'Yes. I remember Adlestrop...' - the poems

Poems by Edward Thomas, Joyce Lee, Adrian Brett, Marc Woodward, Kathleen Bartholomew, Rob Evans, Kim Rooney, David R Taylor, Jonathan Mayman, Richard Carpenter, Jim Barron, Ingrid A Murray, Helen Wilson, Pauline Hawkesworth, Timothy Adès, Paul Walker, Denise Bennett, Sue Spiers, Susan Black, Alun Robert, Mark Carson, Diana Hirst, Colin Pink, Anthony Dunston Gardiner, D P Robinson, Riff Poynton, Joan McGavin, Shareen Rouvray, Janet Lancaster, Usha Kishore, Nicky Browne, Doreen Hinchliffe, Stephen Kerensky, Robin Ford, Barry Tempest, Wes White, Richard Davies, TP Stavert, Robert Richardson, Emer Gillespie, Cliff Bevan, Carolyn O'Connell, Miles Burrows, Calida Ally, Martin Pallot, Jennifer Hindell, Merlynda LK Robinson, John Alcock, Joan Michelson, Alastair Lewis, Olivia McMahon, Jo Field, Simon Williams, Patric Cunnane, Cathy Dreyer, Dominic Power, Elizabeth Birchall, Ann Allen, Elvire Roberts, Peter Keeble, Tony Vincent-Isaacs, Catherine Faulkner, William Shawcross, Jill Sharp, Marilyn Daish, Ron Cox, Julie Boden, Cora Greenhill, Gill McEvoy, Raymond Garfoot

Adlestrop by Edward Thomas

Yes. I remember Adlestrop -
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop – only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

High Cloudlets by Joyce Lee

Staring at the sky, wisps of white
Whirl across the blue. The stutter
Of leaves touching through the breeze
Interrupts tranquillity. A lone ant
Clambers over a broken twig. An old
Newspaper captures the Sun’s rays.
I reach out to the blue beyond but
Hold no hope of feeling those swirling
Shapes. Instead I let my hands frame
Them, their curves, their edges. And
Dream of the distance.

Poem Inspired by Adlestrop by Adrian Brett

A short line a long time unused,
Rusted, overgrown with rose-bay,
Quite remote from houses, its silent echoes
Among vestigial remnants of machinery,
Rusted like the line, once complained about,
Like mine-workings when the pits closed,
Now hymned by nerds and buffs, buffers
Mostly getting on, older getters-off
The uber-glorified smoke trains we call steam,
Who love now the fake memory of the coal,
Dust in the eyes and ears and nostrils and lips,
Between the teeth and in the fingernails,
Love, too, the chuff-chuff of the new-found toy
They wouldn’t swap for a king’s ransom -
All here, grafted for, injured for, without complaint,
Living the dream, breathing the steam,
Salting the earth again like their fathers,
Their uncles, their grandfathers, themselves
Some of them, or merely a progression
From train-spotters, from early boyhood,
or regretting the passing of the past
Into more clinically-polished times.
All with their own Adlestrop.

Adlestrop Revisited by Marc Woodward

A soldier walked through the Adlestrop lanes,
wild flowers sprang where he planted his feet.
He said it was good to be there again
and looked for the station, the train and a seat.

But unlike lost soldiers frozen in youth,
no places remain as we saw them before.
The station had closed, the trains passed right through
- and no soldiers listened for birds anymore.
Yet some things stay as they always have been:
the foxgloves stand tall in the hedgerow;
with bindweed, buttercup, small celandine,
hawthorn, meadowsweet, haycock and willow.

And once where the railway's thunder and steam
drowned out on departure the small bird's song,
now in their arching cathedrals of green
they sing for that soldier loudly and long.

Timing by Kathleen Bartholomew

Even now in the hush of the aftermath
I hear his voice
Gently sigh
Not condemning
Relentlessly forgiving
Every minute
At the sign
Of voices unkind and lashing
Like the much wanted rains on the days
Of waterless graves
They were crying dry tears
Mourning the beauty
Of the black night skies
In June when the honey-moon
Wanes and leaves us
Still relentlessly
Wrong, but getting better,
When he died.

Bugger Adlestrop by Rob Evans

Sometimes I feel I’m not quite here at all;
not real but just a nexus of effects
brought on by far unfathomable causes
and I can’t quite seem to get a grip on things -
on all these invisible puppet strings -
to track them back to their secret places.

It’s like my life is running on someone else’s rails
with a succession of total strangers,
each with the same sick sense of humour,
operating all the points and signals.
Oh sure, I’m wearing a cap marked Driver
but all I’ve got is a dead man’s handle
and all I can do is toot the whistle
and watch the scenery blur by until I stop
at yet another god-forsaken station
which proves to be a destination
that I didn’t even know was on the route.

At every platform, a few more of the seriously weird
get on, a few more of the sane and sympathetic go
and, on the rare occasion that I’m able to ask
some faceless uniform for a timetable,
I’m told that I don’t have a need to know.

Once, just once, I would like to be the cause
of something. I’d like to find a private place
where I could search my skin
for one, small space free from stigmata and then
I would make my own mark with my own pin.
Just once, I would like to pierce the veil
and listen, in the silence, for the thin, high wail
of a distant voodoo doll.

The blackbirds come by Kim Rooney

The blackbirds come
to tell me you are gone.
Elected by the earth to bring
this valedictory song
I had not known, ‘til now
was meant for you.
And I will listen long
beyond the dusk to dawn
until the blackbirds sing
that it is I, who’s gone.

Return by David R Taylor

I went back to Adlestrop
Only once
Before its closure.
I remembered
That other day,
In June.
I remembered
The heat
And the silence,
And the smells,
And the ticking and creaking.
I could only stay
A minute
As I had to return
To Arras
And to my bed in Agny.

