[ai] line [əʊ] sofa [ei] train [ʌ/ ʊ] us [æ] and [ɪ] in [e/eə:] bed/ death

[ɔː/ ɔɪ] morn [ɑː] yard [i:] each [uː/u] room [ɜː] earth [au] now

A Sofa in the Forties

All of us on the sofa In a line, kneeling
Behind each other, eldest down to youngest,
Elbows going like pistons, for this was a train

And between the jamb-wall and the bedroom door
speed and distance were inestimable.

First we shunted, then we whistled, then

Somebody collected the invisible

For tickets and very gravely punched it
As carriage after carriage under us

Moved faster, chooka-chook, the sofa legs
Went giddy and the unreachable ones

Far out on the kitchen floor began to wave.


Ghost train? Death gondola? The carved, curved ends,

Black leatherette and ornate gauntness of it

Made it seem the sofa had achieved

Flotation. Its castors on tip-toe,

Its braid and fluent backboard gave it airs
superannuated pageantry:

When visitors endured it, straight-backed,
When it stood off in its own remoteness,
When the insufficient toys appeared on it

On Christmas mornings, it held out as itself,
entially heavenbound, earthbound for sure,
Among things that might add up or let you down.


We entered history and ignorance

Under the wireless shelf. Yippee-i-ay

Sang ‘The Riders of the Range’. HERE IS THE NEWS,

Said the absolute speaker. Between him and us

A great gulf was fixed where pronunciation
Reigned tyrannically. The aerial wire

Swept from a treetop down in through a hole

Bored in the windowframe. When it moved in wind,
sway of language and its furtherings

Swept and swayed in us like nets in water

Or the abstract, lonely curve of distant trains
As we
entered history and ignorance.


We occupied our seats with all our might,
Fit for the uncomfortableness.

Constancy was its own reward already.

Out in front, on the big upholstered arm,
Somebody craned to the side, driver or

Fireman, wiping his dry brow with the air

Of one who had run the gauntlet. We were

The last thing on his mind, it seemed; we sensed
tunnel coming up where we'd pour through

Like unlit carriages through fields at night,
Our only job to
sit, eyes straight ahead,
be transported and make engine noise.