I sink the blade in as deep
as my boot will force it,
lever the clod of weed-topped
soil, heave it up, turn it over,
drop it into the trench,
weeds down, slice the clump
to break it up a bit.
I work along the line, turning
last year’s surface to a tilth
to take the new crops.
At the end of each row
I step back to start the next one.
It’s methodical, routine, unchanging,
an annual ritual of cultivation.
My neighbour was here earlier.
We spoke over the fence, keeping
our measure, our greetings casual,
then she left to home school
her grandchildren. Ten metres
from my back fence, banked
on ballast, the East Coast Main Line.
I hear an engine Dopplering higher,
moments later feel the rumble
in my feet. A freight train this time,
more of them now they’ve got
a quieter line to run on. Who else remembers
Nancy Whiskey’s song, that skiffle classic?
Who else knows she came from Glasgow?
The next train’s a through one, fast;
has sped through my home station
without stopping, maintaining momentum.
I’m so used to them I don’t normally look,
but today I do, seeing mostly empty windows.
It has a destination but hardly anyone
is going there.
Colin Will is a poet and short story writer living in Dunbar. He’s had eleven books published, nine poetry and two short stories. He’s currently Editor at Postbox Press (www.redsquirrelpress.com)