A Stoic at Birmingham New Street by Julia D McGuinness

“Though you break your heart, men will go on as before.”

His 18.36 to Crewe cancelled,
Marcus Aurelius noted only the illogicality
of the announcement coming through
at 18.42.

The queue for Train Information
snaked along the station
like Hannibal’s troops down a mountain pass,
spasmodically butted by traversing passengers,
brash as goats.
Mindful of inner strength,
Marcus Aurelius stepped back,
a neat cubit’s length.

The computer screen a fascination,
he commended the duty girl’s operation,
her agile hands, expressionless economy of
‘This is the only information I have.’
Marcus Aurelius ascertained
his next permissible train
as the 20.01.

Inside Cafe Nero, in seated position,
he mastered desire for his Chester connection;
averted his eyes from a beggar; shunned pity –
emotional giving so morally unfitting;
approved proud football fans’ swift nemesis:
brusque police escort, straight off the premises;
puzzled the sense of a passer-by’s wit:
‘These trains ‘ave gotta be a joke, innit?’

At 19.55, with measured pace,
he duly proceeded towards Platform 8.
The amber-lit board flashed new information:
The 20.01’s cancellation.
At that point,
Marcus Aurelius
lost it.

Julia D McGuinness is a writer, counsellor and writing for wellbeing practitioner based near Chester. She has written 4 non-fiction books and her poetry has been published online. Her first poetry collection, Chester City Walls, was published last year by Poetry Space.


Life’s Great Unanswered Questions by Gordon Williams

The fridge started it.
Did that light really go out when the door closed?
Questions that have no answers
Bother me.
Not the usual ones such as
Is there a God? And what happens when we die?
But the really difficult ones like
Did the cabaret on the Titanic go down well?
Do fossils meet through carbon dating agencies?
And if you made love in a JCB would you feel the earth move?

It’s not the deep philosophical questions but the simply mundane that perturbs me
Do vandals come from broken homes?
Can acupuncture cure people of pins and needles? Why do they play dance music on hospital radio?
Do people have arguments in fall out shelters?
And would there be any point in making Groundhog Day 2?

More and more questions:
If you tried to row across the Atlantic single-handed would you keep going round in circles?
If its “i” before “e” except after “c” did Einstein get it wrong twice?
Why did kamikaze pilots wear helmets?
What was the best thing before sliced bread?
Do bakery workers on the slicing machine go through thick and thin together?
And if a word was spelt wrongly in a dictionary – how would you know?

I lie awake wondering: if overall prices have gone up 10% in the past twelve months, should I have bought my overalls last year?
And if they made a promotional film for Viagra would they play soft organ music in the background?
Do flashers in Alaska suffer from indecent exposure?
What do plain clothes policemen wear on their day off?
Are human cannonballs people of the highest calibre?
Where does the rubber from worn tyres go?
Do poor KGB agents take in brainwashing?
And do mountaineers rope themselves together to stop the sensible ones from going home?

Still puzzled, I wonder
What are the chances of a fat chance going on a diet and becoming a slim chance?
Can fortune tellers see us coming?
If the Metropolitan Police were issued with pocket calculators would they be a force to be reckoned with?
Do Wasps rugby club have a “B” team?
If BT went bust would they call in the receivers?
Do American evangelists do more than lay people?
Do bored chefs just fritter away their time?
Why are anger management courses currently all the rage?
What were Marcel Marceau’s last words?
What would Kraftwerk Unplugged sound like?
Did Pavlov’s dogs join the Salivation Army?
Why do I keep dong this?
If the buck stops here, where does it start?

And will I ever
Get out of this fridge?

Gordon Williams was born near Manchester when the M6 was still cobbled. Moved to Northern Ireland for the peace and quiet in 1984 and, intractably indolent, still lives there. His stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies, on walls and websites. Some have won prizes; most haven’t. This poem represents 20% of a lifetime’s poetic output.