74. Tickets please


The inventor of
The train ticket
Lived down the road:
It was his ticket
Out of here.

(All the way to Manchester
Where he died in 1851)

Teenage couple
Can’t wait to make
Their fortune to escape;
Can’t quite raise
The fare to anywhere –
Just know they must be going.

Hiding in disabled loos
Between carriages
Where Edmondson rode
Upfront in topper, one imagines,
Signing stubs and visualising
Tickertape parades on Princess Street.

Where to go is moot (toot-toot!)
For our young heroes.
“Please wash your hands” (they do)
Then jump the barricades
To find a world run by
Fat controllers, grey cardinals
Entwined – demanding tickets please.

Soon they are proven to be on
The wrong side of the tracks;
Then sitting on the fence
At an erroneous angle
By blinking data readings on
Smart troops’ smart watches.

(The Internet thinks
What I type is what I want,
So up pops an ad for a
Military smart watch:
Henceforth official timer
Of this poem.)

Here the ghost of Edmondson
Decides to intervene.
“God is in everyone,”
He tells the tooled-up bureaucrats
“Not according to this,”
Comes the reply; but when they
See his pasty Quaker face and swoon
The couple are off again.

Finding a planet blighted
By splurge and gut-greed,
And while weeping over birds
In sticky deaths throes
On foamy beaches
The couple decide
To try Plan B.

The office is manned
By a man in a topper,
They ask for one-way tickets;
Edmondson requests a code
Downloaded from a website,
Then smiles: “Please permit
My little joke.” They do.

And off they go again;
You hear the engines roar
While hanging out the washing;
But don’t worry, old man,
Old woman, old ghost –
You are not compelled
To join them: your only duty
Is to let them go (ticket or no ticket).

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