Riding the steely twins into the Emerald City for the first time
in weeks. Feels strange to deliver myself willingly into the putrid
carcass of an electric snake. I’d forgotten how used to them I’ve
grown, like turning a tap on & I see them for what they are now,
not how they used to look when I was a kid.
Where I come from there were no electrics only diesels coughing &
wheezing between the fields, occasionally turning East up dirty
cuttings delivering rural shoppers into Birmingham’s decaying heart.
Electrics were exotic, from the South, London, where buildings
were clothed in a gossamer dust, the residue of premier division
sweat & toil that set it apart from the rest of us.
Back when I lived in the wilderness Electric trains frightened me.
It was their confidence, arrogance, a symbol of the separateness
of lives, not even class division, but an invisible line drawn
around the Capitol like an impregnable wall keeping the also-rans
out forever & reminding us of our place in the world. Electrics
represented bowler hats, pinstripes, brief cases, neatly trimmed
moustaches, cold expressions, offices, banks, calculation, seats of
power, captains of industry. Me, I was riding my bike in the
wilderness, lying in the long grass watching aeroplanes cross the
sky to American, knowing I would never be rich enough to travel like
that, never leave carpet town, never travel on an electric train.