The Orange Lobster and the Hens*
I was reading The Loneliness of Donald Trump by Rebecca Solnit
on the last train out of Temple Meads. I was up to
the bit where it says: ‘He was a pair of ragged
orange claws, forever scuttling, pinching, reaching
for more’—when the automatic toilet door
sighed open for the umpteenth time,
releasing the repugnant, chemical smell
that marks all toilets on trains these days.
Not that I was complaining. I’d grabbed
the last priority seat, well-placed to enjoy
the in-coach entertainment provided by
a nine-strong hen party who did a sort of
relay to and from the loo on kitten heels.
I gave up reading when the singing started:
If I could turn back ti-ime! If I could find a way-ay!
It was loud, but non-threatening. Next came
Bohemian Rhapsody: Mama! Just killed a man!
they wailed in generous sliding tones, liberating
Freddie’s masterpiece from its intended keys.
I wanted to sing too—was just about to start
when the orange lobster twitched inside
the pages of my book and suddenly broke free.
It scuttled across to where they sat
and clambered onto one girl’s foot,
where it was doused with a can of Thatcher’s Gold
and set upon with handbags.
The lonely lobster, bruised and soaked,
groped blindly, reddening and puffing up
until at last its carapace exploded to create
a bright mosaic sunset on the carriage floor.
The girls, all pink and orange glow, broke into song again
They sang on long and loud, all the way to Bridgwater:
Go on now, go! Walk out the door
Just turn around now
Cos you're not welcome anymore!
I almost loved my town that night.
I almost thought it could be great again.
From The Deal (HappenStance, 2020)
* A female lobster is known as a ‘hen’.