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April 2022 - Year 24 - Issue 2

ISSN 1755-9715

Poems to Stories

John Kay is a teacher and trainer working at ETC International College in Bournemouth, UK. When not teaching, I write and perform poems and am also a visual artist. 


The Ticket Collector

The ticket


makes his


along the










not to



He strides over boxes,

climbs over bundles,

steps over bags,

trips over limbs,

grabs shoulders

knees bent.

feet apart,


I am thankful

there are no bridges

or tunnels.


He clips my ticket

and hands it back,

with a neat hole

and a smile.



  • Where is the ticket collector?
  • Where is the person who is observing the ticket collector?
  • How did the writer get there?
  • Is the writer alone?
  • What can the writer see, hear, feel, smell, taste?
  • Why is the writer there and how does (s)he feel?

Now, in your own words, tell the story. You can tell it from the writer’s viewpoint, like it actually happened to you or from the viewpoint of someone re-telling the story. Maybe you would like to tell the story from the ticket collector’s viewpoint. How long has he been doing it? What does he like most or least? What’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened while at work?

Also, think about where you are when you’re telling the story. Are you at a party, in a bar maybe, or somewhere else, and how many people are listening?


Teachers’ note

I have used this poem successfully at B1 and above. You know your own classes better than me but I have had to pre-tech a few items. The writer is, of course, on top of the train, but this takes time to work out. It’s a personal experience from my time travelling in Sudan. The lines about no tunnels or bridges helps! It has always provided lots of discussion.

There are many ways to exploit it, not just the story idea. The poem attempts to recreate the sound of the train, slowing and quickening, with a selection of plosives and fricatives. Reading it aloud has proved fun. Acting it out has also proved a winner, with students climbing up on top of a train, (have you ever done it? Just, how do you?) They have sometimes used the desks as the train. When I tell them I also had to sleep on top of the train, they have to work out the best way to do this without rolling off!The higher levels often like the attempted use of zeugma* in the final stanza.

* A zeugma is a literary term for using one word to modify two other words, in two different ways. An example of a zeugma is, “She broke his car and his heart.” When you use one word to link two thoughts, you're using a zeugma.


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