The Sidings

Christmas Engine, Orient Express,
Comfort and nostalgia from
Another age, arriving at a rural station.
Wassail Halt, perhaps? Or Festive Wallop?
Hiss and steam approaching grandly from
The distance. We wait excitedly to get into
Its first class coaches. Arm rests, linen
Chair backs, heavy cutlery, and lamps in
Frilly shades on every table. We’ll be
Part of the journey, hurtling on through
All the days of Christmas.

It goes straight through.
Few trains stop here any more.
The platforms are disintegrating.
Weeds grow where the station name was
Picked out in white pebbles, and
Mossy buffers rust neglected in the sidings.

Where trucks once clanged at night
Around the coal yard, into the silent
Darkness come dim outlines of those
Who now live in only the sidings.

In the cold wind of tonight, they came
With candles guttering and fragile. Lighting
One another’s, sitting down around the bonfire -
Their huge Christmas candle, where
Some were quietly singing an old carol.
It seemed as if all suffering met here.
Somehow inviting all of us who know we are
Not whole or self sufficient.
Only the powerful, fit and wealthy were on
The train to God knows where, oblivious of
Christmas in the sidings.

Ann R Parker
St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 29th November 1998