All you men crouching by a nine-carriage train
that’s stopped sauntering through the countryside, I know
you dream that what you’ve made will move again.
I know why you stay stooping
over cream and maroon livery when stock
rolls out of Gorpeton Blymee. You are checking
lost detail. You’ll remake exactly what
you’ve made. Your trains are guarding,
circling, what was engineered long since. For once,
turn away from Bassett-Lowke traction engines,
read this ad for radium – Buy a Piece
through the Post! Experiment!
Model Engineering knew in 1910
a woman had found what none of us could have made.
When I identified rays
that move through fog, through flesh, through fact, after
I’d ground, dissolved, collected
precipitate, I stunned a moment. Steam,
with its air of work and modernity – lost.
Oh, you’ve reconstructed my front-line X-ray cars!
They were nicknamed les petites Curies. They drove
away old views: perfect toys for discovering
the location of shrapnel
in bodies (broken, but they moved again).
Send Letters To:
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN
Please include name, address, and a telephone number.