Sport 8: Autumn 1992
♣ Kevin Ireland — Railway Jokes
The second hand climbs
to the red dot of 12 and 24.
The station detaches and becomes
a lost property. I ask: are Italian
clocks adjusted to make sure
the trains always depart on time?
Aliens have bad manners.
They make railway jokes,
laugh at the tin-pot dictator
in fancy-dress uniform screaming
from old newsreels, the crowds
going barmy with banners.
My companions say: 'Dozens were shot,
or pushed into the river beside us.'
No longer were clocks held back.
Death had a free hand. It wasn't
supposed to be funny. Things—
meaning people—got done on the dot.
'You must consider our view.
Everything was in chaos, then
this man came along and the trains
page 119 ran on time.' We belong to the future.
We have lost sight of our point
of departure. It shot through
the eye of a tunnel. We obey.
We are aimed at the next clock.
'You see, there is neither gain
nor moral virtue in lateness.
The pleasure in not keeping
appointments only works one way.'
They think it bad taste and unkind
to be told it's absurd to make
an improvement for the hell
of it. 'You are young. In the New
World you have no history. You are not
trained to know time out of mind.'
I station myself behind smiles. I'm
careful to talk along lines that point
at arrivals. My railway jokes
fell flat on their dials. I learn
to express myself in excuses: I hope
you don't think I'm just killing time.