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trains are for old men – dverse

July 21, 2015

Trains are for young boys
that put an ear down to the track
and can hear the vibration of the coming
train from miles away.

Boys who set pennies on the tracks
then stand back and hold their ears
as cha-thunk, cha-thunk, cha-thunk
the cars roll by behind the roaring engine.

Afterwards, they stroll along the track
looking between the ties, among the stones
trying to find the magic talismans
the pennies have become.

Trains are for young men
who dream beyond the factories and small towns
of places far away and adventures
and songs yet to be sung.

They’re walking across the trestle bridge
convinced you can drop down between the ties
holding life like a movie hero should a train approach
and at the last step, more alive than ever.

Trains are for old men
When the factories have stopped
and the trains no longer come
memories of places far away and adventures
never to be sung.


From → dverse, poetry

  1. An elegy for lost youth? American railroads (on film is the only place I’ve seen them) always seem much more romantic than mundane European ones!

    • I suppose they are about the same – but lots of the factory cities are dead and gone – and the railroads that served them.

  2. Trains are for everyone and they bring back all the memories. Like the school boy pranks as it happened here too! Great lines billgncs!


  3. This prompt is making me wanna take a train soooo bad. I’ve never been on one 😦

    The last verse especially caught me, the trains no longer come, the memories… ah. Very nice bill!

  4. Well done, great comparison

  5. Love this. Some wonderful memories to hang on to. I like how you recount it, and sense a little sadness in the end. Nice.

  6. “Boys who set pennies on the tracks”…a worldwide popular game it seems…

  7. Yeah.. take a track
    to nowhere
    it is
    too late..:)

  8. That last stanza is so bittersweet.

  9. Glenn Buttkus permalink

    Bullet trains, what a reality. I was going to include them in my piece, but the writing just didn’t need them. The TGV has been clocked at 327.2 mph on test runs; 200-240 are the average commuter speeds in France, China & Japan. Your poem seemed like a ballad, perfect lyrics for Woody or Arlo Guthrie.

  10. Your poem made me want to take again a REAL train ride! There is something about trains, I think, that appeal to all ages.

  11. Bittersweet – to see the perspective and the memories change from youth to old age. Especially with the trains having been diverted around my town … such sadness in the sight of an abandoned train track.

    Great piece of writing 🙂

  12. Oh those boys with their ears to the tracks…my dad would have told them off good and proper – great prompt

  13. I admire the different perspective of the train, from young boy to the old man ~ I specially like the narrative about the young boys as I recall my childhood memories of kids playing along the tracks ~

    • Some of the grandparents would tell of walking the tracks during the great depression looking for pieces of coal that had fallen off

  14. I love how you have woven time with the passage of the train.. depicted its journey along with a man’s dream when hes young and after hes grown old. Excellent write 😀

  15. How wonderful this poem is. How we change and how our dreams and adventures change, but not really, after all. My father and I would walk down the train tracks way way back through the woods behind our house. he always kept a careful ear out though. I’ll bet I put a dollar’s worth of pennies on those tracks! We’d walk across the trestle, which was over a gorgeous wide, deep part of the creek and I’d look down at the cool green water and want to dream but he would hustle me along – careful careful….This is a most excellent poem.

  16. I like the way trains accompany us through all stages of life. I did put my ear on the tracks when I was younger, but didn’t do the pennies thing. Abandoned tracks are very sad, I think, where trains no longer stop or even pass.

    • the pennies get big and thin and curved, like bread dough rolled over by the rolling pin 🙂

  17. There is an old train bridge across the James River, and sadly too many die each year trying that danging trick – cause the water is only 6 inches deep at the bottom. We used to believe if you stacked enough pennies the train would come off the track. Which was so scary when you tested it. I must be an old man, I still love the trains – and wish I could ride one again.

    • Yes, a great saddness – youth rarely measures risk against reward. It’s ok to love trains 🙂

  18. they’re for all of us – aren’t they – no matter what sex and age..
    over here you can buy an interrail ticket which allows you for a cheap price to travel by train through all of europe – a lot of young people do this… it’s fascinating

    • we rode the TGV in France – very fun.

      • i rode that one too – from basel to paris… so very cool…. takes not even 3 hours…

        • Ours was from Avignon to Paris – France has beautiful cities – but I was glad to gaze upon the verdant countryside.

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