Train directions

You don’t tend to go that way now.
No one has the time.
They accelerate up, to the new station -
The one with the old couple embracing in bronze.
But, if you were to have the time,
You could take the route from before.

Sometimes, if you’re lucky, there’s no barriers up -
Not at either end.
You can, if the ticket gods and your conscience allow,
Ride for free.
All the way through open fields and grey skies
Until the streets start to thicken.

Look out of the window, at chimney pots and roof tops,
Blocks of flats and balconies spattered
In coloured clothing.
Gaze down at bustling crowds buying vegetables you’ve never seen
From shop with names you can’t pronounce
Soon you’ll reach the river and feel the train start to slow
As the Thames flows fast.

Out of the other window you might see men in orange
Working on the track, keeping us moving.
My dad does that.
When I was little he would talk of
Charing Cross Bridge.
Of taking it apart and putting it back together
As the water flowed below and the moon hovered high.
And when I was little I would feel him
In the vibrations of the train and the rumble of the track,
See his face in reflective stripes,
Feel the fear of him falling in -
And pride in his bravery.

But it’s just a silly memory;
Just a sentimental thought.
If I were you I’d not bother.
You probably don’t have the time.
Take the fast train, the one to the new place with the old couple.
It’s really much easier.
Unless of course you want to?
There’s one about to leave…

Francesca Baker

This poem is based on “Directions (after Billy Collins)” by Inua Ellams, based on “Directions” by Billy Collins.