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Manchester SkytrainTed Hughes
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Vol. 8 No. 4 · 6 March 1986
Poem

Manchester Skytrain

Ted Hughes

235 words

The nightmare is that last straight into the camera –
Dice among dice, jounced in a jouncing cup.
Never any nearer, bouncing in a huddle, on the spot.
Struggling all together, glued in a clot.

The first dead cert I ever backed was Word
From The Owner’s Mouth. Week before
There was my jockey – ‘a day in the life of’ –
Starred in Picture Post. Who? Somewhere

In the nineteen forty seven
Strata of the British Museum.
He’s gone. He went
Even as I watched. And the horse’s name?

Gone with my money. It cartwheeled
Smack in front of me, over the first fence.
Left its jockey flat – killed – and galloped on
Long after the finish, in a drugged trance –

(Doncaster). One can’t bear to be groomed:
Arcs into shudders, chewing at a scream.
One rolls on the ground and flings hammers
Refusing to cross a stream,

Ending up shot. The stables – asylums –
Of these blue-blooded insane
Prefer the introverts. Here’s one. A razor-faced
Big-eyed schizophrene.

Every known musical instrument,
The whole ensemble, packed
Into a top-heavy twangling half-ton
On the stilts of an insect.

They’re all dangerous to touch. It nearly takes off –
Just stays. Like a flying-saucer’s
Anti-gravity coil magnet, still space-radio-active,
Salvaged from the crash. It scares

Even itself. We stand, nervous. Metaphors
Fail the field of force.
Jokey disparagements
The torque of vertigo. ‘A dark horse.’

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