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There's an angel in my wing mirror

Artwork by Marion Willingham

I know the A1. I know it for its 400 miles, through fen, fell and forth, a tarmac snake whose slither divides east coast shingles from their strata, Adam from Eve; I know it for the arched back of the cat which lies in wait on the outskirts of Peterborough, I’m a meal on wheels a wind-up mouse pounce on me and I know it for the fear of overtaking some eighteen-wheel behemoth on the inside, from the tyre-marks skidding onto a road marked in no AA Route Planner, from oily teddy bears in the central reservation, from cones of plastics and papers and wilted stems; I know it for it tells me to Prepare To Meet Thy God

I know it for buried streams and weeping willows, kerosene dreams and distant scarecrows, the exact gradient at which green turns to grey; I know it for the rolls and riffs of my father’s stereo, drumming and wailing, we swerve with the beat, brake at chords, turn up the volume to tumble downhill, drop it when my sister falls asleep outside Leeming Bar; I know it for thinking of a Scotch egg whenever we pass Scotch Corner and for where the Tyne is brown and wide and bubbles along the corrugated breakwater and Hadrian’s Wall is not far away and I know it for the Free Tommy graffiti emblazoned on every third sign, for the man who honked when he passed, and for the faceless fluorescents working the verge like the rarest of butterflies

I know it for the story my father always tells me about the boy at services, they found him in building foundations under the KFC; I know it for the blur of red lights we chase before dawn breaks and they fade to dull white, for the shadows of stanchions broken by streetlights which run like bicycle spokes over cheeks; I know it for the sex shops which were once Little Chefs that furnish the fens like used condoms at Stonehenge, for averted eyes and sensible chat, a mistimed joke; I know it for the cars in lay-bys with their lights turned off, for those with a family sitting glumly under dripping scrub, for those clad in yellow, in orange, those with flashing cameras and those in white sheets

I know it for the dead fox in the fast lane and the one that got away, I know it for the way home, leaving home, for early mornings, for missed junctions and two-hour waits, for the man hanging over the London Colney bridge while I sat and Aretha sang and I know it for the thought that the Galleria tunnel will crumble and crush me in aluminium armour. I know that it ends or does it begin in Islington at the Angel and that always seemed appropriate, so watch me shoot like a cork from the immaculate conception and I’m driving away but the Angel follows me on wings of mirrors wherever I drive, yes, the Angel it follows me.


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