Track Inspection at Swanwick

Track Inspection at Swanwick

We saw them approaching through the mist,
two orange points of light enlarging as they closed
the distance and clarified as men.

One paced the four-foot, head low, spanner eased
high across a shoulder, as if marching the roads
to war, gun slung as they slung guns then.

He searched for cracks and the odd loose bolt,
the lookout had sighted an oncoming train
blowing a warning. They stepped into the cess.

When the train had passed they resumed fault
finding. The morning mist had turned to rain.
It streamed from the luminous coats, caressed

their leggings, their waterlogged hobnails hugging
the ballast. But his eyes were back on track, head
swaying like oxen, ploughing. Sleepers slipped

passed them as they made the last miles, lugging
their legs, thinking increasingly of bed.
It seemed like many hours since they had slept.