Crossing Waterloo concourse by Martin Hayden

Submitted by Martin Hayden on Tue, 27/09/2016 - 19:30

Crossing Waterloo concourse

                                                                 to reach a street beyond it
I glance up at Departures, the columns of stopping places,
and when the first name I see is 'Parkstone', it hits my stomach,
some forgotten me pulls the now me to be on that train,
racing through Basingstoke, under the Micheldever fly-
over, through the grassy chalk cuttings of Winchester,
clattering Eastleigh's maze of tracks, past the square brick front
of the engine shed we had the cheek to walk to and enter,
(found wandering a wonderland of off-duty locos
we were marched up stairs to the office of the boss, who grinned
at the two scared lads, asked us if we'd work on the railways
when we grew up - we both said no - gave us a scrawled letter
of permission anyway), on to Southampton's glimpse
of upper decks, was that the QE2, the New Forest,
Brockenhurst, Sway, where we always swore
it did, our exaggerated staggers and shrieks down the carriage
calming at the staidness of New Milton, Christchurch (Hurn Court,
my eldest brother's school, where, a footballer until then,
I played my first rugby match, amazed to be applauded
for just kicking into touch), Bournemouth Central, its down platform
so long it got into the stats books that, yes, I would spend hours over.
A wait for the stopping train we could have caught from London
but wouldn't be seen dead in, the branch line to Bournemouth West
ignored, a short walk from the West Cliff where our PI teacher,
broad-chested, ex-navy, took us out in our vests and shorts
to jog above a stretch of sea we didn't much notice
('if you feel a stitch, keep going, bend forward from the waist,
bend, bend!'); the chines of Branksome, leading through pine woods
to the beach hut where that scoutmaster went with those boys;
and down through the curve of the cutting (the path along its top
a pine-needle carpet, aromatic, the colour of tea-stain)
into Parkstone, our station that was home almost as much
as home, (hated in one, loved in the other). Station Road
now, the Park in view, but there's a short cut behind the back gardens
(the one where the boy released his rabbit: the streamlined chase
spun us round and round until the spaniel caught and killed it)
to our gate, our giant horse chestnut still intact, its climbing notches,
Mum's flower border, the lawn worn to dust by make-shift tennis,
down the steps, rockery one side, apple tree the other,
Grandma in the kitchen, Mum not yet back from the District,
but I'm seeing a reshuffle, the set of shutters rolling down
to change Parkstone to Woking, Petersfield, Portsmouth.

Copyright © 2016 Martin Hayden

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Poetry Aloud, Bay Tree Café, Bury St Edmunds