
Glad it made you chuckle.
ps: “O” refers to blood type – they react to the mix of citrus and dairy.
Inspiration from the smell of sardines. Slice of life verse seems to say there be you if the wrong turn happens. Nicely done.
There but for the grace of god, indeed. Everything around us is a trigger for creativity. We just need to be open to picking up a thought and feeding it.
I wanted to ask this man about his life, but he wanted none of it, and quite rightly – he wanted his space and he created it on the train and where he eventually laid down his head.
Sardines for breakfast, not my cup of tea. Love sardines though. Did you know that sardines as a species don’t exist. It’s a general term for small fish apparently. A sardine from South Africa will be a different species from a sardine from Spain for example. You do get some odd characters on the tube. I used to like travelling on the tube at quiet times of the day, you see some peculiar folks, but I would not want to used the tube late at night these days. I wrote a story about a human subspecies living in abandoned tube… Read more »
I did not know that. I love sardines and mackerel – both of which are sustainable apparently. And a big dollop of porridge to keep the energy levels up during the day.
But this one guy just piqued my interest – he was always in the same carriage, the same seat, with the same spread around him, and there was a poem to be written, and here it is.