Marylebone Station, 1914

by Phyllida Jacobs

Two women wipe back sweat
Beneath their flat caps
At the station on the main line;

The weeping, the waiting, the working.

Intrepid lady steers
Her tram-car at dusk
Towards the city-limits;

The weeping, the waiting, the working.

A bus-driver sips hot milk
At the close of a dusty day;

The working, the waiting, the weeping.

Five girls on production line,
With sulphurous hands and owlish eyes,
Smiling round their gritted teeth.

Toil fills up their shell-hole hearts;

The watching, the working, the waiting.

In a small London suburb a century ago,
The telegraph boy wends his way in the dark
To a white head and a rocking chair.

Like sea-bathers treading water before sunrise,

Like Penelope fretting lonely at her loom,

Like a lover half-asleep on the hearth rug,
Her hair lit up like a landing-flare
In the darkling hush of the evening:

Watching. Working. Waiting.