Cross Country

A yellow grin is wiped across the landscape

in the brilliant sunshine of a commuter morning

that shouts Friday, which began, unusually, in Kings Lynn

and now powers to capacity at Cambridge.


Half a woman without a dog chased by a floating bicycle,

eight oarsmen poke through the ironwork, locked in stroke and chopping light,

two red cars fret at a gate, sprung to leap the dopplered alarm,

and white wooden paling orders the platform, ushering locals quietly on.


And there is the towpath, and there is the footpath, and there are the hills

on which I trained

for athletic glories that never were. Away is Herb Elliott’s potato patch,

who’s name was alive in the club register; and there is the Royston golf course

where we killed ourselves on the weekly burn through the rough beside

the fairways.


My bent knees are sore from the first hour.

This is a happy ride; the sun is strong and the warm air

pulses percussively in my ear from the open vent,

though the man who’s just boarded asked me to close it

and I, politely, did not.


We pick up speed and green light streams and hurls our train away from the fields,

bouncing and racing through shortened space to gravel lawns and humpback roads,

to patterned life and planted limes, industrial shutters and showroom signs,

shooting tunnels, whipping the verges, shaving platforms, cambering curves,

and finally braking hard to a

fantastic start.