Small Railway Stations

Eva Bourke

As far as they were concerned, Ionic porticos
had not been invented, pillars or rosette 
windows, marble, mosaic – they left all this circus
to the important stations in the cities
with their tracks to far-flung places
where passengers sat in the waiting rooms
their eyes on the hands of the huge brass clock –
no, the small stations were low, built of blackened brick,
a box of pansies their sole embellishment 
on the sill where the cat slept.
Inside, the windows were the undisputed domain
of the common house fly. News from nebulous distances 
ticked on the telegraphs; the tapes grew and curled unread
till they reached the floor. Poppies flourished between the tracks
and if you put your ear to a mast 
you could hear an insect swarm at its core.
The stationmaster’s red cap glowed in the sun
like a warning signal. Never did the express to the capital 
stop here, but carriages of local trains 
followed the slow curve down the valley 
behind an engine that puffed and whistled in protest.
It’s years since the small stations were erased from the maps
and closed down. They are pizzerias now, sports bars,
youth clubs; nothing happens here, no more departures,
tears, welcoming embraces. But once I found myself 
in a café in one of those forgotten stations
and on the platform saw the place name: Langendreer –
this was the station where my mother had left 
for her studies in a remote city.

She must have stood here between the wars waiting for the train,
in her burgundy coat and black velvet hat,
a serious young girl with a small cardboard valise beside her.
She was spirited from here to other stations, more momentous
than this one, she was blown farther 
and farther away into the disasters and joys 
of her time, its terrors and solemn moments, 
with nothing but her light luggage.

Page 28, Poetry Ireland Review Issue 123
Issue 123

Poetry Ireland Review Issue 123:

Edited by Eavan Boland

Among the poets offering new work in the final Poetry Ireland Review of 2017 are Orla Martin, Catherine Phil MacCarthy, Harry Clifton,  Erin Halliday, Alan Titley, and Nan Cohen, while the Featured Poet is Belfast sensation Stephen Sexton. The books reviewed in this issue include new titles from Michael O'Loughlin, the late John  Montague, Biddy Jenkinson, Aifric Mac Aodha, Mark Roper, and Colette Bryce's Selected Poems.  Also included is editor Eavan Boland's examination of the life and work of the late John Ashbery, and the reasons for his pre-eminence among American poets of his century; and an evocative tribute to the late Gerard Fanning from his friend Gerard Smyth. The artwork for PIR 123 comes from the SO Fine Art Editions gallery, and the issue concludes with nine intriguing questions for Michael Longley, posed by fellow Belfast poets Stephen Connolly and Stephen Sexton – followed, of course, by nine intriguing answers.