Beyond the bowling greens of winter wheat
hedged with hawthorn— beyond Lincolnshire,
the landscape slumps north
past freight yard pallet fires, and back gardens
hung with Monday’s freezing washing.
A scraggle-oak profile shoulders slate cloud,
and pylons mark the distance west
with cables, humming overheads
diminishing to points of no return
trans-Pennine or the Borders.
Our seamless Intercity
blurs by the mucky brass of stations
Victorians engineered, their timetables beaded
in biscuit brick, vaulted iron, and rock-face
skewerings beneath the Norman hundreds.
The pit towns, steel towns, the Tyne towns
forging screw and funnel for dead fleets,
survey zero in the tide and from it
sink the mark to Gateshead’s Angel,
its bloom of rust a reckoning.
The underworld beyond the carriage windows
nudges us awake: a girl, hair flying, on a field dyke
by a ditch and upturned caravan,
mouths something we each believe
we understand, waving wildly as we pass.