Permanent Ways

He doesn’t appreciate seeing them close up,
migrant field-workers huddled
against the hedge, clothes stuck to them
in the rain, not while he’s eating,
making the most of his free upgrade.

In the past, when he’s made this trip,
he’s always enjoyed the views
across fields that looked perfect,
groomed, the way farms do in stories.

But what’s staying with him this time
isn’t that, the driving rain, or even
the gangmaster’s muddy Transit
bogged down at the edge of the field,

it’s something else, something disturbing
that sets him wondering, the way a jolt
or high-speed lurch across a set of points
will do, what state the subgrade’s in,
whether the ties and ballast might be shifting.

Ken Head

If you have any comments on this poem,  Ken Head would be pleased to hear from you.