Postcards from Malthusia DAY TWENTY: Colin Will

Ghost Train


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 (

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