He’s come to see me off.
Limps up the platform after me.
I lose sight of him while I find my seat
opposite the young boy who’ll spend this journey
wondering at its procession of sights.

Behind the town behind the station, low hills rise.
At one end: folds of green field, and forest;
at the other: castle ruins above an estuary.
A landscape we walked so often, in better times.

Hardest for him are the maps he can no longer read.
His passion: their detailed representation, their features
crowding to the sea.
He makes out only forms, now, the relic certainties of mass
that those fine brown lines picked out so clearly
when he used to spread the map between us and the reality it showed.
Always the map first, though, the long minutes’ study
describing what we’d do in where we’d go.

Soon, we’ll move. Follow the low-tide river, runnelled mud
bulging down its banks like scar tissue, along the flat salt fields
where livestock graze all year. At the coast, we’ll pick up speed,
the young boy marvelling at castle and heron and the wide, wide sea
unfolding bleakly before my eyes.

Just today, he tried to show me a possible route –
for after the first operation – from the next river valley
to the nub of headland where we once spent an October’s
unexpected hour of sun. His head bent to the magnifying glass,

he couldn’t trace the path. I watched his lost finger. Running late,
he folded up the map, the taxi waiting to take us to the train.

Now he’s scanning every window.
The boy reads out the time from the platform clock. A jolt,
and the station slips steadily away from me, holding him still
as he leans heavily on his walking stick, waving at the wrong carriage.

Craig Dobson spent years in retail, teaching and librarianship before doing an MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. He’s had work published in The North, The Interpreter’s House, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Frogmore Papers and the University of Stockholm’s Two Thirds North magazine. He has work forthcoming in Stand and Orbis. He works as a librarian in London.

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