NaPoWriMo: Railways

They changed history, the railroads.

They changed time, scheduling it with preciseness,

a new conciseness,

connecting towns, connecting people.

Clickety clack, clickety clack

the tracks of the Transcontinental Railway,

connecting a nation


Refrigerated cars, carrying meat and produce

connecting farm and city,

Railway cars and urban gritty.

Clickety clack, clickety clack

Freight train

Freight train

going so fast

Salesmen selling goods and schemes

connecting consumers with products and dreams.

Clickety clack, clickety clack.

The Great Migration and Depression blues

changing where we lived, what we choose.

Clickety clack,  clickety clack.

Hobos and the Scottsboro Boys,

lonesome blues, lonesome noise,

justice denied,

hop a freight—


will we ever get back home?

No, only forward.

Don’t look back.

Don’t look back.

Clickety clack,  clickety clack

The trains must run on time,

Up they climb,

to the halls of hell.


take a breath.

Come greet, Death.

Clickety clack,  clickety clack

Blood on the tracks

Blood on the tracks

Auschwitz, Dachau–

we wonder how,


Can we stop it now?

Freight train, freight train,

going too fast.

Not so fast, not so fast, not so fast, not so fast

Clickety clack,  clickety clack

The mournful sighs

the tearful cries,

people and trains


bound for glory.

You can hear the whistle

blow one hundred miles,

clickety clack, click clack

fading, fading, fading with time.


NaPoWriMo Day 6 . I used the Secret Keeper’s writing prompt, using these words





24 thoughts on “NaPoWriMo: Railways

  1. The clickety clack of the PRR trains formed the soundscape of many childhood adventures into the woods behind Grandma’s house. Your last lines inspired me to play a few bars of Peter, Paul, and Mary’s 500 miles from the soundtrack.

    Fine work here, Merril. I once owned a “poet’s” blouse with puffy sleeves. If I had it still, I’d mail it to you.

    Is there a train near your house?

    • I do sometimes here a train from my house–just freight trains around here. They’re mostly a nuisance when you have to stop to wait for them to go by. I do remember being fascinated by the train that traveled behind my parents’ store when I was a child.
      I was having a good time playing train songs earlier today, too. 🙂
      Thank you for thinking of me with your “poet’s blouse.”

  2. Merril, this was very beautiful and nostalgic. I like railroad songs. When I was growing up, I’ve Been Working on the Railroad. . . all the live long day. . .” was a favorite car song.
    Have you ever read a children’s poem called, “Baby Goes to Boston?” It was a poem my Mom who taught high school English, World Lit and Spanish used as an early “rap.” 🙂

  3. Wonderful how you incorporated the songs. When you think about it, the railroad is woven throughout the history of American music, from “John Henry” to “City of New Orleans”. (K)

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