The Railway Station

Stations had their own smells-

Steam bursts hissed the cocktail

Of oil, soot and hot grease

Across the open toed sandals

Of waiting boys thrilled

By the piston power,

The drive of skidding wheels

The explosion of smoke

Into victory’s disappointed fifties.


We were leaving

This heaving churn of mechanics,

This golden age of decline

And stepping across to a new platform.

No steam clouding here, no fire

Dragons, no soot, no scents.

We were stepping thoughtlessly

Into modernity, clean

Electric, speedy, taking

Us to a new world

Of specialist secrets, hidden

Powers and practicality.

The old romantics see this

As a step to sterility –

The scraping away of slums

For the clean lines of loneliness,

Of craft skills for the industries

Of service and alienation,

Of time for the local

For the stress of celebrity.


I however felt the pull of the future,

The elusive perfume of possibility.

Days at the Seaside



Some stories have stood the test of time,

Sticking out of the landscape of life,

Like limestone – flawed and hollowed

With lost caves and strange rushing waters.

As for me, I was a boy that found

He had a socialist stomach, firm

And fearless in the old bone shaker

Rattling to the seaside through the rust,

But prone to rebellious disgust

As we took the same road, all bumps smoothed

By soft springs, perfumed with money.

A Child Moves

That first night I went into town.
Through unknown streets.
It was the start of something
I can now see.
But then, I existed unseen
Between a known past of play,
Woodlands and sunshine,
And an unknown future of work,
Pavements and grey clouds.
On this walk, nothing happened
I thought. The air was still,
Faintly soot-scented, all here
Was as it had been.
But I had moved –
This was me, alone with my sensations




She stood there with a smile.

The pain of loneliness

Draining her spirit while

Around her, the duress

Of her life’s work dispels.


Or so it seemed to her,

Husband already dead,

Precious moments wither

And scatter in her head

And become muffled bells.


Her girls are one defence

Against the loss of hope;

But ties that bind are tense,

And as they pull more rope

They must leave her behind.


But we are all bereft

Sadness comes as a test;

Only when tears have left,

Free-flowing, can the zest

Spring sharply from the rind.

On being unembarrassed


She came bustling into view as I looked

Out on to the grey morning. A lady

Of advancing years, her face contorted

From anything recognizable as

Beauty. I thought it must be the cold wind

That blew her ageing bones and wrinkled flesh

Into a flustered unselfconsciousness.


She needed help to write a cheque. At first

I did not see how strange this was; she spoke

As if it were the most natural thing.

“You’ve got your dinner on it” – but she said

She had not eaten yet. Instructions giv’n,

She left, treated I realized as if

A young child, and yet the faint residue

Of adulthood still hung around her speech.


This was an incident involving a lady who has since passed away, but was then sinking into dementia.

Literary Niceties

Prompted by reading a book of literary criticism regarding Seamus Heaney. It wasn’t Seamus Heaney’s fault!


I’m sitting here, reading

About a man reading,

Studying a scholar.


Dad sat in another room,

Door closed, the aura of silence

Spreading to the parlour,

Silencing the radio,

Requiring solemnity on tiptoes.

Whatever the wrestlings within

The study, the keep of our home,

I know that tomorrow

He will stand hallowed by surplice

And hood, setting out something solid,

Researched but plain-rooted

In a life we all know.

Not the Dantean abstractions,

The epiphrastic rhythms

About which I now read.