Night Rails

I don’t know about you, but my dreams are often rooted in my late teens and early twenties, which does rather suggest this was a pivotal time in my brain’s development. This is slightly worrying, given how much beer was being consumed at the time.

Trains, and things that can go wrong on trains, are a massive recurring theme. I am forever chasing around labyrinthine railway stations trying to find platforms that don’t exist, zooming past my stop, accidentally abandoning luggage, losing friends in shape-shifting carriages… I rarely travel by train these days, which is no surprise.

Anyway, here I am, putting in yet another nightshift on Great Western Railways. I should get paid for this.

Night Rails

At night, the trains roll in,
and I run the warp of the concourse
bagged down by luggage. Around me,
to the fizz of missed announcements,
stairways stretch and extend
like the veins of a living labyrinth.
These are the same treads I chased
decades ago, when the rails boot-laced
the two sides of my life. But now,
I am a broken node, a traveller out of time,
tuned to the beep of the door buttons,
yet two beats afloat.
Some nights, when the points align,
the train doors open, and the dark
grants me a seat. For a moment,
we drive the lines together.
But the tracks soon curve
to steal my purpose, the signs
morph to hieroglyphs, and I am stuck,
hitched to my early adulthood, looping
from Coventry to Castle Cary,
destined only ever to change
at Reading.


First published by Snakeskin Poetry


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