The Halt

Raymond Friel

We are the dawn sniffers, the motley few,
This morning snuffling at the lateness
Of the only service this side of midday.
Does it still exist? Is it late enough
To risk a common ground with coded quips
Regarding ‘leaves’, or some such dreary mot?

The plaque inside the cedar-scented bothy
Tells of how this elevated halt
Was saved from nettly dereliction
By Betjeman’s verses at the vanguard
Of a Churchillian parish effort.
(Who says poetry makes nothing happen?)

This the kind of quaint campaign, I reflect,
Which keeps the — Echo in semi-circles
Of waistcoated heroes (mayoral chains
And paunch centre) the pale ale committees
In clover; a dwindling band in the faith
That all is well and all manner of things ...

The train that finally sulks round the bend
Is new-liveried, owned by accountants,
The portly driver leaning out to shrug
Not looking forward to the downsizing
As we’re sealed in with rattly laptops,
A Walkman’s hard hiss too close for comfort.