This is the Night Bus passing through Brixton,
Bringing the drunks and the cleaners to the station,
Cleaners for the rich, cleaners for the poor,
The shop at the corner and the office next door,
Pulling up Tulse Hill, a steady climb.
The gradient’s against her, but she’s on time.
Past empty streets as the night gets colder,
Past nightclubs and taxis waiting on the hard shoulder,
Diesel grumbling noisily as she passes
Silent miles of sleeping houses with gardens of neat cut grasses.
Early birds turn their heads as she approaches,
Stare at buses as bleary eyed passengers look back from within coaches,
Drunken revelers cannot turn her course,
They stager on with barely a pause,
In the flats above shops she passes no one wakes,
But a smartphone in the bedroom gently shakes.
Dawn freshens, the climb is done.
Down towards Clapham she descends,
Towards new blocks of flats yelping down the glade of cranes,
Towards the fields of apparatus, the concrete towers.
Set on the dark plain like gigantic chessmen.
Clapham waits for her.
In the side street and the high street,
Men long for respite from a long walk home.
Utterances of relief, as she approaches the bus stop,
Utterances of thanks as they embark the bus,
Clutching bills and invitations,
To nightclub events a weekend away,
And text messages glow, with timid lovers declarations.
Selfies with snaps to enlarge in,
Messages with faces learing in the margin,
Texts from flatmates, friends, and drunken acquaintances,
Written on smartphones of every shape and hue,
The white, the black, the gaudy decorated cover,
The smartphone fashion icon, held by users catty, boring, or adoring,
Long nights out reveling,
Hearts relaxed by alcohol, leading to outpouring,
Clever, stupid, short and long,
The typed and the printed and the spelt all wrong.
Thousands are still asleep
Dreaming of terrifying monsters,
Or of friendly coffee in Starrbucks or a Costas,
Asleep in working Balham, asleep in well-set Tooting,
Asleep in South Morden,
They continue their dreams,
And shall wake soon and catch the night bus,
Returning the way it came,
Just another random part of the daily grind, the night bus is forgotten in the daily fuss.
With apologies to W H Auden.