The A Train by Jonathan Mayman

Rattling past at a rate of knots.
Not stopping at my station.
Leaving me standing,
watching the lit-up faces flash by.

Chastleton by Richard Carpenter

One remaining cat, curled, content
upon the ancient, faded seat,
enjoys the soft, well kneaded wool
that built the house; ignores the feet

that pause beside the ancient cloth.
Flamestitch reduced to paler hue;
bright fireworks are no longer seen-
once green, pink, vibrant yellow, blue.

Belongings saved by poverty -
fortunes lost in The Civil War.
The House has been made safe, preserved
since decay we cannot restore.

Climb the slope of Hillocky Splatts,
past the dovecot; pause at the top
to view the house nestled by pine.
A short walk on to Adlestrop.

This Is Carriage D. by Jim Barron

At the track-side of a town, the wheeled life of prams and trolleys comes to an end.
The exuberant spray of names shout for fame, not for them the high graffiti art,
more the scrabble of the voyeur, to be seen, passed and gone. All speed is relative,
inside it is constant, outside, we speed and slow and jump from scene to scene.
There is no connection, once the trains had windows you could open, for the wind,

the changing landscape, and the rush of speed. Now we are laminated in here,
a hand pressed against the glass, trains as modern life, isolating and cocooning,
even as we are brought together. Heading North, I see landmarks I have passed
times before, back-gardens, wastelands and castle walls. Physical locators
for the passage of travel and a life. The smell and shabbiness of a station.
The places I have waited while going to or from the parts of myself.

It was Late June by Ingrid A Murray

For sure, you must recall it,
your moment, not mine.
There was sunshine but
had it rained? The time

you found the bracelet
she’d lost, in the very place
where you had left it;
came up from a ditch

you’d been digging all morning,
after a hard season, wiping
the ground from your face
with your father’s hand.

Was it a cuckoo you heard
or a barn owl you saw?
Was it dusk in fact and
you’d been looking for days

when the fox cubs, freelancing
in the long grass
over by the picnic table,
brought you to a standstill?

Or was it something she said,
years ago, returning with the taste
of cinnamon rock? Was she
the woman you saw on the bus?

Was it a gabardine she wore?
Was that before or after the war?
Maybe there was wood smoke in the air.
You must recall it. You were there.

Litha by Helen Wilson
For S.J.P ( 23.6.86 – 5.1.87 )

You were my Midsummer, a distillation
of the long light, searing celebration
of night’s defeat. Your colours
were the gold of grain, the pure blue
of a laverock’s song, and white
like bright elder at the field’s edge.
Bonfire, you flamed truer than noon
on the green hill, and you burn here still.
I was too young to see that catching the sun
in my hands would brand me with sorrow,
or that summer warns winter comes tomorrow.

Meeting Place by Pauline Hawkesworth

You have left the train too early
I call out ‘It’s the wrong stop.’
See your jacket flapping, arms raised
as if to say goodbye.

Couldn’t you see through the open window
that this place is not where we spoke about?

Your luggage sits under my feet,
an old fashioned square-edged suitcase,
‘just one’ you said, ‘that’s enough.’

We were sitting chatting of ordinary things,
when you jumped up and hurried off, perhaps
you thought this place was your Adlestrop.

All I see now is a match-stick man, and I’m
shouting at it ‘catch the next train, I’ll wait
at the next stop.’

Now, fed up with waiting
I leave our luggage in ‘lost property’
and hack-back, dangerously,
along the railway track.

Can almost hear blackbirds pecking at the sun.
Around the next corner I should see the station
a quiet place, and you sitting on a bench
admiring willow-herb and rosebay.

And inside my sprawling brain
I know that this too is my Adlestrop.

Witanhurst by Timothy Adès

Lines in the Highgate Society Buzz during defence of the mansion's wooded grounds, looking from Kenwood.

Witan, the ancient council; Hurst, a wooded hill.
Not since the Binsey poplars, those Hopkins-harrowing topplers,
Fell or were felled by the fiend of eld that wishes old England ill,
And the trains stopped stopping at Adlestrop, and at Grantchester time stood still,
Has anything worse been heard in verse, including, if you will,
The nefarious, unhilarious Dissolution of Halnaker Mill.

Adlestrop by Paul Walker

For me, Adlestrop
is like the 60s –
I know I was there
but don’t remember.

For there I had
my first skinny-dip
(in the 40s a risky period
for any sort of naked endeavour).

But for a chance
in a million or so
of fusing
with that elusive egg

I was prepared
to be fiendishly competitive -
for the prize
was coming out of town doubly alive.

Adlestrop by Denise Bennett

Adlestrop was the place you stopped,
the station where the blackbird sang,
where you waited in the heat of June
expectantly - let the time hang.

You listened to the hiss of steam,
held that moment in a trance,
and caught the notes of one lone thrush,
the sound you seldom heard in France.

And someone coughed but no one came
as you watched the white, high-tiered cloud,
saw willows, willow-herb and grass.
No hint of whiz-bangs or men cowed.

You did not dream of trenches then,
of the guns which would never stop,
but held your country in your arms
that summer's day at Adlestrop.

Blackbird by Sue Spiers
i.m. Edward Thomas

The blackbird’s song was in hiding
from stray rounds and concussive shells.
it returned as a stark lament
that strafes the land bereft of bells.

Yes, I remember Kensington by Susan Black

Yes, I remember Kensington
The place, as round about eleven
that summer day, the traffic stopped.
It was nineteen ninety seven.

The breezes stirred. A child was hoisted high.
No one smiled. There was no sound
among that crowd. What I felt
was silent grief; shared all around.

And then the clop of horses hooves; the long black cars
with one white one among their fleet.
And on it, all alone she lay
And heads were bowed, along the street.

And for that minute no one moved
But then, remembering lives that still were ours,
we went about our daily tasks.
And left behind a sea of flowers.

