By David Berman.

Coming up England by a different line

For once, early in the cold new year,

We stopped, and, watching men with number plates

Sprint down the platform to familiar gates,


‘Why, Coventry!’ I exclaimed.

‘I was born here. ‘

I leant far out, and squinnied for a sign

That this was still the town that had been ‘mine’

So long, but found I wasn’t even clear

Which side was which.

From where those cycle-crates

Were standing, had we annually departed

For all those family hols? . . .

A whistle went: Things moved.

I sat back, staring at my boots.

‘Was that,’ my friend smiled,

‘where you “have your roots”?’


No, only where my childhood was unspent,

I wanted to retort,

just where I started:

By now I’ve got the whole place clearly charted.

Our garden, first:

where I did not invent Blinding theologies of flowers and fruits,

And wasn’t spoken to by an old hat.

And here we have that splendid family I never ran to when I got depressed,

The boys all biceps and the girls all chest,

Their comic Ford,

their farm where I could be ‘Really myself’.

I’ll show you, come to that, The bracken where I never trembling sat,

Determined to go through with it;

where she Lay back, and ‘all became a burning mist’.


And, in those offices, my doggerel

Was not set up in blunt ten-point,

nor read By a distinguished cousin of the mayor,

Who didn’t call and tell my father There Before us, had we the gift to see ahead –


‘You look as though you wished the place in Hell,’

My friend said, ‘judging from your face. ‘

‘Oh well, I suppose it’s not the place’s fault,’ I said.

‘Nothing, like something, happens anywhere. ‘


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