Train Ride

Iron road.
Iron road.

The train lumbers slowly

on its crooked tracks held

together by what appears

to be worm-eaten wooden

planks and invisible bolts,

as if it were constructed

by a child with no real

sense of the forces unseen

that could tear the tracks

asunder.

Everyone huddles on their

hardened benches, the farthest

leaning on a frosted window,

the rest leaning on him,

swaying gently with the

motion of the car as the lights

begin to spark and ignite,

illuminating the carriage

and allowing passengers

to disembark at the depot.

People shuffle on and off

through the narrow openings

near the tiny closets for

staff to store their coats

and the unisex restroom

that is always wet, even

on the days when it is

too cold for water to flow,

the doors exhale the warm

breath that wrapped

everyone inside.

Back two cars, people lay

on benches with woolen

blankets draped over their

tired bodies, some hovering

over their travel mates

below, some sleeping on

hide-away beds that convert

into tables where they can

play cards or drink vodka.

Children run up and down

the aisles, hitting the feet

of those laying down as

they bolt through cramped

corridors, yelled at by stern

passengers, chastised by

their parents once the rest

of the cabin awakens them

from their unassuming slumber.

The train lurches once more

from its momentary reprise,

those in the most prestigious

of cars have little doors

to sequester them from any

unwanted persons leaning

on their shoulder or children,

unruly from the discomfort

of cold coughs and restless

shifting of others only pretending

to be asleep.

Locked inside their safe rooms,

they drink until they are full,

and then they drink some more,

swaying exaggeratedly and

making faces unnatural and

joyful, thinking of what it was

once like to ride before

two cars up, and even four

cars up. Cherish the thought!

The train lumbers slowly

on its crooked tracks holding

the oddly shaped wheels

firmly in place to guide

the tired souls with their

flour sacks full of cabbage,

tattered clothes,

and other personal affects

as they go as far as they can

with what little they have.

Composed 12/22/13

Author’s Note: Riding the train in Mongolia is very interesting. Did you know they keep their tracks different from China? If you go to China from Mongolia, or vice versa, your train will stop to have its wheels changed so that it can continue on. Some have told me it’s to keep China from invading Mongolia, cutting off a key route for supplies needed by the Chinese army. Either way, it’s definitely an experience.

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