The Stopped Train (2007)
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She stands and knows herself for the first time.
This recognition comes to each of us
sooner or later. When a baby meets a mirror
it enters this same state of rapture.
That’s how the train is: stunned
and passionate. She looks, and sees
energy, will, destiny. Sees that she
touches the rails, but is not the rails,
brushes the overhead lines and drinks in power,
is headstrong and pioneering.
Inside, passengers cram the corridors,
sucking ice-cubes, taking turns at the windows.
A woman shouts: Why must you be all so British?
The carriage is brash with daylight
like a terrible living-room
filling up with unsaid things:
no one can get a signal here
in this nondescript England of
sly ditches and flat fields, where some
experiment must be taking place and
the only thing moving between the trees is
shadow. This is the Interior,
and if they were to smash the glass with a shoe,
jump down onto the track, set off in a somewhere direction,
they would be struck down
like stranded motorists in Death Valley.
The train has forgotten them.
She is accounting for herself:
steel, glass, plastic, nylon,
an audit of chips and circuits.
She stands and ticks,
letting the heat leak and equalise.
Poem © From Tilt by Jean Sprackland. Published by Jonathan Cape. Reprinted by permission of Random House Group Ltd