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ENGLISH JOURNEY

I have made my English journey – by rail,

Chester to Euston return – maybe,

on average, three times a year since I was four.

 

It is like revisiting a ragged

museum of serendipitous

keepsakes: Canada Geese on Cheshire ponds;

GEC become Alstom in Stafford:

wind turbines and mobile phone towers

jostling radio masts near Rugby;

concrete cows in Milton Keynes; Ovaltine

in Kings Langley; Watford’s mosques;

and, anywhere, marshalling yards of

derelict rolling stock, broken factories,

gaudy retail parks, cramped estates, distant

mansions, acres of subsidised rape

and denatured fields of maize stubble –

no north/south divide, just comfort or neglect.

 

I think of London as we begin to slow.

The city of power not poverty –

its lure, its promise; Larkin’s ‘postal districts

packed like squares of wheat’; Cobbett’s ‘Great Wen’;

the nation’s sinkhole – and its flywheel

driving riches, driving penury,

as if everywhere else were its hinterland.

 

The rails, for the most part, follow the canals –

Grand Union, Oxford, Trent & Mersey,

Shropshire Union. They follow the land’s

contours – and bring me home to a place

that is not far from the edge of England,

where I am minutes from a sight of mountains.

 

 

 

© Copyright David Selzer
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