by train

Birmingham to Inverness
syllables stretching deliciously
through my long discovery
of a journey.

Reality penetrated quickly.
A carriage sound-filled
leaves little room for fancy.
Multicultural aromas,
fat kids in matching saris,
consuming grab bags
with dead eyes and full cheeks;
condemned to visit relatives
Up North.

Mum vomits into brown paper.
Dad stares ahead, patting her
reassuringly. Occasionally.

They are but part of a crowd
that fills the train, jamming luggage
where little space is, tugging tickets,
knocking knees, eying occupied tables
with envy; covertly searching
for the bar. Anticipating

the weekend (’Let’s get on it!’)
The hospitality manager
(for so said her badge)
winced and first offered coffee
then reluctantly lager, from the trolley
with a squeaking wheel.


North of Derby, the hills rise
to flank the train that sways on its rails,
a flashing gusset of modernism,
through viridescent cragged country
that has seen it all.

The sharp, sealed durge
of conversation, banter, and obscenities
(from the the stag party in Coach G),
is accepted by the landscape’s soft silence.
The windows seem made just for me.

Distance yields units to Progress,
mugged by the hands of a ticking clock.
Chesterfield, Sheffield, Wakefield, Leeds;
York, Darlington, Durham.
Until, finally – no fog on the Tyne –
(this time) Newcastle slides into view.

Moving again, beyond the city
old blood-fed ground slumps
grass-green to the sea
lying quiet in uncommon blue;
wheat catches the wind and
we pass the Border through.

The hot northern afternoon
throws off southern clouds,
celebrating summer with soaring azure.
My heavy cramp-locked body
envies the rapture of the soaring lark
singing clear in the inner ear of my mind.

No time to leave (just yet)
The bright sun, reluctant to set
in this season for play flashes,
slipping from behind hilltops
dazzling, drawing distorted lines of vision
across eyes that cannot stray.

Speeding deeper
into mountains rampant
I feel myself ahead of the rest,
pulled to the edge of a vacuum
I give myself to imagined truths;
the heart of an ancient country.

Nose pressed against glass
like a dog after a breeze or
a trapped child seeking escape
entranced by reflections, refractions
distort, close focus impossible.

Sun blind.

My vision clears
shadows and lines
coalesce into a single form.
One eye, lash fringed
looking back at me.

We blink together, my ancestors and I.

by train


Cheshunt, United Kingdom

  • Artist

Artist's Description

On a nine hour train journey one has lots of time to absorb the atmosphere, but it has to go somewhere. This poem is my process.

desktop tablet-landscape content-width tablet-portrait workstream-4-across phone-landscape phone-portrait
desktop tablet-landscape content-width tablet-portrait workstream-4-across phone-landscape phone-portrait

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