Glue the Ballast

I had a train set like this when I was young.

The service was delayed until lunch was cleared away

and the people would arrive from a blue tobacco tin.

And, just like this morning, their grins all slipped to frowns

with a mis-stroke of a brush and the shades of

retro-fashion fixed by the colours in the box.

And when the train arrived, drumming on the rails

and shivering the platform, the little people tottered on their

untrimmed moulding spots, and turned and queued politely at the

jowls of each door and occasionally fell before the itching wheels

to cause a red derailment and halt the lapping line.


Autumn creatures came up trackside for

a hundred watts of cobweb sky

and spiders would be scuttled

around the cutting corners, fleet as urban foxes but

without the legs of cunning,

and the mice would nest in trucks and nibbled lichen hedges

and under shredded paper hills,

their droppings scaled to heaps of elephantine constipation

amid the dusty pastoral.

And, yes, the points often failed and the signals always stick

and the railhead on the climb

is quite adverse to normal running,

the light is always low and the speeds are suicidal,

controlled by other hands beyond the yellow line;

derailments occur as coaches spin the corner

but the risk of circuit failure was shrunken to a spark

along a stray billet of nail as again a powerful wrist

winds up the velocity to take the scene in seconds,

tying our horizon to the edges of the set,

streaking through the suburbs to the chatter of the ply

and bumping on the bogies until they come to rest.