Two Trains: Haibun

“Freight train, freight train, run so fast
Freight train, freight train, run so fast
Please don’t tell what train I’m on
They won’t know what route I’m going. . .”

–Elizabeth Cotton, “Freight Train”

I sit in the movie theater watching a documentary. Mississippi, June 1964–Freedom Summer. Two groups of idealistic white men search for African American delta blues singers, Skip James and Son House, they know of them only from old recordings. The seekers are unaware of what the segregated South is like. While they search, other idealistic, naïve, white college students are heading to Mississippi to set up freedom schools and to help with voter registration. Black activists know those in power do not react to black lives lost, so it’s crucial to have these white civil rights workers involved, too. On June 21, 1964, African-American civil rights worker, James Chaney disappears from Philadelphia, Mississippi, along with white colleagues Michael Schwerner and Andrew Chapman (their bodies found weeks later). They vanish as the musicians are found. The stories converge—two trains running–music and the civil rights movement. I watch all this—the old film footage, the animated scenes, the talking heads. I hear those lonesome, vibrant, haunting blues. The music train arrived, but the civil rights train is still running, fueled by hope and persistence, despite the obstacles on the tracks.


Ghosts still walk these roads

haunted sighs in summer winds

rhythm of the blues


Embed from Getty Images


This Haibun is for Colleen Chesebro’s Weekly Poetry Tuesday. The prompt words were ghost and haunt.

We saw Two Trains Runnin’. More info here.



37 thoughts on “Two Trains: Haibun

  1. Goosebumps! You know I love this stuff and the fight for human rights continues today. Bravo for a powerful and moving Haibun! ❤

  2. The last line of your prose is perfect, and your haiku carries it forward.
    I would like to have seen this. Looking at the listings, it was in my area (30 miles away) 2 days ago.

    • Thank you, Ken. It took me a while to get that last line, so I’m glad you liked it.
      I was going to recommend the movie to you. It was only in Philadelphia for a week–today’s the last day. We happened to see the trailer for it, or we probably wouldn’t have known about it.

  3. Your words splendidly express why so many on Left (not to mention the Right), the lack of knowledge, of appreciation, of the actual struggle of the Civil Rights movement, the actual sacrifice in not only blood, sweat and tears, but in life. The arguments i got into during the Occupy movement, when they wanted right here right now not only achieve what the Civil Rights movement finally achieved, but also believed they had struggled and sacrificed equally wth the CR movement.

    • Thank you. I’m glad this resonated with you. I think there was also a different kind of naiveté then. Without social media, many really did not know what was going on. Now, there is more ignorance of history. Many don’t bother looking up information, nor do they verify it. There was a moving comment by Andrew Goodman’s mother after his death. When asked if she was sorry that he had gone, she said no–because that would mean she did not believe in what he was doing, but it was a cause that she did believe in.

      • i think its human (or any sentient being) nature to gravitate to the easier way, to avoid struggle. There are too many out there (esp in the social media world) who offer people that easier path to historical and political knowledge. “In one YouTube, learn everything you need to know about “x” or “y”. This exacerbated by a cultural imperative that places the individual gratification over the collective / communal good. I will now stand down from my soap box. 😉

  4. Pingback: Colleen’s Weekly #Poetry Tuesday Challenge: Quiet & Space – ✨Colleen Chesebro✨The Faery Whisperer ✨

  5. I can hear the distant train whistle in your glorious words, Merril. May the ghosts of the past continue to haunt us, so we can never forget the sufferings of others that led us all to the path of freedom and equality. Excellent post and comments.

  6. Oh, my! I remember the Mississippi tragic incidents. . . This solidified the church we attended, they banded together to book a bus down there, my parents were transfixed and stayed there. . . 💞
    The pathos of this situation comes through here, Merril.
    This was an amazing poem. “Haunted sighs in summer winds” was perfection.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.