It's often difficult to keep it there, but there's always a song in my head.Maybe it's true for most people, I don't know. It's especially hard on train journeys when there can be a cacophony of conflicting noises, from crying babies, youths swearing loud for effect and, worst of all, to that truly appalling moo-sick which gets spewed from mobiles : the 'singer' has overdosed on helium and the drum-beat is the product of a very unimaginative computer ( some computers do have imaginations, one of mine kept springing Arabic phrases on me from nowhere!).
So why not simply get an i-pod? The answer is, I do like listening to people, like the elderly couple visiting the Valleys for the first time and enthusing about the River Taf as they moved from one side of the carriage to the other, following the course of the river. You appreciate things all the more through others' eyes. And I would never have missed the announcer who said as we were approaching Merthyr - ' Please fasten your safety belts, we are now landing in sunny Merthyr.'
My present song-in-the-head is 'The '59 Sound' by New Jersey band The Gaslight Anthem. Having vowed to avoid the boring predictability of male guitar groups, I couldn't help falling for their passionate intensity and lyrics which actually describe scenes and tell stories which don't sound trite. Okay, they borrow from Springsteen and Tom Petty, but who cares? Last week the song was Glasvegas and their plaintive version of the Ronettes' 'Bye,Bye Baby', complete with Alex Ferguson vowel-movements!
In future, I'll be singing much less to the tracks' rhythm. But I shall always be a train-traveller , as I am one of many non-driving poets, including the likes of John Barnie, Sheenagh Pugh and Samantha Wynne Rhydderch. With the spare time I've now got I could even write a thesis on the correlation between not driving and poetry. Even driving poets are non-drivers, I would argue. One professor and poet dubbed me 'half a man' for my inability, but having been a passenger in his car, I'd say it's preferable to being 'half a driver'!
The great poet Seamus Heaney recently de-mystified the creation of poetry by saying that it all comes from the great tradition of verse. I wouldn't go so far as to agree, but must acknowledge the influence of Auden's powerful 'Night Mail' on the following poem, even if I've managed to ignore the scansion and regular rhyme.........
ONE LAST TIME
Home from work one last time
taking the train on the Valley line.
No more standing in the rain
or the shelter with its piss-stains.
No more dozing through station-stops
after finding a place for my head to prop.
Office-workers, labourers in boots and jeans,
shoppers,students, youths acting obscene.
Past the weir and out-of-place vines,
the heron pool on the flood-plain,
the river Taf with plastic bags
hanging from the trees in rags.
Past the industrial estate, the Uni,
a sight of the park at Ponty,
past the woods and disused signal box,
workings like discarded,rusted clocks.
Contouring mountains,clinging to sides,
under precarious rocks held by wire ;
towards those green fields, looking across
at the place where the colliery once was.
Further upwards there's Giant's Bite,
a run of hens in mud close by ;
distant white arches are memorials
to victims of a coal-created battle.
The rugby pitches and hang-gliders,
cartoon graffiti in praise if 'DRAW'
and on to Hoovers, buildings and buildings
like casualties at A. and E. always waiting.
Strata of new estates and terraces,
the supermarket now a terminus.
Home from work one last time
over sleepers of the Valley line.