I can't remember
If we really stopped there
Or if I only dreamed it -
The gritty whisper of braking
Wheel on rail seemed so real, the
Sense of slowing down
Might have been the harbinger
Of a thousand stations before.
It was the signboard that
Caught my eye - such a
Strange and elegant pattern of
Letters hooked and looped.
That's funny, I thought. I
Never knew they translated station
Names ... And then as we slid to a
Halt the next board in line said
The name sounded odd,
Though I could not say why;
Familiar and strange all together.
Curiosity bit, and I chose to
Look, to pay heed to the
Outside world, not a
Newspaper, or a book, or
Nothing much inside the carriage
As my fellow-travellers did.
It was not the familiar orange glare
Of sodium lamps that revealed
That strange place to my sight,
But rather the wavering yellow glow
Of oldfashioned fisheyed lanterns,
Shedding a kindly light on carven pillars
All red and gold, from which sprang,
Fierce as flames, rampant dragons, brackets
Upholding a tiled roof rich with
Moonlight and lanternglow.
The platform was paved with
Stone, not tarmac, and the wall behind
Was more finely wrought than anything a
Railway company ever paid for.
There was light and moving shadow
In windows grilled with glinting metal.
The bell rang to signal
Doors open; but
No-one got off and no-one
Came aboard. We waited,
Hovering for a timeless instant
And then the motors whined, and
We were moving, steel snake
Driving back into the darkness -
Night or reality?
I'd never been there before,
I've never seen that again,
But one night the train stopped
In Narrowthrode -
At least, I think it did -
I can't be sure whether
We really stopped there, or if
I was only dreaming.
But be it dream or reality, the
Vision of that lonely platform
golden in the lanternlight -
Oh, how it haunts me still!
Coming back from London to Cambridge, 21 September, 2001