Last stop

By Denise O’Hagan.


Last stop

North Sydney, 11.30 am, 2020


He was sitting at the bus stop
A neat grey figure, hands folded
Formal in his trousers, shirt and tie
And beret from another age.


He heard the scrape of shoes, the brush of trousers,
And felt the old familiar panic stir
As the crowd thickened, steps quickened
And the army marched to a single beat.


He recalled when invisibility was what he craved
As teachers saluted the new regime

Scouring every face in every classroom
For the barest hint of dissidence.


He’d had a chance and taken it
Thanks to his mother’s perspicacity
It was all so far away and long ago
Such treachery, such treachery.


So many years knotting up behind him,
They’d take a lifetime to unravel as
Dressing-gowned and slippered,
He’d shuffle down his corridor.


There was nothing now left to fear
But he didn’t know if he could bear
The silent onslaughts and ensuing frailty
From any more invisibility.


Note: World War II ended in September 1945, but the effects are pervasive in ways both obvious and subtle. In recent years, a phenomenon of ‘late effects of the Holocaust’ has emerged, accounting for a heightening of, among other things, anxiety. This poem is a response to this phenomenon.


First published in Live Encounters Poetry & Writing, 1 February 2020