Railway Town

Issue EightIssue Eight PoetryPoetry

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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,

engraved conclusions

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.