O dark devourer of the driver’s coin,
what broken dreams was this leap meant to fix?
What hope-denuded skyline did enjoin
you to cast off on this East London Styx?
Perhaps ’twas self-disgust made you abort
your ticket-chewing, clamper-pleasing life
of shameless roadside mugging to extort
hard cash from plumber, nurse, abandoned wife
or harassed mum collecting post-school brat
(two quid, you’d charge, for twenty seconds’ stay
while she dashed out to drag what she’d begat
back to the unlocked Saab skewed ’cross your bay).
Or was it – once a credit card and text
became the neatest way to book a spot –
the months of standing empty and perplexed
while youths in hoods stuffed gum into your slot
that brought it home: the coinless coup d’etat
had left you little choice but to revise
your time and date display to “au revoir”,
then shuffle off to this small Bridge of Sighs
ere rust and time could make their brutal pact
and virile younger bucks begin to gloat
that, though your old equipment was intact,
the chances of it working were remote?
That’s right, my black-shelled friend, I know this script,
know how it is to impotently stand
with slot unfilled and sticky knob, ungripped,
in want of a quick pound from someone’s hand.
Cameron Balloons (poet)