The Local Train Line
You can go backwards to Christmas on a train
and often I would, and sometimes doze.
Squirrels can fly if perceived in the caravan
of trees sailing past through railway train windows -
windows that taste like an old copper coin.
I remember taking the train on schooldays
from the local village’s request stop station
to the industrial town they call Barrow-in-Furness,
round the estuary which Norman Nicholson
mapped in a poetry that remains matchless.
So many birds can be observed when on
that journey, already feeling semi-famous.
The gentle arrhythmia cajoles you into a lull,
the sound of the wreckety wreckety wreck.
When you get on it’s empty, but it is full
at the end of the journey like a swollen beck.
I would already smoke pollen at school.
At the end of the schoolday I would travel back.
Now as I write I hear the train toot its horn.
I won’t get on it anymore, not since COVID,
and since becoming so paranoid within
that I prefer to not venture all the way outside,
into the town, that is. So here I remain,
survivor of a pathetic attempt at suicide.
Tiny engines may rev up on pellucid glass,
augmenting the sense of cosiness you feel,
when heading for school, for an A-level class
about the meaning of Caliban and Ariel.
The Sixth Form girls would giggle at me as
I sat there reading a book of Robert Lowell.
Going to the private school meant I never
cheered up and joined in with the human race.
If there is a difference between being clever
and having what they call moral compass,
we should all sit together, and endeavour
to unite while keeping intact our difference.
The telegraph poles went flowing past.
Counting them I never picked a favourite.
I’d hope for the flow of the day to go fast.
If the weather was rubbish I’d get used to it.
Achieving my dream of being the best essayist
was easier when I put my sober mind to it.
A boy I was, mewling and puking to school,
feigning High Indifference when there.
Back then the currency was in being cool.
Exciting was the license to scent the air.
The music I collected was the sacred pool.
I was in love with a girl with brown hair.
Sometimes we’d bunk off and go walking
in a kind of pantheistic or animistic trance,
or sleep in caves; or stay up talking -
but never once did she see me dance!
To Amsterdam and Paris we went gallivanting -
to see the museums – to not waste the chance.
At the end of school I went down south
and broke off the relationship in doing so,
started to let ecstasy pills into my mouth,
worked some boring jobs and went with the flow.
The train was a gullet, gulping back and forth.
Sometimes we’d travel under a rainbow.
John F.B. Tucker
If you have any
thoughts on this poem, John F.B. Tucker would be pleased to hear them.