The Scotrail Lady

Not much is awake yet.
The train snub-noses into the dawn
and the dawn shrugs. It’s not warm.
Polmont November. Geese.
The gummed rails’ murmur.

I tell you about the documentary
I watched, in which
some smart person sought out
The Scotrail lady.
You don’t know her,

under the buffer of your border
river, in London, where everything
is spoken in the dialect computer.
But I tell you
one woman gives us this day

our daily bread: incantation
of Coupar, Leuchars, Dundee,
Arbroath, Montrose. I know
she recited each calling point –
Crianlarich, where this train will divide –

a magic three times. In a list,
the penultimate stop,
and each journeys close:
– and Mallaig. Bathgate,
where this train terminates.

She said she did it years ago –
Glaswegian actress with a gas bill
to pay – but that travellers still
write letters to tell her of kinks
in the sequence at Dumfries, Tweedbank, Drem.

There’s no more dawn at Croy
than there was at Falkirk High. I say
the word dreich for you to learn,
but you’re sleeping: lean and braced
as though facing a galeforce wind.

But in your weird and moving dream –
cold shuck of glass at your temple
and the tea-trolley’s ankle-break whirr –
you’ll hear her cast the glamour
of our impending arrival.

One day I’ll write her a letter
myself: say I’m thankful
for journeys she’s guided me on:
change here for the bus link and services to –
travel in the rear two carriages…

At Glasgow Queen Street you wake,
and it’s like she’s still guardian angeling –
take all your personal belongings
with you – knowing you’re precious,
your skeleton carefully made.

Take good care, she says, on the station.

Claire Askew