Remembering Adlestrop, poem by the late Edward Thomas with prequel and sequel from Alun Robert

As far as I remember
Boarded the lunchtime express-train
Out from my Oxford with sweating spires.
Thank goodness I was in First Class.

Engine built up a full head of steam
Guard shouted “All aboard for Worcester!”
Blew his whistle - we were off
With window pulled down for my gasper.

Passed villages; passed steeples
People standing by - some waving
Through cuttings, over viaducts
Alongside rivers of Gloucestershire.

Then my carriage juddered back and forward
As the brakes started screeching
In the deepest of countryside
Who are the people living out here?

Yes. I remember Adlestrop
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat, the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop - only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

Then I opened the carriage door
Alighted to Adlestrop for to explore
In the footsteps of Jane Austen
In search of my Mansfield Park.

Heard St Mary’s five bells chime
In the traditional English fashion
Watched a fine maiden-over bowled
On the village green by enthusiastic locals.

Strolled along to The Greedy Goose
For a tankard of the landlord’s finest ale
Discussed the resurgence of imperialist aggression
Pray to God that peace does not fail.

Then trotted back to Adlestrop station
As the Guard called “Back aboard for Worcester!”
Blew his whistle - we were off
Window pulled down for another gasper.

Here comes the station by Mark Carson

Here comes the station
the station you desire.

No stop is scheduled
but the fast train is slowing,
slowing to a halt.
You rush to the door
grab your briefcase from the rack

and the station-master shouts
“Hey! She doesn’t stop here!”
though she has; and you reply
‘’But I’m not getting off!”
though you are;

and paralogically
you walk away
leaving him confoundedly
confounded.

Domodossala by Diana Hirst

Yes. I remember Domodossala –
The name, because one brilliant dawn
I woke in the Milan express
To find we’d halted. It was late March.

As the curtain lifted no-one spoke.
Through the nicotine-brown window
snow-pure mountains jostled, gleaming
beneath an unknown blazing blue.
We’d crossed a double watershed.

The train lifted up its skirts and danced
in six-eight time, down the hills to Stresa.
We passed through peachy light, light seen before,
but only on the walls of galleries,
and unbelievable to northern eyes;
eyes that closed with tiredness,
blotting out the Lombard plain,
to open in amazement above steps that dropped
and disappeared in lapping water.

A sombre veil hung over Venice
who lacked her Canaletto colours.
She was in mourning for Good Friday,
muffled clappers on her bells,
crucifixes covered in her churches.

Drapes of rusting rosy cliff-sides,
a backdrop to the Adriatic stage.
The painted-on Albanian villages,
so far away they looked like seabird’s nests,
hinted at a world concealed, beyond our grasp.

When we made landfall at Piraeus we knew
another curtain had already risen.
Against a bleached white calico of sky
the Parthenon glowed pink above
the vibrant-smelling streets of Athens:
honey, roasting meat and sesame
and healthy dirt that basked in sun.

In the Keramikos cemetery,
Good Friday vigil pulsed with mystery.
Faithful faces full of wonder
mirrored back the bowls of light,
framed with candle smoke and incense
in the unfamiliar denseness
of the Aegean April evening.

And up and up the curtains rose,
on the misty cape at Sounion,
half sea, half air; on blue Itea
straining up to reach to Delphi;
on Mycenae’s womb-like entrance
to the Tomb of Clytemnestra.

The stage was set at Epidaurus:
no curtain needed here, where actors of all ages
were brought together in a German tour guide
demonstrating the acoustics.

But still they rose, on myths and ruins,
on blood-red Easter eggs eaten
with the Fire Brigade at Nauplia,
on the stadium at Olympia,
where an archeologist’s umbrella
mounted guard above the excavations,
on a game of cricket in once-garrisoned Corfu,
until one brilliant dawn at Brindisi
a paper jolted us to nineteen sixty-one.

A Russian man had flown in space.

Adlestrop or Elsewhere by Colin Pink

It’s four AM and the blackbirds’ arias begin
Summoned from restless sleep the air rings
Like a bell as the trees blossom with song
And natural music cleaves the air like a fin
in Adlestrop or elsewhere
But there’s another reveille over the horizon
As Russian tanks hiss and clank into Ukraine
And the AK47s unzip the air around Baghdad
Still the blackbirds invent theme and variation
in Adlestrop or elsewhere
Everyone squabbles over territory even the birds
Salutations, incriminations, mating and nesting
There is no rest even at four AM the dawn listens
Holds its breath as distant songs are barely heard
in Adlestrop or elsewhere
There’s a web in which everyone seems caught
All hasten to do what they think they ought
But the search for peace is strangely wrought
And the cost far more than anyone thought

This was where we stood by Anthony Dunston Gardiner

This was where we stood
across the fields of couch grass
following a well-trodden path
still glistening with dew, and

this was where we stood
either side of our mother
holding her hand, left and right,
standing, listening, waiting, and

this was where we stood
hearing the cough of the engine
building up strength at the station,
before tracks began to hum, and

this was where we stood
the heavy breathing closer now,
a steam train from Maldon
whistling at the bend, and

this was where we stood –
waving. 

Tour of Britain, Bleasdale Fell by D P Robinson

Gathered high with late starlings,
curled against a northern wind,
he forages the ripest blackberries
besides a hawthorn verge
anticipating his heroes’ annual return.

With purple-stained fingers
deep in his cagoule, he stamps
the tarmac to warm his feet
as pretty girls in red polka dot dresses
hand out sponsor’s caps.
A wife lets down the tailgate
for her husband’s wheelchair.
A father and son argue
over the arrangement of their new caps.
Goldfinches twittering amongst yellow leaves
compete with a child’s cry.
Two in business suits stand beside
a BMW; one is focusing a camera.
A concerned fan kicks a twig off the road
when a clarion of alarm announces their arrival.
Catching the sun in passing – their colour is brilliant.

