The train pulls out of Vichy. All aboard,
we occupy our seats or spaces. A couple,
young and pretty, slide behind a table
A child, already there, shrinks into its corner.
The mother nods. There’s noiseless gratitude.
Others confer with mobiles silently, or mask
their faces with a stare.  Sun lifts above
the bands of gouache in the window.

A diesel underneath maintains its harmonies.
Steel hums, frames rattle like a kettle drum.
A florist‘s cemetery, squared with marble,
assembles, provides a coda, leaves us
all behind. Then Clermont appears, and movement
ends – we drain into the subway, applaud
the signs that show us where or what
we want to be. Doors close, are gone.

Trains do this everywhere, and ever since.
Whether Adlestrop or Hull on Humber,
they mark the journeys and the places –
humdrum and regular as clocks they
glide between platforms, empty, filled,
slip behind back yards and gardens,
outsmart castles and cathedrals – invisible
as cats, defying privacy and graces.
They are going places. With us, or without.

At other 7.18s the scene repeats,
forever, though we are no longer there.
The life that’s seen, that’s unobserved,
builds up its pixels in the unknown space
we, darkened, share. Rites, passageways,
classes, missed or made connections,
all are there. As wheels turn, tracks
open into journeys. Arrivals into ends.

Iron Men


The Iron Road
filled the world
with thunder.
Timber cut
from continental
forests fuelled
men and pistons.
Metal shone
with power.

In Railtown, now
red oxide holds
the sleeping rails


between earth and fire
its glow coats
plates, bolts, boilers.
Capped old men,
slim with age
and dreams,
take their time
to keep in steam
a chosen master
of the race
to cross from
coast to coast
and halve the size
of their United States.


dsc_0271Showered sparks
cascade from
polished tubes;
a blacksmith
hammers steel back
into shape and fitness;
oil shines
on con rods,
valves and cylinders;
youth gleams
in eyes, on lips.