Michael Shepherd

Rookie (8.4.1929 / Marton, Lancashire)

0041 Goods train in the night


Film meets the poetic image,
and in some things never fails – as when

out there alone in the prairie -
the steppes, the tundra,
snowfields, desert -
past midnight, the heavens
a carpet of stars, maybe a flash
over the horizon of Northern Lights,
or the centered assurance of the Southern Cross,
silence broken only by a howl,
was that a wolf,
just one observer as
a camera, a poet, whom
we never see..

and then a distant sound and
one plaintive assertive impersonal wail and
almost too soon, the fast rhythmic rattle
of a goods train on the railway line over there
but near enough to shake the scene, and
seemingly endless; minutes pass? then as suddenly
it’s past, it’s gone… and the silence following
is deeper, huge, saying something huge
by the absence of anything said…or

back in the city, the child rewarded for trust by trust,
allowed to wander the railway goods yard
next to the gasworks down the sulphured end of town,
miniatured rail tracks leading to the glowing maw
of the furnaces; but all afternoon-sleepy between trains except for
over there, the ceaseless smack and clang and clink of chain and
barely audible sigh of wagon wheels and buffers
as invisible engine and railwaymen shunt and couple,
shunt, uncouple, couple, empty wagons for return
to far-off places named upon their sides…

was this how I learned to make poetry,
shunting, uncoupling, coupling
empty words into lines of trucks that have direction,
to return to heart's-truth and poetry

and timely, late at night, out there in the waiting solitude
to disturb that great silence under a canopy of stars,
singing their rhythm in the dreaming night
with the assurance of human company,
leaving behind them
a deeper silence in the listening heart

Submitted: Saturday, September 09, 2006
Edited: Saturday, September 04, 2010

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  • Rookie Scarlett Treat (9/9/2006 8:04:00 AM)

    All my life I have loved the sounds of trains in the night. There was one that went through my hometown at ll: 00 PM at night on its way to New Orleans, and we set our watches by its timeleness! But how I longed to be on it, being somebody important enough to be going somewhere on the train...and that longing heart DID
    dream and think and wish for other places....and people....and write. I love this, especially the last two stanzas! What a writer you are! (Report) Reply

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