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Lay for the Day31st August

1987: the opening of the Docklands Light Railway, connecting the City of London with its new eastern colony, the Docklands development around Canary Wharf.


The besides of the lines,
angled iron, coded hatches
(“40”, “M”),
the vectors’ secret breadth.

On a hanging tag, meticulously painted,
two bee ex eight stroke one four,
as though every brick in the railway’s skin were numbered.

We go down by where in winter we came up
to dripping fingerbones of buddleia, knuckle-grip on mortar,
to the mid-year daze of ragwort's sulphur crowns
and rosebay’s drift, to the violet curves and white.

Imprisoned common
raised on a thorax of Victorian vaults,
untrodden, overlooked.

We are going down to where the lights depend on knowledge,
to places that are not, by the mile,
where the naked one is buried
among the steel-wound and the colour-sheathed cabling.

Clot of revolving dust between the rails,
the seed-self gathering.
The signal breaks up and gives out.

John Gibbens
from Falling Down

The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar