Down the Long, Long Line
by Mary-Jane Holmes
Dark to light, the tunnel births the train and there’s the river’s head damned blue to reservoir, the ore rakes Da hushed lead from since the valley was drowned, the best sward spoiled, there’s the clough where Ma netted sparrow (Spuggy, Sprog, Squidgie, Sparky) for a farthing a brace, there’s the old hall where you went into service, steaming, pressing, goffering; lye burning the skin off your fingers, there’s the hunting lodge where the master took you, holding his hand against your mouth while outside they beat and flushed grouse, there’s the ginnel at the backend of town where they said you could be pure again: tansy oil, pennyroyal, rue, ergot, opium. There are the sidings where you lay wishing the wheels would roll away your shame, there’s the train station where you marched the rails with the other girls: Lytton. Pankhurst, Kenney, Dunlop with axe, stones and a message. Deeds not Words. There’s the prison they put you in, there’s the gag they prised open your jaw with, the tube they force fed you with, there is the spit you lobbied back, there’s the polling card, the pen in your hand, there’s the river’s mouth cleaned up enough that fish (ealpout, cod, whiting, smelt) have taken to spawning again.
Mary-Jane has been published in such places as Mslexia, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Prole, The Tishman Review, The Lonely Crowd, Prole and Best Small Fictions Anthology 2016 and 2018. She is the winner of the 2018 Mslexia Flash Fiction Competition and 2017 Bridport Poetry Prize amongst others. @emjayinthedale www.mary-janeholmes
Illustration of Common Cod, Haddock, Whiting, Coal Fish, Ling, Holibut, Mackerel, and Smelt or Spirling from A history of the earth and animated nature (1820) by Oliver Goldsmith (1730-1774), digitally enhanced. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).