Ruth Smith: THE CHILDREN ARE WAVING

The children are waving.
Turning around in their seats
they scan the broad swathe
of the motorway
and grin at football supporters
and old men in Metros.
Soon they'll be riding
an empty ribbon of road,
getting a feel for green fields
and the swish, swish, swish
of drystone. They'll wake next day
in their holiday home.

The children are waving,
seeking their mothers in the crowd
until the engine builds up steam
for its first exhalation.
Leaving what they know, they hold
on to teddies and parcels
of clothes.Soon they'll eat
their paper-wrapped butties
not knowing where they'll be
tonight or what strangers will come
and take them away. They'll wake,
in an unfamiliar room.

The children are waving
or are they just stretching a hand
to steady their load? Carrying
what they can, with the little ones
on their backs, they've walked for days
and have a staring look,
brows faintly puckered
above their clouded eyes.
They're baskets of ribs,
flesh on bone,
Already, some of the babies
are covered in flies.