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ASHLEY, Kenneth Herbert

Goods Train At Night

The station is empty and desolate;
A sick lamp wanly glows;
Slowly puffs a goods engine,
Slow yet alive with great energy;
Drawing rumbling truck
After rumbling, rumbling truck;
Big, half-seen, insensate.
Yet each as it jolts through the glow
Responds to the questioning light
Dumbly revealing
Diverse personality:
"Neal & Co."; "John Bugsworth"; "Norland Collieries
"Jolly & Sons"; "Jolly & Sons"; "Jolly & Sons";
Thrice repeated, percussive, insistent
Each wet wall-side successively announcing
Names: badges and symbols of men,
Of men in their intricate trafficking
But there quickens a deeper emotion,
Roused by the iterant names,
Beyond the mere intricate commerce,
The infinite wonder of life.
Effort and hope and love, the heart's desire,
Leap In the womb of the brain
As the trucks clang their way through the night.
Slides by the guard's van at the last,
With a last definite clatter of steel upon steel
And a glitter of ruby-red light.

So: silence recaptures the station;
The damp steam eddies out;
The drizzle weaves a silver pattern,
An endless shining silver pattern,
A silver woof in the lamplight.
And I find myself full of a grief
A dull little grief for humanity.