Julie Mellor: The Moment

Penistone Viaduct Photo: John Douglas/Creative Commons

On the Penistone train derailment, February 1916

When I look up at the seamed sky,

the black teeth of girders, the cracks of fresh air,

I think this is not an accident, but a moment

of refusal, a point I can look on and describe

in bricks of words, then knock down again

before it becomes too fixed,

         not an accident

but a pause, a determined holding of breath,

a gap into which all thoughts pour,

about how the world crumbles, how men

stand aside, watch as it all slides

easy as coal slack, the cold hearts

         of their pocket watches

ticking against their ribs, as things sink

under their own weight, how broken things lie

on their sides for as long as it takes

for someone to call for help, blow a whistle,

wave a red flag,

         how this moment is the result

of one small fissure where rainwater crept 

into stone and, in freezing, filled its own lungs

and pushed permanence aside.

Julie Mellor was born in Penistone, where she lives with her partner and her most treasured possession: her dog. Her poems have appeared in magazines and anthologies including Ambit, Mslexia, The North and The Rialto. Her pamphlet, Breathing Through Our Bones, published in 2012, was a winner in the Poetry Business pamphlet competition.

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