TOWNS YOU ONLY PASS THROUGH

Their systems linger, awaiting your arrival,
which will not happen. We zip, we air gun,
and we do not stop. Windygates, Kenilworth,
I see your Co-ops, your lonely ironmongeries,
your tracery of lanes I might possibly dally in.
Chesterfield, I doubt we will ever meet proper.
Yet a newsagent sign catches my eye, a woman
bent to some task of thought. On a wet corner
in Barnstaple, a vicar and a poppet bat a balloon.
It is green and always must be. Gary, Indiana,
proving this is everywhere, or some grey town
south of St Malo, where we did not stop to buy
beef for that chilli or a basket of cold beers.
Newark and Stevenage, fetish settlements
for the passer through, each with its microcosm
of neverness, model villages helium pumped
till bachelors and long lost women parade
their shadowier provinces, seeking orange juice
or scourers or the last paper plates in the store.
Make my point? Oh, it is that there is not one.
I grew to what I am in a town you can never
pass through, unless you are driving into the sea.
Passing through is ever a sort of phobia, a fear
that the lethal or panic might happen anywhere
and best to move to destination. Arrival
is always the better of it. You clasp your sides
and stretch, you ready. What will come
is simmering with value, it will tie you
in its maze of desperate but needful inevitability.
Gort, with your Brazilians and your meat;
Salem, Oregon, not even the frightfullest Salem;
Stara Pazova, an instant gush of the 1950s, now.
I will get over you, by which I mean so many things.
I might run through you, crowing ‘not for me',
I might mention you in passing, boredly, probably
only to myself. You are not worth the sleep
I might lose. But cannot lose. Northampton, bless,
some lazy morning I will drive through you
in a souped-up Bentley I cannot even drive.
And my dear heart will burst with the awfulness
of reaching your shrubby limits, of carrying on.

by Roddy Lumsden

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