Meeting at the Station

March 8, 2010 at 3:42 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

There is a woman walking down platform 1.

She has been here many time before.

It is cold tonight, being January.

She walks steadily from one end of the platform to the other,

following the line of textured paving slabs.

Her shoulders are hunched,

and if you could feel under her jacket she is shivering very slightly.

Each time, at the far end, she pauses and stares down the track

before turning to retrace her steps.

The train is late, again,

nearly an hour.

The information board is blank.

Finally a bright light approaches and a train comes to a halt.

But it’s not the one she wants, though she checks all the carriages

just in case she’s mistaken.

On the opposite platform another train arrives.

A few students bringing home their washing get off the train from Bristol.

She resumes walking, to pass the time as much as to keep warm.

Finally, without warning, the one she is hoping for.

Heart pounding she pursues it down the platform as it slows,

scanning each door window as they pass ..

… and then she sees them.

Somebody waves, they are looking out for her too.

She smiles stupidly and waves as they all wait for the door to unlock.

There is that awful moment as the door opens;

who comes out first,

who gets the first hug.

She tries to hold them all at the same moment,

to gather them up in her arms,

but they are too big for that now.

The teenager is laid back and casual, ‘Hi mum’.

The twins; one nuzzles in tight, the other more keen to just get home.

And the youngest, pushed out by her siblings, pulls a sulky face

but relents and gets a carry to the car.

And they talk.

So much talk,

words tumbling over each other in the rush,

as if they need to say it all in the first five minutes:

what happened at school,

who got into trouble,

who had a row with dad,

who lost something.

Then; have I got the day off,

did I buy a PS2,

can we get such and such,

can we have this for dinner,

when are we doing that,

are we getting pocket money?

The weekend will not last,

trying not to watch the clock,

too soon they are gone again.

It is only in this moment that I can stop missing them.

(Written initially some years ago as a short story for the MATCH magazine, Mothers Apart From Their Children. I used to meet my kids at Cheltenham station late on Fridays. Fortunately that is no longer part of our lives. Now I just meet the youngest on her return, she still hates trains. The change from third to first person is deliberate.)

(Linking back to The Poetry Bus on TFE’s blog.)

(Just popping back to add a link to the most famous train poem, Night Mail by W.H. Auden, on Youtube)



  1. Pure Fiction said,

    Beautifully gentle and sad – I enjoyed this a lot. Glad to read the postscript, otherwise the woman on the platform would haunt me

  2. Argent said,

    I love the tumble of questions and snippets of who did what – and the ending lines. So poignant! Bravo!

  3. Titus said,

    I agree with the above, and know both railway stations very well. A lot of truth, sadness and longing so precisely wrapped in the language of incident. Liked it a lot.

  4. Poetikat said,

    Lovely piece. I really liked the way you captured the arrival—the “who gets the first hug” anticipation.

  5. brigid said,

    I really enjoyed this, very poignant and could hear the children’s conversation,
    my 1st trip on the poetry bus, I must jump on again, lovely to read other people’s work. Thanks for sharing this.

  6. Terry said,

    Wow!!! Meeting kids returning from school, know the feeling.Thanks for visiting my blog and your kind comments.

  7. TotalFeckinEEjit said,

    Agree with all the glowing comments above, lovely.Train stations can mean so much more than a means of getting from A to B.

  8. Karen said,

    What a poignant and lovely poem. I’m happy for you that you’re finished with this part of your life!

  9. Jeanne said,

    I love the beautiful transformation from ‘other’ to ‘mother.’

  10. NanU said,

    I love this poignant look at what trains can bring us, after so many excellent looks at where they take us. Wonderful. And changing to “I” at the end – I knew it!

  11. TotalFeckinEEjit said,

    This week’s bus is still waiting. We need crazy, we need fields, we need mice!

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