Passage from Night Train to Utopia

A whistle, and the train snakes into night
slowly, with squeal of carriage wheels at odds
with twisted curves and tilted track.

Painfully, it picks up speed. The coaches rock.
Bulbs flicker in the corridors and make
long labyrinths of shadow.

City lights begin to fade away –
the windows of smart shops and bars,
the flashing ambers, greens and reds,

the neons and the yellow glare
and cloud-reflected city glow.
Outside grows resolutely black.

The hungry leave their seats and look for food.
They lurch and cannon side to side,
forming shuffling crocodiles.

In the dining car the menu lists
two ethnic dishes and an unnamed cheese
with black bread when available.

No reservations can be made.
Each day it’s only the first who get a seat,
and when the food arrives, it’s always cold.

The buffet offers yesterday’s croissants.
It’s odd how popular they’ll come to be
as the journey lengthens.

There’s no relief in sleep. Clickety-clack
ad nauseam. Then sudden stops and starts
in the middle of god-knows-where.

A grey dawn, and the land is empty, flat.
Sodden ditches. Fences broken down.
Ruined barns. Abandoned villages.

Clickety-clack. Monotony sets in.
The rail-scape’s lost all interest. The sound
of wheel on steel says nothing new.

Ouija boards appear, and Tarot cards
for those addicted to arcana.
Bets are placed on almost anything –

how long before the dowager complains;
how long before the general barks;
how long before the lawyers blink.

– David Morphet 2011