TP logo

| Books | Music | Events | New work | Contact & ordering

Lay for the Day
2nd November

The first 72-mile stretch of the M1, Britain’s first motorway, opens in 1959, after 19 months of construction (a mile every eight days).

This is not strictly a poem about a motorway, but close enough…


Where the A road crosses the downs
between forest and heath,
leaving behind the ancient towns,
and dips to the ancient city beneath,

where the white-limbed birch and the pines
with trunks like thickened rust
stand closer, enclosing the lines
of hurrying cars, they inspire a trust.

A very few years of neglect
and the sycamores surge
down the embankments, sway unchecked
over the barriers, invade the verge.

In a decade or maybe less
the bramble and the nettle,
bindweed and ragwort squadrons press
their advantage, crack the carriageway’s metal.

And before a century’d passed,
as though it never was,
this way would be wooded and grassed.
God knows why that should comfort, but it does.


John Gibbens
from Church of Thorns

The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar