Beauty and Despair on the Rail Replacement Bus

The journey is a mural etched in hazy relief
on the outside of the windows, viscous
and not at all malleable. It reflects your fatigue
in a pinched face set as a stubborn witness
to insular interests. Snow, painted with a palette
knife, clings to stunted black branches; it preserves,
in pale twisted shapes, a fragile history of the wind’s habits
during the night. Streetlights bloom like peonies, petals
bursting with sleet that will harden into rain that will freeze
in deathly black patches. Road signs coalesce from the syrupy
darkness and their retroreflective surfaces untangle and release
the colour spectrum from the beam of our headlights and display
the light’s intimate form: of fern breath frozen to a pane
of glass; chromatographic crystals split along visceral planes.



Katherine Collins is a poet, writer, and academic. She spends her time between Bristol and Oxford, where she holds a Leverhulme Fellowship at the University. Her writing has appeared in Finished Creatures, Life Writing, and Oxford Writers’ House.