Journey (after Edward Thomas) by Riff Poynton

Some years after hearing your poem read
At school as I gazed out of a window, (poem unheard),
My mind growing mistier and mistier
Bored of all your unknown haycocks and willow-herb,
I took a steam train, the tourist line,
Too young to call this recall or memory,
Just a newly found interest in what, to me, was history
Alone on the platform I stood, blue sky above,
Listening to the train’s shriek and rattle like guns.
And in that moment my mind cleared, I remembered family,
Those sadly gone and all those unknown yet to come.
Then in summer heat the train pulled away, left me
Clearing my throat, struggling for words,
Distance growing farther and farther
Only then I understood and strained to hear the birds
Of all Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

At Twyford Station by Joan McGavin

The bicycles are parked like lovers
turned intimately towards each other.
Fresh rain has sweated finely onto the carriage window.
A breeze frees the roses from their flat chintz sleep.
The engine, which has been practising clearing its throat,
turns itself off. We are all between chapters, articles,
waiting to turn the page, eager to fall in love
with this widening calm.
Beneath its surface even the rubbish
speared into the station-master’s clear plastic sack
lies like emerald seaweed, sea anemones.

Addlestone by Shareen Rouvray

Now I remember Addlestone,
Railway tracks snake on their own,
Hawthorn bushes in New Haw,
The house is gone and is no more,

Milkthistle, dandelion and May,
Celebrated the path that day,
Standing when the gates came down,
The train threw waste upon my frown.

Water, wind and weary wheels,
Slapped the track with eerie squeals,
Freights of mauve and purple hue,
Rumbled on with no adieu.

For a second a darkling thrush,
Whistled from a thorny bush,
Chirping out, “What is the hurry?”
Just another train in Surrey.

Muchelney by Janet Lancaster

Yes. We’ll remember Muchelney.
So named because in winters long ago
it was a marshland islet regularly
washed by Parrett’s peat stained overflow.

Muchelney. No one left, no one came,
except by boat. January 2014:
cut off again by floods – avoidable, some claim.
The news unfolds on every TV screen.

Drowned reed banks. Crowns of willows
wave from widening lakes - once crop fields
or meadows grazing sheep and cows,
which huddle now in mud, devoid of feed.

Inside St Peter and St Paul: parish supplies
piled in late medieval aisle. Help comes, yet,
as pumps piss, filth clings and smells arise
from sewage and all the rotting voles of Somerset.

Pettah by Usha Kishore

I remember Pettah
a station, where
trains stopped briefly
in faraway summers.

In the platform of long ago,
crowded with thoughts,
I see the name – Pettah,
the entrance to home,

covered in grass, dandelions
and the occasional tree,
with memory chirping,
swinging on its tail.

Moments knitted
in distant bird song,
bearing me farther
and farther away.

No, I do not know this Adlestrop by Nicky Browne

No, I do not know this Adlestrop -
The name perhaps, some afternoon
An old anthology caught my eye
Surprising me: it was in runes.

The planes groaned. Somewhere in the street
Someone laughed but no one came
To ring the doorbell. What I read
Was Adlestrop - only the name.

But outside, outside-songs, and scents
Burned barbeques and radios
More tempting than the open book
Than the bald symbols at my nose.

And at that moment a light breeze blew
The page and round me flurries
Of warm and warming, playful wind
all diesel fumes, sweet as Surrey.

Buckfastleigh by Doreen Hinchliffe

Steam rises hot in his nostrils. The train
snorts, coughing smoke. He hugs his case,
fingers the label on his gabardine
presses his face to the grime of carriage glass

and peers across the platform through a fog
that shrouds a mass of faces, anxious, sad.
His mother’s hanky flutters like a flag
above the crowds. She mouths to him, Be good!

The train sighs heavily, heaves its weight
forward, straining to reach the first bend.
Her handkerchief slowly fades to a blur of white,
surrenders him to distant, alien land.

He curls up in his seat, feels the brush
of moquette against the side of his leg, his jaw.
Forehead pressed to the window, he thinks of the fish
he won at the fair, his frogspawn in a jar.

The engine’s rhythm lulls as they leave the town.
He stares, unseeing, at endless lines of wire
on telegraph poles and steep embankments strewn
with poppies from an older, different war.

They chug through yellow fields, past sheep and cows
and scarecrows like the ones in picture books.
It’s almost five when the engine finally slows,
easing to a halt with a hiss of brakes.

Strangers line the platform, holding up names
of children to be sheltered from invasion.
The air feels far too clean, devoid of fumes.
He waits his turn, then steps out on the station,

its name inscribed on the sign he walks towards
in perfect stark italics - Buckfastleigh .
He thinks of home, his father’s parting words.
Don’t cry, big boys don’t cry, he whispers softly.

Lost Department Store 4 by Stephen Kerensky

Now let the empty spaces prey
Upon imagination`s magnetism
For articles, or such scenes of wrath
As we played out before I moved away:
A silent hubbub of speech lay,
Like a comforter, over the counters,
Wrapping the process of consumerism
In cosy, thoughtless humdrum sloth.
A haze of imaginary sweet encounters
Infected the rooms, before they moved away.
Now tears fall in through-lounges
Daily Mail rage spews over he or she who scrounges
Or seems to, from the State. Sooner each day,
Shadows seem to fall from the time you moved away.

Once there was an inviolate moon,
Gazing chastely up while June
Dropped her undies on the grey Lloyd Loom,
Never fearing what was in store.
Sam was staring from his foreign field,
Hefting on brawny arms an antique shield,
Hoping against hope she`d never yield
To other loving, in the blackout, in the war.
A roaring motor now flashes down the lane,
The fumes have gassed the flowers again.
Young Emma`s not been anywhere by train,
Not seen where Grandad fell, during the war:
She`s doesn`t know her etiquette at tea:
Instead she asks me if the air is free, and:
“Did they sell freedom in the Lost Department Store?”

