As I was travelling on a train going west,
the dark followed, and I was exhausted,
among mountains as slabs of pitch un-starred
hulks that Wordsworth saw in the lake
but best leave him out of it, poor old-geezer
genius as was. I’m a Coleridge fan myself
among other things, who also loved high cliffs
and narrow ledges, always at the edge of himself,
no wonder he needed to chill out now and again,
with a swig of sweet forgetfulness –
anyway as I was travelling west on the Glasgow to Oban
overnight, as I say, done in with a day’s journey
from down south and getting the job but not
wanting it and knowing it would change
everything I was going home to face
and she wouldn’t want to go and me feeling
I was letting her down and how would we manage
that, then falling asleep in the empty coach,
one of those single ones you don’t see nowadays
and out like a light snoring no doubt with the chug
of the giant black hills rearing up and staring
in at me, then peeling away; me dreaming, restless, afraid
of change and with the snail pace of my growing-
up and with fear and images held under the cold
pulsing whitewash of my conscious grasp, tears now and to
come but sure to come, being faraway in my sleep
falling deeper, without a rope to hang onto
but maybe loosening my tight grip on the big I-am front,
on the old face, faces, dissolving, bleak-black
and alone as my heart was at this very moment,
somewhere around Loch Long the ticket collector
must have slid the door open and seeing me flat
out touched my foot with a highland sensitivity
to the drunk, dead or sleeping. Rearing out of dream
the scream began its long widening quest for a hearing-
from some unguessed depth and into the sound
world of rhythmic beats and social control
arriving with the power of the dragon flayed
and bloody, smacking the poor man back into
the corridor shaken and white as a whip of cream
on black pudding, and fruit slice. Shaking, he
groaned as he tried to find his body and breath
once more, to try to comprehend what the world
had thrown at him at 3-20 am on the Highland Line,
unsuspecting at the simple task of ticket collection.
A philosophy of sorts always helps at such a passage.
Practical, time-tested, precise, and truthful, he offered,
from the distant peak of his trauma voice,
You should fuckin’ well see a psychiatrist. And walked
away. He was right of course. I still have the ticket.