42 Days

By Bernardine Evaristo

NORMAL

Hardeep
took the Central Line

from Northolt
to Mile End, weekdays,

shuffling through the barriers
in hooded sweatshirt,

rucksack on his back
bulging with books.

He slunk into a seat,
knees splayed out,

Bangra beats
throbbing in his MP3

and glowered
out the window

in an early morning
grump, dreading

a 3 hour lecture
on algorithms at 9 o’clock,

until the train entered
the darkness

at White City
and crowds of commuters

got on
and gobbled him up.


MORAL


Hardeep
likes old school hip hop,

Eastenders, cricket,
(Bollywood classics crack him up),

Big Macs, Adidas (not Nike),
Playstation.

One day he’ll
move back up North

where his roots are,
he reckons.

That evening
he was glued to the telly,

appalled:
the burning towers,

the burning people,
his burning heart.

It was like a blockbuster
disaster movie, he thought,

only this time
for real.


DAMAGE


Hardeep
takes the Central Line

later than usual
to avoid the crowds

who avoid the spaces
either side

of him, so that sitting isolated
his face burns.

He carries his books
in a transparent plastic bag,

wears his hood down.
No one does anything

except scowl
but when he gets up

fear shivers through
the carriage

like an electric charge,
grown men shoulder

him
like he’s an enemy alien

and he wants to shout out,
‘I’m Sikh, you tossers’.