Diesel or Steam


Diesel or steam

You’re standing in the doorway after class
when Jimmy wants to know if you prefer
diesel or steam. You can’t simply say pass

and hope to leave. There’s no time to defer.
You have to say right now as if you knew
the answer. But what to say? The two things blur

so which to choose? And why did he ask you?
Others are waiting. Nobody explains.
Their eyes are curious. Your answer’s due

though you know next to nothing about trains
and engines. So you vaguely plump for steam
and are approved. Now steam runs through your veins

you’re of the party. Life becomes a dream
of existential choices. Jimmy’s gone.
Out in the playground where your classmates scream

and tussle, odds are million to one
you’ll get them right but choices must be made
and loyalties defined. What’s done is done.

Diesel is wrong! You have a barricade.
Prepare, Britannia, to face the foe!
Possess your weapons. Do not be afraid

of where the trains divide and where they go.

— George Szirtes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *