The Herb Grower


 North Craven 
 Heritage Trust 

He was station-master here here nineteen years,
until the line began to die, train by train;
steamers turned to diesel and his heart shrank
one beat each time he turned his ear
to the gradient below the station.

First the night-trains ceased, but dream-trains
hammered sleep into the old pattern: he heard
them pass in the unlit bedroom, hooting like owls under flaming tunnels and tire-boxes.

Then days too dragged empty of passengers and freight, until three trains a day proclaimed his poverty.

He retired and the station became a mere halt, a platform in the fields where few passengers got on or off, where travellers cast a listless glance, half curious between cities.

He stayed on at the station-house, fending his herb garden in sight of the track, unbending his back from the trowel each time he hears the drumming of wheels, returning a wave from some railman serving out his time in the same memories.

Now he raises slow plants: rosemary
and thyme, sages, marjorams and mints,
pressing them into pots, as each morning
he pressed rich flake into his briar
to meet the mail-train, flicking open the lid
of his fathers watch to mark lateness or punctuality.

His seedlings and cuttings take hold in soil shaken by a century of trains; their roots touch into his dreams, heavy aromas from their leaves mingle with soot from the panting locomotives, spreading over his sleep as over a grave.


Cappleside                                                               Diana Kaneps

Cappleside                                                               Diana Kaneps