By Les Wicks
Where I grew up there was respect for the uniform.
No one ever killed in them. Armed with timetables
the wise station men & women handled the public
like important post, parcels of love.
On the 2nd floor of the 19th century schoolhouse
serious career advisors charted my promotion
to Station Master if I only applied myself.
I snuck off for a smoke out the back
while they enthused lamely to recidivist Timmy
on the life of a shunter.
Were our limitations already telegrammed
into our stubbled DNA?
This is a cogent universe.
In the goods yard,
on an icy nightshift in Outer Junction
my older brother James lost his right arm.
They reassigned him to Correspondence —
one-handed, two-finger typed missives
trickled into the mail chutes for the next 40 years.
Our local university eschewed anything practical
so I graduated with a nuanced world view
alongside no prospects beyond the Transit Recruitment Office
where I professed a love for signal boxes
& got groped by a senile physician — the “physical”.
My parents cried at the ceremony
when I got the first braid on my epaulettes.
That gold crown badge on my midnight peak cap
shone like a quietly proud moon.
Anywhere in the world
a fellow railworker will give you shelter.
This community of Process,
nothing I’ve seen elsewhere can compare.
All my life has been ordered.
I knew cars never made sense.
Successive governments & technology
were just rustles in the trees.
Lines were electrified, then duplicated.
The railway is the answer to everything.
My grandchildren are strangers
living far away in computers
but I won the 2014 Station Garden Competition.