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We Never Arrived

Apology: I am unable to format this 1,000-word poem correctly using the supplied word processor. There are meant to be verse breaks, and not 1.5 line spacing. The poem is intended to be read aloud. I have inserted xxxx to mark where the verses break. PI.

xxxx

At precisely 7.52 a.m.

The 7.23 from Llangrannog

Collided with the down-train from the north.

Swaying precariously on the shallow gradient

Below Llanrhystyd.

Driver Lawrence applied the brake

And in a shower of sparks

That seemed to lack their old bite

With a sudden shock of recognition

Knew there was no stopping it.

For an instant, time held its breath.

A light, transgressed, shone brightly red

To warn against commitment

To that course. Still

The unstoppable engine careened on

Conveying many travellers,

Podded with their familiar hiss,

To an unexpected terminus.

xxxx

Looming suddenly from the mist,

The heavy-goods train pauses, shudders,

Carries on. This could not be.

The signal set at green, all was surely well.

Eyeing the onrushing tunnel of light

Driver Lawrence

Offers up a prayer, then, wild-eyed

Opens up the throttle wide

And plunges into the maelstrom

(As, one day, like seafaring men,

So all engine drivers must

Who ride the steely paths through life

Face the inevitable, head-on.)

xxxx

Time shut its eyes. Thirty miles away

Pensioner, Mrs Elsie Lovesgrove,

Heard the terrible concatenation

While fetching in the milk.

The savage conjunction

Of mythic beasts locked in rut,

Bellowing their challenge to the heavens

All caution thrown to the winds

Snorting, locked horns,

Clashed together with a hollow ring.

Metal slammed through metal

Opposing mass of five hundred tons,

Molecules of iron displacing space,

Surrendering their force, created alloys,

Rending, grinding, melting, melding

Slow-motioned into one designer beast.

xxxx

At one hundred sixty miles an hour

Their combined velocity

Generated furious amounts of energy

A million megajoules, outgassing,

Mushroomed skywards in a roiling plasma

Equal to the birth of a small sun,

Taking with it Driver Lawrence

Whose body gladly gives up its vapours,

With joyful alleluya, to the stars.

xxxx

The energetic grinding of plates,

The plaintive outcry of a thousand rivets,

The sudden compression and expansion

Of boilers pressurised with superheated steam

Could shatter worlds.

Out of that terrible fission,

Clash of inert masses, steel and brass,

Miles of timeworn pipes,

Hydraulic couplings and a tender filled with coke,

The entire history of an age of steam,

Of trade and commerce, of the movement

Of populations in speed and comfort,

Of day trips to Bangor, of ales and wire,

Of finished goods from the far-flung corners of Empire,

The rise of the middle class

And the terrible industry of warfare,

The regrettable business of privatisation

The Beeching cuts

Were all expended in an instant.

xxxx

A new paradigm

Rose from the alembic

Of melted desires

Like a newborn genie

Ready to perform any service

You could command.

xxxx

In that first moment

A dreadful silence reigned.

Until, like the chorus

Of early rising birds

Swelling and shrilling

Far out beyond the morning mist

Delineating their mating zones

Among the shrouded trees,

Deafened us with their idiot gladness

That morning, as we lay

Quietly monitoring our rush and ebb,

Alert to any significant gestures,

Entangled like sisters, carefree

In one another’s legs,

The unbearable sound begins –

The cries of the trapped ones

Rising in harmony

Against the banal counterpoint

Of polyphonic ringtones.

Darling, what news?

I waited so long

Are you coming home? The children will be late

I’m stuck on the A485

I can’t reach you

I love you.

“This is the BT answering service.

The person you are calling

knows

you are waiting…”

xxxx

Part 2

xxxx

You tossed away the season ticket

I offered you for life. It lay

Balled in the plastic liner,

Victim of its own practicality,

Its promise of uneventful journeys

Unnerving you with the certainties

Of frictionless motion along parallel lines.

Next to some dried chrysanthemums

A hank of your black hair,

Prised impatiently from your comb;

Reminders from the credit company;

A failed first draft of a new song

That wouldn’t spark.

xxxx

You sit, cross-legged on the bed,

A strabismus of pink-nipples, your roseate,

Post-coital glow only now

Fading into your bikini line,

Surrounded by dogs

Shuddering noisily in dreams,

While a cafetiere of freshground beans

Trades fairly by the bedside

Ringing a book-cover, some feminist verse.

xxxx

I imagine you blithely working

Some tricky harmonic dissonance

Into a new round

About trees

And stars

And dreams

And something else that rhymes with heart.

While there,

Next to your pink

And pleasured body,

Torpid on the pillow

The smugly confident face

As yet not even in focus,

Of a new lover

Stretches into the promising blur of distance

Past the pulsing vein in its neck

Past the tight little nipples

You teased and tugged,

Past the little nests of hair,

The sweetly lolling penis

You borrowed for your own,

Crusted with your innermost secretions,

That came at you with such a fierce conjunction,

The convertible mass of trains,

So that you felt the sun explode

Inside and shook with shock-

waves slopping endlessly around your oceans,

Down to the marbled feet,

Softly remembered skin, that pads

The steel of coated muscle

The hydraulics of tendons

The pistons of bones

The loosely assembled couplings of limbs,

Stock of a new departure

Ready to roll.

xxxx

Already the rusting remains

Of earlier head-on collisions

Have been carted away

To the breaker’s yard,

And the 7.23 from Llangrannog

Is set on a new course

For a destination

You have never reached.

Perhaps you no longer envisage

An uneventful journey to the north,

Lacking the smash and decimating fury

That fuels your marvellous powers?

xxxx

Again, the suspension of time:

You hang in that earthly moment

Floating between certainty and oblivion

Where you feel free to breathe

The scented airs of Paradise

(As if you couldn’t wait)

And shop the infernal catalogues

For this season’s collections.

xxxx

The points have been reset,

Incorrectly as it happens,

The lights that should be showing red

Overlooked by the maintenance men

Are forever glowing green.

You need no encouragement

To career full-pelt up the iron road of life

For there is one-way working only tonight

On the Llanrhystyd gradient.

xxxx

End

xxxx

For L, Plas Nanteos, 2006

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