Northwords Now

New writing, fresh from Scotland and the wider North
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On an August Train

by Brian Gourley

The late summer evening is burning down to its last embers
as the Deutsche Bahn train shuttles through the pallid plains,
through this ghost state whose ruins
we barely dare to acknowledge or accept as our collective legacy.

This, Stalin’s misbegotten offspring, the saddled cow,
the rump-arse of a state that no one ever wanted,
and now we panzer our way through
as the phantom twilight discloses the colours

Of a Nolde painting, both boringly familiar yet also perplexingly strange:
amethyst, indigo, a crimson shade of menace.
You look out the window and say that this place gives no cause
for us to stop and conquer; we battle over the chessboard

And don’t know if we are playing to the death,
and I tell you why I haven’t got round to reading Sándor Márai.
Through the murk we can barely glimpse the brick-and-glass corpses
of former factories and work installations

Whose dark shadows advance like black-booted battalions,
and you wonder if our collective history has overrun us
like the nightfall. Yet again, we aren’t the makers of our fates
but rather pawns on a general’s chessboard,

The loose change of history that’s discarded
like the coins inserted in the vending machine
in the Hauptbahnhof of Leipzig,
whilst waiting for the taxi to take us

Away from the coming autumnal chill
to the comfort of a neon-lit hotel room,
knowing full well we’re nowhere
near real illumination

Northwords Now acknowledges the vital support of Creative Scotland and Bòrd na Gàidhlig.
ISSN 1750-7928 - Print Design by Gustaf Eriksson - Website by Plexus Media