A Long Way from Adlestrop by Robin Ford

Yea, I remember Nuseybin,
the name, because one afternoon
of heat the sluggish serpent train
as good as died there at a passing loop
right on the desert's fringes
by the Syrian border, its three day crawl
just half-way through.

No town in sight, though no doubt near,
for trays of sticky food were hawked
along the coaches. A stream had carved
a gully near the track but now was dead,
a few exhausted thorns gave shade enough
for me to leave the train and flop. It was
so hot it felt weight dropped, so hot
that when a fat and friendly woman in
a silk tent dress stretched lardy feet, they seemed
to melt and run for cover in the sand.

A frontier stop - perhaps that caused delay
but trains crossed here and usually ran late.
It seemed we waited outside time until
the other train came in - then I could have
jumped aboard and gone back into Turkey.
Instead I stayed where lavatories were blocked,
there was no water, flies hung plump as plums,
sand on seats left silhouettes as people shifted.

I journeyed on to where, a hundred thousand
miles away, mighty in the south, astride
a river strong as all the pythons in the world,
the city stood, clay brown, with turquoise domes.
It was to leave its seed in me to grow,
to shape so many years that followed
such a youthful and romantic trek.

A few hours in that baked place
and then the train moved on.

Edward Thomas at Adlestrop by Barry Tempest

The day the express train drew up there
unwontedly, two ways diverged:
flight through ripples of birdsong,
or steel rails shining in the June sun,
unrelenting to infinity. Can one travel both and be
one traveller? On the bare platform
no-one left and no-one came.
You were on your way to Robert Frost
and passing here the road not taken.
The steam hissed. The train moved on, the moment
missed.
That passing moment still,
cupped in a bubble of your words, floats on
through ripples of sound farther and farther
with all the birds of pre-war English shires,
while your rough journey steamed
to France, and Arras, and the terminus.

Chassignolles by Wes White

Yes, I remember ‘Adlestrop’ -
The poem, since one afternoon
My friends’ old man pulled out his pocket-book
Of poets like Siegfried Sassoon.

The kettle hissed. He paused to clear his throat,
Then read to us from it - read ‘Adlestrop’ in it,
Just the three of us, glad
To stop there for that minute.

In that old French kitchen where we broke baguettes
On a stout wooden table sat on a stone floor;
The whole house still musty from pungent wild mushrooms
Brought in from the woods then put back out the door,

His voice caught as he read to us.
And the blackbird’s song had travelled now
Through those other birds and Thomas, across the Channel and the years
To a charming room in the Auvergne. To his ears.

Leaving Adlestrop by Richard Davies

Maybe someone did get off the train
that hot June afternoon
and the poet, drowsy after lunch,
missed the slamming of a door
and did not see a dark haired girl
use the brief unscheduled stop
to leave a man she did not love
and slip away to find another life.
Then, as a steam valve hissed
and couplings clanked,
the train moved on again
so he could not have known
she stayed there all alone
listening to a blackbird sing.

Remembering Adlestrop by TP Stavert

Opening my present from my son
A book of poetry to my surprise
For I had started writing poems
And this great gift opened my eyes

I flipped the pages in search of one
Yes one special poem I read before
Many years ago when I was at school
A poem I would learn to adore

I remember Adlestrop the name
And it was there for me to learn again
About that time in the heat of the day
When Edward Thomas was sat on that train

Looking at the name on that seat
Surrounded by the sweetness of nature
With flowers and insects of all kinds
And birds singing in a musical overture

Annoyed by Robert Richardson

No, I don't remember Adlestrop -
The name, the bus was fifteen minutes late
And I missed the bloody train.

The Blackbird by Emer Gillespie

The blackbird in my garden’s a noisy bugger
this year, full-throated, insistent, cock of the walk
- doesn’t care who knows it!

June and he starts before dawn, 3am in the dark,
loud and joyous, out over the trees, our house,
to the park, beyond, and then some,

all day long I hear him, calling out, telling me
and anyone else who cares to stop and listen
that from where he stands this all belongs to him.

I’m drawn out, frequently drawn right outside to see
if I can see him, there he is, perched in the highest branches
of the false acacia, or up on the apex

of the gabled roof, beak open, song pouring from him.
I join in sometimes, a garbled, whistling version
of a line he’s sung, imperfect, not coloured

with all the details he gives it, still he listens.
I can hear him thinking, before he gives me
his response, then a pause while I do my best,

imitate what he’s said, trill, or try to, whistle
with a high squeak, add a little something extra on the end
that moves the conversation forward.

Head to one side, he thinks again and adds a symphony
to his reply for the sheer outrageous joy of it. But these are
the bestest times of all, out singing with a blackbird.

Adlestrop by Cliff Bevan

A hundred years of silence
'Till Edward Thomas heard
A breakthrough of a minute
The calling of a bird.
In Adlestrop the willows
The Blackbird and the train,
Would make the day a memory,
A poem heard again.
As men became the warriors,
And life and death so slight
In midday of the brightness,
Forever came the night.

Not a Station by Carolyn O’Connell
Ladbroke Grove four years after the crash 

It wasn't a platform it wasn't October.
For a moment Sainsbury’s car park was deserted
no one came to drive away the waiting cars
shaded by Kensal’s defunct gasometers.

Along the perimeter wire rags flick languidly
as wings of perching birds, lifted
by slowly moving currents of a pre-storm heat
before flying on over Trelick Towers.

Only the whistle of an unseen train
on the line below the memorial, the wilting flowers,
breaks the stillness as it passes signal SN93
speeding towards Reading or Oxfordshire.

