Travelling from Durham to Southend

the row last night


below the surface.

Furrows like frown lines

spreading across barren fields.


We join the M62, past Ferrybridge

Eggborough, and Drax

chimney stacks billowing

out industrial smoke.

The three kids in the back

are we nearly there yet?


You snake the car behind a HGV

on a hiding to nothing

as the back of the lorry reads


I watch a magpie, peck at roadkill

fiddling the radio dial to find a song


that isn’t about being in love.

You blame me, the fault is all mine

as I arranged to travel

on a fucking bank holiday.

We pass the arsehole

that cut you off in the fast lane.


His flash car in the layby

with a blown out tyre.

You say, not so smug now.

Arthritis tightens its grip

on my spine. I tell you to stop

to pull over at the Welcome Break.


– but you drive on and on.

You never understood pain.

A Frank Sinatra song plays on the radio.

I imagine a yellow taxi cab, skyscrapers.

Are we nearly there yet?

I lie to our daughter, not long now.


The back seat erupts

as the two boys fight

over who is taking all the space

– then a loud bang from the rear.

You keep driving as if oblivious.

I say. Did you hear…?


It’s the car next to us

your voice is unsteady.

We pull off at a service station

and you phone Green Flag

I don’t really care- after eight hours

I’m glad to be out of the car.


One hour wait turns into three.

The smell of greasy food

makes me nauseous.

I buy the kids Burger King

counting coins from my purse.

We sip coffee, people come and go


I’m reminded of Eliot

his women, talking of Michelangelo.

A young woman in a dog onesie

wags her tail. A little girl

eats noodles that fall like worms

from her plastic fork.


Later Green Flag arrives.

I can’t fix the brakes

bank holiday everything closed.

The mechanic loads

our car onto a tow truck.

He tells us, I normally recover wrecks.


It’s after midnight

a thick white fog descends

as the temperature drops to below zero.

The little one asks. Where are we going?

The driver, not used to conversation

doesn’t answer.


Arriving at the Depot we fling

what is left of Christmas

(cake and presents) into the hire car

and set off blind. I punch

the destination into the sat nav.

The roads are utterly dead.


The headlights illuminate white fog

into something beautiful

like a scene from an old romantic

black and white film.

We take a slip road onto the London Orbital

towards Southend


– suddenly you swerve

and that’s when I see him

caught in the headlights

a Snowy Owl

like a sign, like a message

from the gods. You stop


– the Snowy Owl perched

in the middle of the slip lane


and I want to weep

as he stares straight at me

with his unblinking amber eyes.


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