Libretto Extract

VIII Speck of Ash

station announcer

Recall the tiny speck of ash
Retrieved from driver Joe’s right lash?

A hundred years, less quarter that,
It’s been abroad, doing this and that.

Once wiped, the speck did rise aloft,
Inclined t’ward Yorkshire, hard and soft.

It met a turbulent Pennine flow
That carried it both long and low.

A year from fate like this t’was dealt,
Till snagged by puny hills of felt.

It travelled on to Bramall Lane
And watched the home team every game.

Unbothered by the floodlight’s fringe
(For is not ash itself pure singe?),

The years they passed till soot was laid
Upon a spinning turbine blade.

And there our lone nomadic grime
Did pass away a happy time,

Till thrown and gestured to explore
A place it once had seen before.

Unlikely venture some will say,
To have two things go the same way.

Yet so it was, in Bytham’s fold,
Our nomad smut, now tired and old,

Did come to yearn for, want and need,
A home where once excessive speed

It reached perforce with great relief,
Alighting from Joe’s handkerchief.

And miles-per-hour, all then achieved,
Saw half the world at once pay heed

To Mallard’s run and Bytham’s state
As rightful place to celebrate

The glorious past of England’s prime
(A well-known tune, time after time).

Let Acme peas all render loud
Invading force and warring crowd.

“There’s Medard’s yard!” the speck now cries.
“It looks unchanged”; the same applies

To old Glen Brook, the High Street too,
And see! The Spinney, spanking new.

But where’s that platform, left and right,
Where north and southbound did alight?

“I’ve been abroad too long, I fear!”
The hopeless speck sobbed with a tear

Whose liquid now dissolved apace
Unhappy grit, without a trace.

Assume for all such fate in store —
Three score and ten and little more.

A happy life that’s long and true
Is all a grain can best accrue.

In seeking with intent avowed
To wander lonely as a cloud,

It quite forget at every bend
To still pay heed to awful end,

A lesson this particulate
Did fail to learn and inculcate—

That lost and found should both create
The means to render and donate

A gift of love and peace and mirth
To all who live upon the earth.