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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Poetry  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is a Re-write........First part of a trilogy:

Submitted: December 31, 2007

A A A | A A A

Submitted: December 31, 2007




Rattling across Guatemalan fields

- gift of President Grant –

this railway carriage,

fading green paint eighty years old,

with wooden seats and hurricane lamps,

pot bellied stove still in place -

passenger putting heel on floor and

toe to wall, pushing slightly,

watches sleepers rush beneath.


Monthly train ride to ‘grandmamma’,

Grand Trunk station, high ceiling oaken rafters,

and the lingering smell of coal;

the route all fields and small towns.

The same route now all Rust Belt and slum housing.

Was it like that in my childhood,

did I not see for innocence?


Four times up and four time back

the daily wood chip train –

twenty-three flatcars and two engines,

hauling logs to the port for chipping;

ripping out the coups in distant valleys

where tourist cannot see and complain –

the timber lords do not listen anyway.


Hotham Valley Tourist Railroad –

steam train once a year

down to countryside for Apple Festival,

blowing steam and sooty sparks –

banned from southlands except at Eastertide,

for fear of starting fires in the timber –

disgorging tourists for half a day,

then takes them up again and toots away,

whistle blowing, tourists waving;

and we all happy with the dollars left behind.


Milk Train –

took twelve hours from village to city.

Doesn’t run now, post-war

macadam roads brought trucks.

Railroad tracks still in place, jarrah trestles too,

crossing farms and dissecting forests.

Once I fossicked in the empty field that

held the loading platform,

found a copper British Penny –

“1894” it says –

one man’s wage another’s hobby.


Follow the track ‘cross endless Wheatbelt -

count the sidings, loading platforms,

grain silos, level crossings,

each a measure of farmers’ hopes.

Four times a week it runs this route,

up from city, through the forest,

then the wheaten plain and on into desert

for whistlestops; and then Kalgoorlie and the Golden Mile.

When comes harvest – train upon train rumbles slowly

down this line, bound for ships to feed the world.


Old steam engine pulling carriages

and caboose through the second-growth woods.

I watched as the thrusting pistons

turned the massive wheels, 2-4-2 configuration.

Understanding then why 19th Century America

believed in Manifest Destiny;

all that heady, raw, motive - and emotive - power,

able to be harnessed to their dreams.

James Gagiikwe 2007

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