Thursday, 24 October 2013

Not a poem

Scotrail Newcastle to Bardon Mill

The high bridges, viking gorge, Fig5.
Bright new graffiti on weathered-in concrete.
Poplar trees shimmer, we drift through trees
then curve, a green signal ahead.

All men wear charcoal grey coats, jackets.

Doctors have made sure their practices
end their day in time for the 5 o'clock train
out to rural, pastoral Tynedale.

A gliding cut, sunken leafed tunnel, 
takes us to the caravans, carpark scrub and 
nasty buildings of Metrocentre.

Distinctive steely green of the Glasgow train.
Scotrail plaid, trimmed in metal
pleasantly scratched, which shows its solidity.
A contrast to the nonfunctional sleek plasticness of my workplace.
I prefer these materials.

We set off a metre or two, then stop.
Conductors check + scuffle outside the door.
Aha, a wheelchair user & her man.
The ramp was deployed.
7beep signal. Off.

Buildings of nowhere,
desultory efforts
till a green curtain opens up: then a 
mercury sheen by the staithes :
wide river, uplifting, our constant companion to the right

{I pay my fare: three pounds makes twenty.}

then golf course:
Artificial smooth colour green reflects cut grass,
& trees all the wrong size. No gradation
down to the floor. An outdoor mall.

Wylam, alighting from the train.
Those pastoral english fields to the left, &
suburban fence holding in the cars parked, for their drivers to collect, now.

"There's two seats" says son to mother, & after
discussion they move, clutching metrocentre bags.

That young woman fills their seats with her things, now they've gone.

A vague stale human smell, & metallic or burnt pastry undertones.

Beautiful Bywell bridge, a delight sliding toward you.

Then the same leafy tunnels of a cutting,
people rise, sway left into the aisle, look round & to the corridors' end,
swing upright on one end, the other holding coats, & they gather. Prudhoe.

Curiously mispronounced prood hoe, on the tannoy,
the next stop is Hexham.
'The badger', so fittingly humble, not even visible today.

Mist sticks to the windows like gloopy corn syrup,
& the river's now dark in its browntree reflection.

A sudden vast cropfield, specked with gulls, new green layered on brown.
Then sheep appear up on our left, & the train gains pace.
The pond, the flight of jackdaws, a view of orangebibbed figures jogging together on the rugby field.

The reassuring movement of our names across that little black strip of screen:
Hexham, Haydon Bridge, Bardon Mill, Haltwhistle, Brampton, Wetheral, Carlisle
and onwards to Stewarton, Barrhead and Glasgow.

Indoors, electrically lit, now standing out from the dimming world outside.
Our own reflections bouncing back from the windows
and no view of the river, or of anything light.

Gradual slopes, undramatic, rolling up to trees on the left. Telegraph poles.

My neighbour glances through the slides of a powerpoint (or similar) on cars. 
A man who must have money. Not one of mine.

The world stops in dark whiteness at the middle distance.

I look forward to the coal fire.

White headphones, a wart on ear.
The distinctive, characterful crease on shiny leather that is held in a suited man's shoe.

The chimney: sight of this valley.
Everyone knows where they are when they see the chimney, and the exits start to fill up with bodies.
Men who are in full time work, & ending the week. Relaxed & tired, with kids at home & wives.

Hexham's slender white arches, a superficial flimsy-seeming glassroof, awnings, pleasing footbridge.

There's a circus all folded up in the field.
Only a very brief stop.

Sodium lights on factory sheds.
Those houses on the floodable green & then no,
trees are black now.

Faces illuminated by blue screenlight, or slightly sweating
with the reluctance of an english person to take off their layers.

Glint of wedding ring on creasy fingered hand.
Mid-aged couple, passive & possibly/probably content,
they face each other as their eyes follow the views.

'Any tickets from Brampton?' he repeats,
saying the wrong placename. 
Everyone knows what he means.

Some of us read, a couple of us write, one types.
You close the laptop & place the shopping bag on top.

Silhouettes pass, they look like hornby model landscapes.

The line of top windows is steamed up.
None of us will open them: stuffy air is ok.

My thoughts move to coffee when I get in.

And opening crisps works like yawning: 
it spreads from one to another.
Never for me the discipline of holding onto your pack this long
- I'd have had it by Prudhoe.

Drop in tone & heaviness when 
'we are now approaching Haydon Bridge' shifts to 
'Take care when alighting'.

The greenhouses, productive & calm, in their flat (ancient) field.
Firemen's tower & the halfpipe shelter.

No real glimpse of the town or its bridges.
Just the council housing, then you leave.

Home stretch now.
My alertness startles when 'Bardon Mill' is announced early.

Still some light grey in the sky,
but as if behind a filter 
: our carriage lights glare,
& this well-lit page shrinks my pupils.

Darkness (trees).
The smell of cheese + onion flavour.
Back in my mind a remembered anxiety not to miss the stop.

So I rise, before the bends & the crossings of the river,
to put on my coat
& my bag and be ready.

"We are approaching" spoken loud,
with the soft low horn pillowing behind it.

Into Bardon Mill, with rain, & coalsmoke, & the last singing birds in the hedges.

Hi, here's not a poem, but a rushed write-down of words as I travelled on my regular Newcastle - Bardon Mill route. 
I have a one-line-per-station poem in mind, but this was the faster train that didn't stop anywhere, so I just wrote down everything I noticed, according to my state of mind at the time. I intend to do more exercises like this, to test the limits that I'm currently sticking within (ie. which words I use repeatedly, which things I always record first, even which rhythms etc..)

I have another poetry exercise I'm going to attempt over the next few weeks also, as I have mentioned to some people, but this is not it!

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