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Horizontal by Paul Stephenson


We cross the black peat flat

on the stretch from March.

The train idles its way,

both carriages second class.

My mind drifts to irrigation

and the history of drainage.

Fork lightning over Ely,

a conductor approaching.

I'm safe here on the move

inside this capsule of metal.

Like that bubble of ethanol

when a builder taps the level.

Paul Stephenson

Paul Stephenson took part in the Jerwood/Arvon mentoring scheme and has an MA with the Manchester Writing School. He has three pamphlets: Those People (Smith/Doorstop, 2015), The Days that Followed Paris (HappenStance, 2016) and Selfie with Waterlilies (Paper Swans Press, 2017). He co-edited Magma (issue 70 ‘Europe’) and co-curates the Poetry in Aldeburgh festival (November). He interviews poets at

Twitter: @stephenson_pj

About this poem

It's so beautifully atmospheric crossing the Fens in a storm and it got me thinking about how small and vulnerable the small train was at the mercy of the elements, the thunder and lightning.


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