Pim Claridge

Life in the Scottish Borders, one stanza at a time

Night Train

Loudspeaker chatter flickering lights
and fierce hiss of hot steam in the air,
luggage stacked in sharp edged piles
casts deep shadows that shift and twist
round figures huddled by carriage doors
in an all-sorts mix of sorrows and joys.
high above, in thick black smoke
the pigeons sleep in pink footed rows
with cobwebs for pillows and blankets of soot,
where on rainy nights the roof panes weep
the tears of a thousand farewells.
tucked tight in our starched, straightjacket sheets
we slept to the comforting clatter of wheels
chattering over the glittering rails,
onward and northward the shining snake
of dragon eyes slicing through sleep torn night,
sibilant sigh of hissing steam
trailing in clouds of silvery smoke,
leaving soot to settle, like shadows on snow.
cracked leather blinds snap up to the sound
of a station alive with the bustle of day,
boxes of kippers, leatherbound trunks,
milk churns, bicycles, sacks of mail.
bitter tea in thick china cups
bacon and eggs, porridge and toast...

onward again, the song of the rails
murmurs of rivers, and towering hills
washed green on a young blue sky.