Matthew Clegg’s Lost Between Stations appeared as a pamphlet and CD from Longbarrow Press in 2011. It comprises seven long narrative poems, each of which focuses on the relationship between predicament and place in and around the city of Leeds (drawing on the period 1988-1997). Each of the seven poems (and their accompanying recordings and films) will be posted on this page, one per week, from mid-October until late November 2014. You can order the pamphlet and CD via the PayPal link at the bottom of the page.
Back in school, I had this English teacher –
A divorcee – who, on his odd days off,
Used to ride the matrix of buses and trains
With a copy of Shakespeare; catch the drift
Of conversations, let coincidence
Brush his life at every change. Just weeks ago
I’d seen him on the top deck of a bus
Floating through the flatlands and villages
Between Scarborough and Leeds. Rising to go
A girl half his age leaned and kissed his cheek,
Spoke his name like a charm against distance.
I’d been struggling again with a poem –
A wake-up call where desire gets out
Of the house and takes a walk – and so,
Packing it with a day rover and a
Copy of Blake’s Songs, I found myself
Hopping on a bus outside the cricket ground
As jeers burst from the Western Terrace.
What do you say when a stressed-out driver –
Already late – nearly chucks an old man
Off the bus because he fumbles to pay
With too many coppers, then all but throws him
On his face as the clutch bites hard and the bus
Jerks away like a snag-freed elastic
And those who don’t like scenes shrink in their seats
Or hide behind papers or paperbacks
Until the moment to speak has faded
Into a fast-forward of terraced streets?
Do you chew it over as your joyride
Crawls past the University’s ghetto
Of loans and potential, through the city’s
Shopping and professional scrums, then out
Through suburbs where the signs of money
Ebb, then peter out almost entirely
Amidst Swarcliffe’s precincts and tower blocks,
Before recovering again in the ‘best kept’
Villages of Scholes and Barwick,
Where this bus will stop, name a new terminus,
Then head back into town, a fisher of coins?
The slim shadow cast by the maypole
Points like a seductive finger to footpaths
Where all should be green and pleasant.
Maybe I paused to reflect on the edge
Of the village as the fresh water spray
Of a sprinkler wetted my face and lips
Or was held, for a breath, by the lure
Of colourful, well-planted gardens
Before I headed up the road. I’d barely
Got into my stride before it pulled up
Ahead of me – the area’s orbiting
Patrol car. This beat was a distant siren
From the adrenalin peaks of high-speed
Interception. No wonder my bobby
Looked a tad bored as he tried to unfold
Himself from the cramp of his seat, then moved
Just a little too far into my space.
Naturally, then, when he started to ask
Why I’d lingered so long back up the road
I couldn’t even remember if I had.
As the conversation made its way
To my name and address, I found myself
Spread out against his car as he searched me,
Then radioed the station to check my files.
He thumbed through the Songs of Innocence
And Experience, pawed the anarchic script
Of my own attempts to put heart on the line.
Why did I suddenly feel so ashamed?
Surely he had more reason to feel that
After letting his gaze linger so long
Where it hadn’t been invited. Nonplussed,
He muttered something about break-ins,
Handed back my freedom, and my notebook,
And left, his face as blank as my record.
No thank-yous. No apologies. Only
The guff of exhaust, the contact of tyres
Crunching over gravel, like some perverse
Reworking of The Clod and the Pebble.
The blood flooding into my head rankled
Like a bad attack of pins and needles.
It prickled and sparked, overloaded
With energies that could only end up
Straining against the bite of the cuffs,
Frog-marched to the clink. So here they are
Instead, locked up in these 10 by 10 cells;
An arresting tale clanking against bars.
England, I want to open a channel,
Because today the silence is awkward
Not golden, and less is just less, not more.
Today I’m unpacking some of the crap
You put in me. It didn’t take you long,
But I’m telling the stories, even now.
Listen to Matthew Clegg reading this poem on location in Leeds:
A conversation between Matthew Clegg and Fay Musselwhite, focusing on the development of Lost Between Stations, appears here.
Lost Between Stations is available from
Longbarrow Press as a 36-page pamphlet and a 40-minute CD, each comprising seven poems. You can order the pamphlet for just £5 (inc UK P&P) or the pamphlet and CD package for just £8 (inc UK P&P) by clicking on the relevant Paypal link below (no Paypal account required – major debit & credit cards accepted):
Lost Between Stations is a poem in 7 fragments. The many ‘stations’ the poet is ‘lost between’ include a sense of his ‘type’, of his vocation, and of his social status and affiliation. The poem is ‘lost between’ autobiography and fiction, between epic, narrative, lyric and drama – even between poetry and prose. It was written under a conviction that we are most alive precisely during these vulnerable and indeterminate periods.