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Are you ready? by John Corless

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Abandoned Railway

Corless, John

They’ve cleared the overgrowth
from the railway, closed
in nineteen-seventy-five,
after eighty years.
They’ve repaired the fences –
replaced the mileposts.
Removed the barbed wire
crossing the track,
erected by farmers whose cattle
had grazed undisturbed
on bright spring afternoons.

Horsetail and thistles fold under my feet.
I walk these sleepers
between Kiltimagh and Claremorris – 
through our farm by the lake,
and I think of my ancestors
on a one-way ticket.

I see simply crafted steel gates,
riveted and rusted, rotted timbers,
reminders of hard-drawn copper wire,
on once proud telegraph poles
that carried signals
to gatekeepers at level-crossings
– the one-fifty-five
or the three-ten
often running late.

I see the faces of children
pressed against the window,
counting the fields
on school tours,
and the suitcases of tourists
on the annual outing
to Salthill.
I glance at sheds and backs of houses
gardens with onions and cabbage
and potato stalks beginning to flower.
I look down again quickly,
to check my steps
on the rotted oak, careful
not to miss the inconsistent spacing
at the joint in the metals.

This was the railway my uncle worked on,
checking the sleepers and wedges –
the bolts and the joints,
the fences and the signals. 

This was the track the train ran on –
the train that took his brother and his sister.
his cousins and his neighbours
to Cobh,
to board a ship to America.

This was the railway that brought
the youth from Sligo;
from Collooney and from Leyny;
from Tubercurry, Curry and Charlestown;
from Swinford, Kiltimagh and Claremorris;
from Ballindine, Milltown and Castlegrove;
from Tuam, Ballyglunin and Athenry,
where immigrants joined
from Galway and Woodlawn,
Ballinasloe and Athlone.

This track collected them
from Croughwell and Loughrea;
from Ardrahan, Gort and Tubber;
from Crusheen and Ennis
where the West Clare Railway
evacuated hopefuls
and surrendered them to emigration. 

This track carried the train
from Ardsollus and Quin;
from Ballycar & Newmarket;
from Sixemilebridge and Cratloe;
from Meelick and Longpavement into Limerick 
on to Kilonan and Boher,
to Dromkeen and Pallas,
from Oola and Limerick Junction
where he
and they
changed trains
going to Emly,
Knocklong and Kilmallock,
Charleville, Buttevant and Mallow,
Mourne Abbey, Rathduff, Blarney and Cork,
through Tivoli, Dunkettle and Littleisland,
Glounthaune, Fota and  Carrigaloe,
through Rushbrooke and on to Cobh,

never to return.

Copyright John Corless 2009

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