Routes known at the outset are always remembered,
Even when rails are gone and grass has settled
Back. Take the Twenty-Four, terminus
Raspberry Wall, where hot fields extend
Green and yellow under skylarks’ cries,
Rotors still and afternoon protracted.
Around and left at Morgan’s, where in the musty
Dimness I used to buy potato chips
And toffee bars. Along the Factory Road,
Pitching slightly, weaving, thrusting forward,
Girls in neon light tending machines.
A stop for someone waiting, arm in the wind,
Then off again, right at the junction and up
A gentle incline by the quarry and caravans,
Cows on the left, a rusted trough and pump.

Here in a strange town it’s another matter.
The Number Ten, the Forty-Seven B,
These and more I’ve watched grinding away
From queues on slender isles among the cobbles,
Driver impassive, above in white on black
The cryptic names of streets I’ll never know.
The surge, the roll, the grim gathering of torque
Contain a foreign element. And yet the girl
With dark, attentive eyes, looking out
Will know the tracks and where they mutely lead:
The firms on either side, the stately shops
And awnings, the chequered tables out of doors
With wine to contemplate, and then at last
The trees, the lawns, the sunlit suburbs still
As evening falls across the verdant parks.

Down from the cables overhead a force
Comes seeking the deep continent’s core,
And this improbable hybrid of other vehicles
Trumbles along the line, with a clatter, a clang,
A yelp, a flash. And then it turns – I see
The trolley swing around and disappear.

First editions sell in the failing light,
Some great event is called concisely out,
And over the way, down the embankment steps,
The swollen river seaward courses on.

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John Alexander

John Aexander was born in Dublin, and grew up in western Canada. His academic background is in mathematics, English literature and philosophy. For twenty years he has worked as a freelance translator in Spain, where he now lives on the south coast.

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