Age of Steam by Neil Flatman

Age of Steam

Fingers in the gaps
of the chain link fence, we pull back
the lips of the tunnel’s mouth, still believing

we see magic in the world
beyond. Down the embankment
the bramble

bracken sides a slide of thorns
our grazed legs go
unnoticed, in the way of boys.

On the bridge, a dull-blue Anglia
putters its way to school, or maybe
church, and a stiff-legged crow hops

on the stone arch, calling out
an unheard warning. We are Indians
without axes, our ears against the rail

the resistance, planting bombs
beneath the ties, astronauts measuring a journey
through space and time by echo’s reach.

And deep back, in the dark throat
the place we stand, pressed hard against the wall
against the unrelenting

brick, waiting for the steel horse
steaming hard, the iron gallop
imagining

we’re someone, in the days before
we became so much
less than imagined.

by Neil Flatman

Editor’s Note: Unexpected imagery draws the reader into the boys’ world, where a tunnel and train create a childhood from mythological history. The last three lines are a punch to the gut for every grownup.