Mornington by Miles Burrows

Yes, I remember Mornington Crescent.
The underground train stopped for no reason
The doors stayed shut. On the platform
A poster showed a ploughed field in sunlight.

And in the silence
A woman went on reading a novel
While the train juddered and ticked
Like an anxious blackbird

As if undecided whether to go on
Yet trying to break the tension and the silence
When suddenly someone's mobile went off
With a soft repeated call

Like woodland birds, one near, one further away
As if measuring the distance of a wood
A sound that I remembered
Though I'd never heard it before.

Haworth by Calida Ally

‘Twas one sunny afternoon
When I happened to meet with my love.
By sheer chance ‘twas,
And had nothing to do with me.
The driver had blown his whistle
And the chugging had come to a halt.
That’s when she caught my eye,
Did my grand majestic beaut.
I stared in awe, beside myself with love
As I drank in all her splendour.
Her skirts of silken green, adorned the hills,
And cobbles paved the streets.
Steam swirled around the throng of people,
A sign that I was to leave.
I felt a sudden ache in my heart
As the whistle shrieked
And the train began to pull away.
I shall see thee again someday I vowed,
Craning my neck to catch one last glimpse.
I shall see thee, I said again
As she slowly grew out of sight.

Remembering by Martin Pallot

Trains don’t stop at Adlestrop -
The name alone remains
Memorialized in the bus stop,
Sheltered from the harm
Of passing days.

Remembering the place where,
One pre-war afternoon,
A young man briefly stopped
And saw, not just the name,
But what gave that name life;
The microcosm of sweet England.

He wrote a memory,
A lantern slide of summer countryside
Pro patria amore,
Then took his road
And journeyed on,
In time, to France, where
In some foreign field, he came
To journey’s end;
Now only his words remain,
In memoriam,
“The flowers left thick at nightfall in the wood
This Eastertide call into mind the men,
Now far away from home, who, with their sweethearts
Should
Have gathered them and will do never again.”

While all along the railway track
Where no stop remains,
The poppies nod to passing trains,
At Adlestrop.

23rd June 2007 by Jennifer Hindell

Yes, we remember Domodossola –
The name, because that afternoon
Of heat, the express train drew up there,
Bound for Milan. The crowd left soon

And soon, we were left quite alone,
No one else, and no one came
On the bare platform. What we saw
Was Domodossola - only the name -

And a plaque recalling thousands who'd left
From here, seeking the New World's land and sky,
And nothing else but distant sounds
Of the town and playing field nearby.

And for two hours, the scene remained the same,
Small sounds came and quickly faded
Nearer and farther till our train came
For Omegna – from Domodossola.

The Train Paused by Merlynda LK Robinson

Fleeting is the breeze that pats the face she studies closely
Accustomed to those sights that stain her eyes and strap her throat
Her bottled, ambushed anger now alerted to their pleas
That train of pleas still plays upon her sleepless shift, tonight.

A blackbird’s song, a rude, steam hiss,
Deaf ears of corn, deaf journey.
Returning soldiers camp in her custody of care.
An emblem of a cross in red, a crossroads in the country,
A country’s wounded army paused,
From here goes who knows where?

Clear your throat and step aboard,
And drop the window tall,
But do not sleep with the soldiers here
For fear of missing more.
Bored you’ll be until you’re still,
The platform lullaby begins
A cruel cough, a chorus rough
Of all life’s cries, below, above.

All cry for life.
All cry for love.

Per Adlestrop Ad Astra by John Alcock

It was, in its way, a kind of Adlestrop:
the silence, the stillness,
an emphatic motionlessness
after the busy pace of the flight;

constant conveyance, endless chatter,
recycled plastic passing for food;
cramped confines when even cleaning teeth
became an operational procedure.

Final approach, waiting for the usual signals,
jolt of landing gear, reverse thrust
and final touchdown smooth as a whisper.
Stasis. And no one to come by,

no throat-clearing, no blackbird; only
desert, rock and sea-less shore,
where someone had to be, after all,
the first person to set foot on Mars.

Apeldoorn by Joan Michelson

Yes, I remember Apeldoorn,
the grounds I stole upon, the park
surround, and lone museum building
as if set aside, set back.

It stood as was when cleared in ’42,
the hospital, a pastoral haven
for the Nazi-marked, and Jews
then in hiding. All were taken.

I mounted stairs to a small room
with bare two-tier iron cots
and a barred window. Did I sense
a rush of people? What I saw

were trees in blossom, the Netherlands,
for that moment, finest day.
Ghosts of Germans floated down,
swans with wings outstretched. 10th May. 

Long (After Adlestrop) by Alastair Lewis

I’ve lived in London long enough
to fear that, even though
I have no proof, the countryside
is painted on the windows

of trains. The fallen-down factories
like tripped-over Lego
houses, and the flooded modern fields
I see as water meadows,

the cerealed hills that won’t lie flat
like unrolled baker’s parchment,
and the backs of terraced half-and-half
houses split down the garden,

and the hot-air balloons like overblown
exclamation marks
are all just services, like Wi-Fi,
or the buffet car.

Chateau Fort by Olivia McMahon

Yes, I remember Chateau Fort,
The hors d’oeuvres variés, the wine, the bifteck,
The woman with the limp who served us
And would we like the veg avec?

The terrace where we sat looking
At a man below painting a gate
In the midday sun and you explaining
The Theory of Relativity as we ate

And then the road of the seventeen bends
To Racine’s Walk and Port Royal
And you saying Look up as we drove down
Remember that patch of blue. I shall,

I promised and also Chateau Fort
The woman with the limp, the man below,
The midday sun and you explaining
And me saying I told you so.

Fitchett of Hook by Jo Field

Snugly rolled
in a magic carpet
and rushed
through the night
while a plosive
fricative
voiceless rhythm
hushed
and lulled
waxed and waned
whispered and hammered
against the grain
of the rails
the name
of the butcher
once glimpsed on a shop
in a small town in Hampshire
and chanted by wheels
again and again
and again and again and again.

