Submitted Date 03/29/2019

A Glimpse Of The Past: Riding the Night Train Back To School
Returning to Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, New Hampshire after Christmas vacation, January 1960, Age 15
-- This is one poem, in an autobiographical series of poems, I posted here at WriteSpike. Go to my stories section for others. They are in chronological order. --

Haverhill, Massachusetts was a stop on the route back. Rail cars are self-propelled trains that can be run individually or ganged together; in 1960 the Boston and Maine Railroad had a fleet of these.

An homage to Keats's Ode to a Nightingale

In a ten degree wind
the drafty
single rail car
rattled as it
approached the station

The conductor sang
"Haverhill, next stop Haverhill"
when the screech of metal on metal
brought us to a stop

Through the
frosted window I saw
the main street --
curtains of new snow swirling
into rounded drifts
not yet broken by cars or plows

Down a dark road
a man was wading,
making deep tracks,
working his way in slow motion
toward a neon sign
that was bleeding red
onto the white powder

Leaning against the wind
he pushed hard
to crack open a door
when sudden light spilled out

I thought
I could hear a jukebox
mixed with a waft of warm air
steamed hot dogs and
the clutter of laughter
and conversation

Then like waking
from a dream
the train shuddered
and the plastic seat under me
went cold

I returned to that familiar feeling
of being alone --
the formless fear of a school
where I did not belong --
a stabbing emptiness
that tasted like metal

A point
of no return

I wanted to
jump off
and open that door...

But instead
the train lurched

So this 60-second scene
stayed with me
the rest of my life

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