Mudlark No. 56 (2015)

Train Man

          — R.J.

I sit here, strange town/strange land, beer in my right hand, book in my left, and read: Train 1256 with its eight soot-black cars—these lines from a Norseman who once was not known to us, but is now, thanks in part to Bly: what luck! In his own land his work was thought too strange at first—that’s how it goes—the Norse were used to straight rhyme, not free verse. Old tale: fame rolls in last at home.

He spent his days as a news hack, stayed true to self & fact and now here am I, spring day, white clouds, not far south of where he lived, read of his deep love for all things train—the heat they give off, tinge of light from their roofs, teak walls stained with smoke, each face next to its face-on-glass, and I think of those whom his trains must have passed: girls on bikes at gates, the young man back from war (one leg gone)—he waves!—clumps of men done with their day’s work, dirt on their shoes, on their shirts—who made these trains, in their way: mined the ore for steel or dug the coal sent east to be forged, who broke rock from deep pits and sent it west for new track to be laid, for new men to wreck their backs/their knees as they lugged it/spread it, set the ties, at last were done with work, died.

Not his words: mine—more dark than his, who made note of each bridge, of the sheen of light on steel rails, who at last in his own land did come to be known, who at the end of his time on earth had a free pass, for life, they said, to ride on trains.

Gerald Fleming | The Old Bard, Three Gins In
Contents | Mudlark No. 56 (2015)