Railway Woman
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I am a railway woman, love my job
I take you there and back, I take your fare
Sometimes behind the scenes, sometimes you’ll see me
I fix the track or operate the signal
I clean the station, guard or drive the train
And when you need me, here I am to help.

Professional and skilled, my work will help
To show that rail employment’s not a job
That’s just for men; we too can crew the train
A platform for an equal chance and fair
But though I know to spot a danger signal
The danger finds a way of spotting me.

A passenger attacked me, groped and slapped me
I worked alone, so no-one there to help
I shouted No! and gave the strongest signal
He sneered and said that if I do a bloke’s job
And offer hands to men then I was fair
Game and laughing, got on board the train.

It’s all that I could manage to restrain
Myself from screaming, crying, blaming me
My thoughts ran wild, my mind not playing fair
How can I be so weak that I need help?
I’m obviously not suited to this job
It’s all my fault, I should have seen the signal.

The boss said, “You’ll have given him a signal
I’d say you need some coaching to re-train
Accept that these things happen on this job
I’d take it as a compliment, believe me!
He’d had too much to drink – the guy can’t help
Himself. He has his rights, he’s paid his fare.”

I won’t take this assault upon my welfare
I’m going back to operate that signal
To staff my station. I am here to help
And not to be abused. Despatch that train
Of thought into the sidings, reassure me
I have the right to safety on the job.

Your fare buys you a journey on our train
It’s not a signal you may handle me
So help me, this is not part of my job.


This poem is a sestina.