Thursday, February 14, 2008

Upon Hearing a Train Whistle Late at Night



The whistle pulls me from sleep,
the falling Doppler pitch an awful wail,
like the final breath of one
who sees an apocalyptic moon.

It is a terrible thing when a stream runs dry,
when the radial pulse begins to hear
the calling of dust
to which it must return.

The demon train is gone,
having pulled its dying freight
into a country with no name.
Converging rails are erased

by the shadow of parallax pines
with no tangible roots.
It is time to let sleep have sway,
to let night run its course with dreams,

powerful engines in their own right,
before the sun spins its child into wakefulness,
before the highest mountain catches fire from dawn.
My mind will glide through kingdoms of light

that forever rise above the whistle of the grave,
where death is only temptation,
an ethereal siren song
for a mind that chooses not to wake.

Picture: Public Domain

14 comments:

Lana Gramlich said...

Funky poem! Makes me think of the song "Spanish Train" by Chris deBurgh...

Marja said...

Great picture you painted and I fell in love with "before the sun spins its child into wakefulness, before the highest mountain catches fire from dawn My mind will glide through kingdoms of light. Excellent

Sarah Hina said...

I've always thought train whistles were the most mournful cries in the world. Beautiful balance of light and dark, earth and sky, Billy. You own the shadows here.

And I like the idea of death as temptation. Something to surrender to, rather than flee from.

Sandy Carlson said...

The images of gliding through kingdoms in daylight in contrast to the image of that mournful train makes me grateful for dawn.

Bernita said...

I like this so much.
I would miss the long lonely wail in the night though, should the real trains disappear.

Billy said...

Lana, thanks. Never heard the song, but I think I'll look it up.

Marja, what high praise! You're are quite kind in your comments. Much appreciated. THanks as always for taking a peek -:)

Sarah, those whistles are indeed mournful in pitch, and I wrote this one evening after hearing one in the distance.

Sandy, I wanted to draw a contrast at the end so that death isn't the winner. It's kind of a resurrection poem--we should get up every morning aimed at life, not the reaper.

Bernita, sadly the real trains continue to disappear, and with them a part of life. And I agree: sad though they be, those whistles are poetry.

Julie at Virtual Voyage said...

Will have to read this half a dozen times to get the meat off the bone...

Love the parallax pines. Read up on the construction of the Parthenon?

Billy said...

Julie, haven't read up on Parthenon yet. Will do it, however! I think this poem is a bit more elusive than most of mine in that the idea of moving on in the face of the inevitable, death, is only rendered at the very end.

Charles Gramlich said...

Very good poem. It has a bit of a Bradburyesque feel to me. I started thinking of "Something Wicked this way Comes."

Billy said...

Charles, I love Bradbury, and SOMETHING WICKED ... is my favorite. I think you're right--something in this poem echoes the lure of the evil carnival and the protagonists' attempt to reject it.

'soulless' said...

I sense weariness, especially with the second stanza, to which I identify with. Sometimes I envy the bear who hibernates; tough luck me doing that with work, haha.

having pulled its dying freight
into a country with no name.
Converging rails are erased

by the shadow of parallax pines


Haunting imagery that keeps me captivated. (Makes me think of the old tv series, Twilight Zone.)

I'm loving my first time here; another plus to my poetry reading pleasure. Cheers!

Billy said...

soulless--yes, you're right, the first part of the poem conveys that sense of weariness or inevitablity. You are so kind for stopping by. Thanks for the lovely comment!

Lane said...

I really like this poem and I must admit I've read it several times this week to let it 'sink in'.

The subtle move from overwhelming weariness - almost giving in to death, to a slow building optimism is handled so well with the night to day images and the train that could so easily have been boarded.

I particularly liked the last two verses and these lines

before the highest mountain catches fire from dawn.
My mind will glide through kingdoms of light


Fab:-)

Billy said...

Lane, thank you for a thoughtful reading on this one. The movement from defeat to life is indeed intentionally subtle, with only the end really divulging the poem's theme. "Fab" works for me. Thanks. -:)