Save Our Sleeper

This is the sleeper she crossing the boarder
Ministers whisper we cannot afford her
Carries the rich carries the poor
Carries political points to score
Cruelly neglected and stabbed in the back
This is the sleeper she's under attack

Train spotters' twitter as she approaches
Speaking in Dictaphones counting the coaches
In the farm she passes all are awake
Ploughing at midnight subsistence to break

Franchises beckons, is all hope done?
As down towards Exeter she descends
Towards oblivion and white collar furnaces
Cynically unadvertised, unbookable
Resembling some gigantic political chess piece
Scotland needs her sleeper
But down among their remnants of industry
What of the southwest?

This is the sleeper upon her return
Carrying people with money to earn
Fog bound at Newquay the shuttle is down
Help from the sleeper is easily found
The boat from the Scillies delayed by the storm
The sleeper is waiting with passengers' bourn
Away on the night with a fond recollection

In time for there check in and Heathrow connection
But for now they are all asleep
To dream of: closed branch lines, broken promises
And cunning seagulls at St Ives or St Just
Asleep, soon to awake refreshed for a full day ahead
In the hope to find the sleeper has not been brutally decapitated,
As has been, night mail.

About this poem:

Written in 2005 this poem was commissioned by BBC Radio 4 and is a re-working of Auden's Night Train as a tribute to the sleeper.