Knee-deep in snow, watching
the mile-long curve of a freight train
drag itself into view, these men
who sweated in sub-zero the last two hours
to excise that section of track
cracked by extremes of temperature,
lever it out and hoist into place
a new length, these men stand back
like a family on an outing, time
on their hands and nostalgic
for the days of waving at trains.
(with a nod to Henry Reed)
Rail delays, UK version: signal failure,
track maintenance, the wrong
kind of leaves on the line.
Rail delays, Alaska version: avalanche.
Japonica blooms in some other poem
and today we have naming of avalanches.
It’s a short lesson: there are two –
natural and man-made.
Provoke the latter to prevent the former,
exhaust the mountain and its tons
of hard packed snow; despatch a crew
to dig or plough the tracks free of it.
Small bore weapons are assembled
in another poem and today,
today in Alaska, we have the use
of a howitzer. This is not
how it happens on Midland Mainline.