Helen Mort

there & back

there & back

i. there


At ten, my globe
was this tiled atlas,
crimson-black veins
the neural pathways
of Yorkshire,
Lancashire. Here,
it’s always evening

and I’m holding
my dad’s hand, asking
what’s Huddersfield?
but now we’re moving,
travelling backwards
till we’re out of sight,
now I can’t see
the curve
of his face.



Dear Cottonopolis, dear town
of moss and bog. I like your empty
benches and your bramble-twine. I like
your leaves of peeling paint. You look
like the teacher I never had –
flint eyes, cloud-coloured hair.
Stay with me, Moston. Tell me
something I don’t know.

– Hasty, 9.27 to Leeds


Mills Hill

It’s LOVE backwards in the window
of a terraced house: magenta capitals.
It’s the frayed ribbon of Oldham Road
and the gate that reads STRICKLY
NO DOG WALKERS. It’s grandad
on the platform, waving, jogging
on the spot, pretending
to keep up with us.



Two black dogs on leads
drag a man the length
of a hedgerow. The day
is a caught scent.
My heart fills slowly
like the level of a lock.



You were George-Clooney-grey this morning
and you had your neat industrial tattoos on show.
You were holding an oil-bright magpie
and a single newspaper. I tried
to read over your shoulder
then the sky took all the words away.

– Speechless, 9.47 to Leeds


Smithy Bridge

An old man unseats himself
says give my regards to Ilkley
and his friend answers I will
but Ilkley doesn’t exist here
only a stately home
where the slim windows
seem to multiply
like frogspawn

and wind turbines
turn the day over
and over, making
more of it
each time.



Your small name
and your big ridges
planted with pylons.

How the horses all turn
to face Manchester
as they graze.

The tinder of felled birches
and the match of 10am
unused, unstruck
this store of



I was flying from a tunnel.
You were edged by vivid rocks,
wrapped in a woodland shawl. You
had rooks in your hair. I was
moving too fast. Meet me
next time at the junction
with your flashy redbrick jewellery on.

– Speedy, 10.01 to Leeds



Everything is painted sage
or landrover, or brand new wellingtons
a deeper colour than the lichen
of the church. The hillside
turns away, shaded with jealousy.

A weathervane. The cool, black tracks.
The unsmudged lipstick of the station doors.
The breath of passengers
outside the waiting room
transluscent, rising, mingling.


Hebden Bridge

Come with me, Dee from Bradford
with your tiny silver nose stud,
walk with me from the bridge.
We’ll laugh at ourselves in the windows
of vegetarian cafés, our faces
tasteful bric-a-brac. There’s time

and we’ll run off with it,
find the hills you used to long for
from the carriage window as a child
the bleached, frost coloured flanks
above Heptonstall, like snow hares
patient, tentative, pausing
to test new air.


Comments are closed.