Aldershot by Simon Williams

Yes, I remember Aldershot -
the name, because one afternoon
of heat the Heathrow coach stopped there
unexpectedly. It was inopportune.

The door released, someone’s iPod hissed,
few left or came; it was a comfort stop.
In the bare bus station, what I saw
was a departure board with Aldershot on top

and nettles, shepherd’s purse, couch grass,
cow-parsley and some others with long stems.
A man with goggles and a petrol strimmer
was taking out the worst of them.

And for that minute a seagull squawked
close by and then, like some round trip,
further and further, all the gulls
from town centre, way out to the council tip.

Soldier's Train by Patric Cunnane
i.m. Edward Thomas

The soldier's train has left the station
I read him still, as you do too
Although his last post came too soon
We honour his verse, this summer noon

Adlestrops by Cathy Dreyer

I’ve been to Adlestrop —
I go there every day
when the kettle’s singing.
I go there without thinking.

My life is full of Adlestrop,
full of me walking past a child,
lost in a screen. Buttons click
clack and he is deaf to his name.

Outside there’s Comfrey, Woundwort,
Cow Parsley, grass in flower,
wheat high and swaying in the wind,
orangey-yellow under grey cloud.

In an Elder bush, a Chaffinch chides
June’s mucky summer, summoning
dark fronts which stalk the horizon,
from the Ridgeway, to the world’s edge.

The Ages of Tin by Dominic Power

At the beginning it’s hard
for the young men and boys.
Back-bending, rock-breaking work
in the deep dark.

Part of the lode will remain
undisturbed. If picked, though,
then, like the rocks,
some men are sent to the surface

for refining. There, a hundred hammers
pound with the noise of artillery,
pieces that do not break are sent back to the front
and sludge is washed down the kicking tables.

Heavy ore caught on ridges is taken
to the settling pit, the top layer
goes back to the tables, the bottom,
unbearably weighty, is beaten in barrels

to shake out more impurities.
Blue-black cassiterite is collected in
small hessian bags that take two men to lift
and sent for smelting.

In the valley below old miners still believe
they can find value in their lives
and build hundreds of rag frames to collect
microscopic particles in the rough grain of their boards.

Tracks by Elizabeth Birchall
It is barbarous to write a poem after Auschwitz – Theodor Adorno

Our bus pauses in a station yard
Simply for us to stretch our legs
At a hot, dusty stop in central Sicily.
The lines run beneath inert signals
Across a dun waste, converging at infinity
Both east and west, as though
Forgotten in some wilderness,
Sparsely populated and echoless.

I cannot look at silent rails
Without seeing the grey image
Of Auschwitz, its livid bricks,
Flat fields and weed-grown tracks,
And hearing vibrations gathered,
Long dead, from a continent.

Geraniums bloom unattended
On the empty platform and I fill
The vacant time idly deadheading.
No whisper from the steel and
No-one came and no-one went.
I live near Adlestrop, remember
Its green trough so different,
Familiar, full of song.

Centenary Stop by Ann Allen

We come back now and find your sign
detached from when that afternoon
a train stopped and a blackbird sang -
and all your journeys in between

pause in a solitude of sound.
We hear your voice, pure as a thrush,
live in the wind, in wet, in bright,
stayed in your calm attentiveness

to chip of flint and marguerite.
Your air is word as on the road
we too encounter those you meet
and learn the seasons of your mood.

The long echo of a shell
fades in these fields. We are held up
on stopping by this platform bench
once somewhere else. Yes. Adlestrop.

Andere Adlestrop, 23 June 1944 by Elvire Roberts

Another train, another June.

Everyone got off, no-one came.

The smoke climbed.

Rowan and poplar hid
nondescript buildings,
grew tall and strong
from the ash,
a green girdle cinching
absence.

Listen:

the birds stay away.

Someone Cleared his Throat by Peter Keeble

I want to know more about this clearing of the throat:
was it the dainty ahem of a pink scrubbed clerk
or some consumptive invalid’s raking hack?
Or perhaps a labourer’s uncouth expectoration –
though what one such as he would be doing
in such a carriage as this is hard to tell.

It is the cough that gives the wild flowered silence its peace
before the annual red flood sweeps away those innocent blooms.

It is the cough that prefaces the wrecking hells we know
will demonstrate whatever god chose how things must be
is no true Englishman: no great respecter
of the ancient lines that unite and divide.
The certainties of king and country
have been shelled to smithereens
and the six foot craters they have left
cover all the sleepless shires of the world.

Adlestrop imagined by Alison Riley

A name that unravels on the tongue
The way fishing line unspools
And hooks plop on entering water;

That holds the wing-whirr of blackbirds
Darting between hedgerows
Rife with comfrey, nettle, dock;

Scents of vanilla and green fruit,
Bowed heads of grasses heavy with seed,
A place that’s always June.

Blackbird of Arras by Tony Vincent-Isaacs

Easter Monday, 1917, Arras, Pas-de-Calais. Edward Thomas killed by shell blast

Yes, I will remember Adlestrop-
that name, for the slipping time
left today. The blackbird singing,
as it did then, a fluting chime,

upon the bleak trenches edge,
this road now taken, its warning
unheeded. One day halting
in June heat, willow-herb adorning,

the platform silent. Here the sky puffs
in loud smoke, haycocks mound
from stricken earth. Oh, Gloucestershire,
oh, Oxfordshire, rejoice in the sound

of blackbird’s bewitching chorus.
In a moment’s respite I stand and stare
to see the creature wildly flap away
and feel the sudden rush of air.

