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Richard Longstaff: Beyond Watford - disability arts online
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Looking at Limbo / 17 February 2014

I love a good TV documentary. A winters evening in the company of someone that knows their subject inside out. I watched a really good one on the BBC not to long ago on the subject of steam engines and the role they had once played in our society. It was remarkable to see these huge old machines, spitting and spluttering out steam. The noise, the sheer size and power.

I found myself a few days later putting together the poem, 'A Journey from Limbo Station'. It was one of those rare moments we poets have when the pen seems to have a life of it’s own and words fall on the paper without any real thought. I was amazed at the end result.

Within the stanzas I had told the story of my childhood up until the point of becoming a young adult. The “Gorge of gray green granite” - that space I always felt between my much older parents and me. Their lack of understanding of my disability, Asperger's syndrome. The station, standing in a state of disrepair, uncared for and run down. This is how I often felt in their company and that of other family members.

I had created a story that had long sat deep in my mind and had suddenly surfaced like some long lost German U-boat. The captain shouting “so the wars over then”. I had placed all the doctors and the do gooders within the lines, the medication that robbed me of thoughts and feeling and yet was supposed to make me better.

Of course the boy that never was lacked the intelligence to go far and returned to where he had began. I spent far to much of my life chasing after acceptance, the need to fit in, be 'normal'. I would fail at every turn and end up back where I had begun. Now I know who I am and if people don’t like it then send your complaints on a postcard, you won’t get a answer.

You read Limbo, pick at it and then return to it, read when mad with anger, read it when calm or in high spirits. Write down how you feel about it with each of these emotions and see what you come up with? It will be interesting to see how your views change, how you see different aspects of the poem under different conditions. After all poetry is the soul on paper. All feedback most welcome.

A Journey from Limbo Station

There between the gray green granite
Nestles the station,
Windswept, weary, sign hanging from a
Rusting, solitary chain
Windows broken, cracked, paint, chipped
And scruffy, unkempt.

“The service arriving at platform five is
The 1967 boy that never was” crackle, hiss,
Commanding newspapers to be rolled, sticks
And umbrellas tucked neatly under well pressed
Sleeves, litter to dance in the wake of the steams
Mist as the engine pulls to a halt.

The white coat clad wheel tapper walks the rail
And finds no fault,
Guard, flag and whistle slams the final door as 
The neck jerks from the kick of motion.
“Look father, the mitigation express” cries the
Child, nose pressed to the glass.

Slow chug, steel on steel, signal gantry full of
Waving therapists beckoning us on,
Gathering pace, slick speed, rocking to the whizz
Of passing night sleepers,
Rupturing vision, flying Scotsman, phantoms from
The dregs of medication.

Murmurs, buffet car open, serving cold comfort with
Iced shoulders,
Slowing, slowing, “Delay, delay”, into sidings of utter
Dismal isolation.
The emotional locomotive is on time, overtakes, hurtling
Around the bend.

Stoker, shovel swaying, feeding the beating heart
Of the inanimate machine,
Muscles glisten with sweat, faster now, journeys
End to be announced sooner rather than later.
Curls of smoke, pistons raging along the narrow
Valley of self esteem to the outskirts of home.

“The 1967 boy that never was is pulling into where he
Departed from”, laughter,
Push and shove, mad dash to the safety of all he
Knows and daily routine.
“Don’t forget your belongings sir” said as if it 
Were meant.

There between the gray green granite nestles the
Station,
Windswept, weary, sign hanging from a rusting
Solitary chain
Windows broken, cracked, paint chipped and
Scruffy, unkempt.

© Richard Longstaff