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The Saturday Poem: The marshalling yard


by Helen Dunmore

The marshalling yard
In the goods yard the tracks are unmarked.
Snow lies, the sky is full of it.
Its hush swells in the dark.

Grasped by black ice on black
a massive noise of breathing
fills the tracks;

cold women, ready for departure
smooth their worn skirts
and ice steals through their hands like children
from whose touch they have already been parted.

Now like a summer
the train comes
beating the platform with its blue wings.

The women stir. They sigh.
Feet slide
warm on a wooden stairway
then a voice calls and
milk drenched with aniseed
drawls on the walk to school.

At last they leave.
Their breathless neighbours
steal from the woods, the barns,
and tender straw
sticks to their palms.

• From Train Songs, edited by Sean O'Brien and Don Paterson, published by Faber (£12.99). To order a copy for £10.39 with free UK p&p go to guardianbookshop.co.uk or call Guardian book service on 0330 333 6846.

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