Empty Rails

A poem by Mark Tate (1999)
Recited by John Dengate

A winter shadow stalks the shrouded workshops-
The crews are only working day to day-
Tarnished tools and shackled hopes and staffing drops;
Rusting rails that roll the work away.

Days of dust that cover bench and tables,
The isles are dank and clotting with debris,
The cranes are locked with sagging chains and cables,
The gears are grimed, the hoses rotting free.

Lathes are still, the safety signs are folding
From peeling walls and shattered architraves,
The anvil's mute, and dustmotes fill the mouldings,
The forge is colder than an open grave.

Workers walk down unemployment lines;
Down cloudless streets and pathless, doorless days,
Hung in bitter winds the twisted Keep Out signs
Where working life has turned and rolled away.

A winter shadow wraps the shackled workshops;
The crews are gone - their work was sold away -
Rusting tools and tarnished hopes and whistlestops;
Empty rails to carry empty days.

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