After Adlestrop by Catherine Faulkner

If we had one afternoon of heat,
No others but that straight, long afternoon
Suspending words - only your name
Drawn out slowly like the passing clouds,
I would not be a coward.
If we had one afternoon of unwonted heat,
In that moment a blackbird singing closely by,
Catching on the drift of song a communion
Of years where truth and longing meet.
There would be nothing to say.
There would be nothing left
But the bones of our love licked clean by the sun.

I didn't go to Adlestrop by William Shawcross

I didn't go to Adlestrop
I took a short flight from Dymock,
There is an airport there,
There was also a group of poets,
Who didn't know I care.

I took the plane over the top,
And the airport has no windsock,
I went high in the air,
My friends a group of didn't-know-its,
Stayed on the ground down there.

Adlestrop, A Limerick by Jill Sharp

A midsummer day so sublime
might well turn a poet to rhyme,
yet it wasn’t the birds
who inspired his great words
but the fact that the train was on time.

Ghost Train by Marilyn Daish

I heard it first,
It’s barely audible register
A whisper on the horizon.

It rounded the bend on the far hill,
Braking against the gradient of its curve,
A whirl of black, pumping steam.
The whisper turned to roar
Against the screech of metal on metal, wheels to rails,
Nearer and nearer it came,
Groaning under the weight of its own monstrous invention.

No driver, no passengers were seen,
Just row upon row of windows from empty carriages, catching the light,
A solstice sun bouncing off their glass,
Reflecting back a distortion of trees and fields of blobby sheep.
In the last carriage, the intrusion of a face,
It’s pale outline
Briefly holding my attention
As the train hurtled past
And was gone.
A smudge, a pause, a trick of the light?
Another slipped moment in the expected sequencing of time?

The chimera dissolves,
The interrupted moment rushing back to plug the gaps,
Enveloping me with the immediacy of the present,
The familiarity of its sights and sounds,
The summer smells of crops
As they move to the prompts of unseen breezes,
Teasing waves from the order of their military lines.

I stand alone by the grassed over tracks
Whose rusted rails have long since gone,
Watching playful rabbits.

And listening to a blackbird’s song.

Siren by Ron Cox

Take pity, for a lone old man marooned
in the stultifying summer heat of his car behind
a school coach stilled by heavy junction traffic.

Unbidden, a girl miraculously appears:
a framed vision: window bewitcher or airy nymph
with fiery-blonde smiles and posings;
casting off pubescent awkwardness,
flaunting for sexual attention, splashing
those teenage charms within his view, testing
her adolescent temptation to the maximum.

Then, a gap in the traffic sends the coach
speeding off in a foggy puff of grey exhaust smoke
leaving a flummoxed old man alone again
with reveries and memories of hazy times in youth -
but blessed with the echo of a siren smile
and hand-blown kiss to enchant his journey home.

Nanstallon Halt, 1906-1967 by Eleanor J Vale

From Wadebridge through to Grogley Halt,
Nanstallon Halt, Boscarne,
sweet places of my childhood
buried in primrosed lanes, with violets, bluebells,
campion, greens tumbling through the shade
how the hills got steeper and the lanes more narrow
its peace growing in my years away.

But returning there through Wikopaedia
I learn how it was lost in darkness
when war-time trains trundled from Padstow
taking explosives across the Tamar,
bringing soldiers back to a
“St Lawrence Platform” 1906-1917
where the wounded stumbled out
for care at the asylum.
How mad would they need to be
to be dispatched? How mad to enlist?

Nanstallon Halt my Adlestrop.

Birmingham by Julie Boden
Written between midday and 1pm, 23rd June, 2014

Yes. I remember Birmingham —
Dad drove us in one afternoon
A smell of HP filled the air
I was just three. It was late June.

My brother gagged. Dad cleared his throat.
I breathed it in as mum did too —
Imagining those lands the spice
Ingredients would travel through

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
'And hay', mum said, 'yes... haycocks dry
And camel trains and caravans
And desert sand and mackerel sky.'

A car horn blared, a small bell rang
And as a stranger gave a shout —
A large beam engine came in view
At Watts' graffitied roundabout.

Not Adlestrop by Cora Greenhill

one itchy morning
    buggy and dove tedious
swallows swipe
    distant dogs wail
and something else
    long-awaited, disconcerting
spelling the end
    of blackbird’s liquid love song
chaffinch’s compelling call
    answered across the valley
the chatter
    in the laden mulberry tree
a sonic cloud
    still in those sunlit terraces
but closer than prophecy
    and designed with decibels
to drown all other sounds
    in dry rasping
like fish in air
    the rustling of zillions
of ribbed membranes
    that drive small birds away
confused and deafened

and burn our pretence
    that it might not happen
this year
    there were late storms
south winds
    left leaves caked
with brown Saharan dust
    some said the cicadas
were wiped out
    by that freak weather
but now it begins
    to drill the ear
as heat hammers down
    to out-perform
all moist and mellow things
    out-shout
all melody

12.45, 23.6.2014 by Gill McEvoy

Finished proof-reading for a minute
and am sitting on the sofa to eat
an apple, (a prelude to lunch
which has been on my mind for a while).

A dog at my feet who is watching the apple with such longing in his amber eyes I wonder should I give him some?

Tell me, Edward, if there'd been a dog
with eyes so round and hopeful
in that stopped train of yours -
what would you have done?

Adlestrop's Blackbird by Raymond Garfoot

What did Adlestrop blackbird see from his willow?
The Oxford- Worcester express train halted,
invading his air by the empty platform,
a man stared through a carriage window
as though wanting to escape, mired in a poem.

What did the blackbird hear? Answer to song,
birds’ alarums across two counties, hiss of steam
bending willow-herb and grass. Nothing else.

What did the blackbird smell? Meadowsweet and hay,
afternoon haze, smoke screen for a fugitive minute.

Gone. Song ended. Poem finished. 1914:
the year that ended in midsummer.