Manchester: Oxford Road Station

The moon crawls over the stars,

a great snail

that leaves its glistening trail

in secret places.

I break it in a puddle with my toe.

The lovers unclasp stickily;

they left the waiting room to grope in privacy.

The signal swings up silently,

the image in the puddle joins like mercury,

and still the train won’t come.

 

Now two coal ages fuse to one;

their continuity’s the moon

whose silver film makes reptiles of the stacks

and scales of the slates on back to backs.

Church and tall chimney

landmark old certainty

with phallic gravity.

Once they ruled

this northern world.

 

Most religions agree on hell –

it is the spur to the final sell,

and if the truth is hell on earth,

then all the more reason for heaven’s rebirth.

The preachers gave the people to production

in exchange for the sunday sermon,

where they praised the virtues of machines

compared with human frenzy.

If they swallowed life hereafter.

then, poor donkeys, no laughter

could persuade them the carrot was strapped

to the stick that hammered their backs.

The preachers winked at the madness in the method

and joined the profit takers of the gross,

whose public alchemy, flesh to gold

rose to their god’s nostrils, purged the dross.

If religion couldn’t dull the pain

there were always the brewers to fuddle the brain.

Temperance then could be the cry:

“I won’t touch a drop until I die!”

With children this went down especially well

and gained their pence against the threat of hell.

 

The next great discovery

was the gentle art of philanthropy.

While their fortunes fattened in the banks

they ensured their place in heaven’s ranks.

Whoever has learned nothing for their pain

will find the lesson given them again.

Easy to divide and rule,

we buy the story, find we’re the fool.

Must we buy again the one on war,

though it’s been sold so many times before?

 

Money is the lie we tell,

hoping to cash in as well.

We live by prison law,

extortion and protection,

hoping to squeeze from others more

than if we refused oppression.

The prison officer’s a prisoner too;

so much the worse for you.

We fear the tedium of time our own;

it stretches and grows terribly long.

Utopian dreams turn out to be

concrete false economy.

The apparent freedom we possess

conceals from us that it grows less.

The state can birth you, death you, cheat you

watch and count, but never meet you.

Distracted from reality by tales of it,

we dream the wrong dreams, live borrowed lives.

Our spirits are hungry

though we’ve swallowed the earth

and we ourselves are tales told to the starving

about large dinners.

 

I listen for the train’s tune

that speeded up this headlong time.

The trance of the wheel and the cog

dull time going through,

but we’re prey to thoughts that dog,

and interests that accrue

whatever we say or do.

Lives plagued with interest,

that is the bond’s bequest,

and devil history will have its due.

 

Canals pursue their anal course.

Tidal waste of boom and slump

litter the river bank.

The dog star lurks in the iron antics

of gas holders that mock breathing,

a stealthy rise and fall you’ll never catch,

like the hour hand on the clock.

 

I’m a shape without a face

at the platform’s end.

The lovers have forgotten me.

and still the train won’t come.

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