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Wednesday, 13 October, 1999, 08:58 GMT 09:58 UK
Poet Laureate remembers Paddington victims
Rescuers hard at work after the accident near Paddington
Poet Laureate Andrew Motion has composed a poem in memory of those killed in the Paddington rail disaster.

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London Train Crash
Motion said he was wrote the poem after feeling "incredibly upset" by the crash.

The poem, entitled Cost of Life, describes the moments immediately before the accident and deals with the terror of the impact and the grief of losing loved ones.

Andrew Motion: "Imagine what happens after - but not for long"
Motion started composing the poem last week and finished it over the weekend.

He said: "Like so many other people, I was touched by and shared the sense of grieving across the country at this dreadful event - I was incredibly upset.

"I felt the poem was something I could do as Poet Laureate but also there was a poem there to be written and it was something that I wanted to do."

The 75-line verse could be read at any future memorial service for victims of the crash.


This is the full text of Cost of Life, composed by Andrew Motion and published in The Independent:

Imagine that autumn dawn coming to grips
with a country station: the way light slips
along the silver stitch-mark of the rails, first,
then strikes the waiting-room and lets its colours burst.
Imagine next the people waiting for their train -
cold feet scuffing the Tarmac's faint frost-grain,
that man there with a Kleenex-snippet stuck
on his shaving cut, this woman here with a fleck
of lipstick on a front tooth, and no one talking
yet, but nodding, or half-smiling, or slow-walking
to stare off the platform's end into open country:
cattle still in their yards, fields lush and empty.
Then imagine the train lashing its hard bend,
the track tingling, doors clunking, someone lend-
ing a hand to someone, taking care with the gap;
remember the palaver, the brisk insistence, the drop
into a seat - mine! - then the cast-away gaze
out through a cloudy window at the dripping maze
of hedges ruffling in the slip-stream, the wet cars
burrowing in lanes, the now-here/now-gone regular whack of a farm, or an allotment-quilt. Imagine
the sun full-on at last, and clouds melting from
the Cotswolds into the Thames Valley, villages
unravelling into towns, more stops, the carriages
jam-packed now, and papers crackling, the bass line
of a Walkman, a laptop, a mobile phone,
and the brick terraces crushing closer, their black walls
swirling graffiti, damp-dribbles, quick shadow-spills
from fly-overs and scaffolding, then opening ahead
towards the city, its slate-acres hammered out like lead.

Then imagine what happens after - but not for long.
Imagine a single nipped-off second hung
between one moment and the next - a time-dot
in which train, carriages, everything is flung out-
side the world's hard limits of mass and space
and rises up weightless, torn from its proper place.
Then imagine all this weltering down
through gravity onto the earth again;
sleek carriages now sealed chambers where
windows hold tight, ghost-people clamber
so wild and desperate their whole expression is O,
where furious quick dust-storms smear a dry dew-
fall on what survives of tables, chairs, head-rests,
where daily lives doing no more than their best
to stay daily, and continue by daily laws,
are shredded or simply threshed open by fear
which solves nothing, where the unearthly stink
rises of what no one will want to name or think about later, where even a puffed-up speckled cloud
cannot hide or drown the continuing flame-slides
and metal shrieks, the heartbroken animal cries,
the pop of strong wood giving way, the thin fly-
away whip of cables snapping, the reedy phone
still weeping in the ash-mess hiding human bone.

In the end
imagine how large a silence will descend
as the track is cleared - silence like familiar clay
turned into a mist which stays
Invisible but works its way
back up the rails along the valley floor, and so
enters the towns where one strand or another goes
off by itself to fill the vacant space
which recently was someone's lived-in place.
And yet the mist appears
to grow the more it travels - swelling where the rails
slice back across a lattice-work of lanes
until it finds the Cotswolds and thins out again -
this whisp here escaping underneath a bolted door, that one slipping
through a bed-
room window left ajar, and there, that third
one, slumping at a kitchen table where
a man sits down alone, and stares
like everyone alone will stare
and see no more than featureless
and wasted air.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Audio
Jimmy Knapp: "Track maintenance is not what it should be"
Video
BBC News' Jane Bennett-Powell reports
Audio
Lord Macdonald: "This is something that Railtrack has accepted and indeed welcomed"
Video
The BBC's Stephen Evans reports: "There is pressure on the government"
Audio
Labour MP Gwynneth Dunwoody:"A lot of things were recommended a year ago"
Video
The BBC's Steven Evans: Political issue of rail safety is rising dramatically
Audio
The BBC's Jon Braine: "A search of the underside has failed to find further human remains"
See also:

11 Oct 99 | UK
10 Oct 99 | UK
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