Poetry in a Night Train: Part 2

The second part of the story – Poetry in a Night Train

“A blank ivory square of brightness”. I didn’t know emptiness is more expressive in light than it is in darkness until I began to travel with a poetry book. Especially on trains at nights.

Or else why should yellow lights and lanterns scald my soul so deep in a journey! Tell me, dear reader. Do you too feel depressed in a night train at the sight of a tiny bulb burning in a distant and solitary home on a mountainside? My sleep-deprived eyes turn misty at a lantern waving in the darkness as the train judders past an almost deserted railway station at night. Lights in darkness are like mosquitoes, the tinier they are, the more painful and unsettling they want themselves to be. They hum in deep baritone foreboding unchartered stations on the way, where the traveler has to get off, leaving all he has garnered from different places behind.

Ted Kooser picks a few spots of brightness from the darkness as the freight train rolls away:

At the end of a freight train rolling away,
A hand swinging a lantern.
The only lights left behind in the town
Are a bulb burning cold in the jail,
And high in one house,
A five-battery flashlight
Pulling an old woman downstairs to the toilet
Among the red eyes of her cats.

034A few lights – a swinging lantern, a bulb burning cold in a jail, a five-battery flashlight pulling a woman downstairs and the red light reflecting from the eyes of cats – have evoked a long pathetic story of misery or old age in you. Now tell me. Have you ever been woken up at midnight when your train pulls into a no man’s land? You peer out through the misty glass to see where you are. An ethereal world. “Night, two o’ clock: moonlight. The train has stopped in the middle of the plain. Distant bright points of a town,” begins a poem by Tomas Transtromer, the Nobel Laureate.

Night, two o’ clock: moonlight. The train has stopped
In the middle of the plain. Distant bright points of a town
Twinkle cold on the horizon

As when someone has gone into a dream so far
That he will never remember he was there
When he comes back to his room.

As when someone goes into a sickness so deep
That all his former days become twinkling points, a swarm,
Cold and feeble on the horizon.

The train stands perfectly still
Two o’ clock: full moonlight, few stars.
Twinkle cold on the horizon.

Wake up in time to get to this place, Transtromer envisions, in your next night journey. The train has stopped in the middle of nowhere, perhaps for a crossing, perhaps to shed the time it has gained as it sped mindlessly through the depressing rails, perhaps to catch its breath before the next sprint. Understand, so many things happen around you when you sleep.

Now. The train stops. In the middle of a plain.

The train stops. The poet says that the train stops as someone who has gone too far into his IMG_8970dream that he would not remember he was there. How many dreams do we recall! Sad, we have gone too far dreaming. The train stops. The poet also adds that the train stops as someone who has gone too deep into a sickness, that he would never remember what he did, where he lied, when he was delirious. Something was amiss, but he would never know what. The train stops. For the stopped train and its passengers, the present is an effaced future, a blotted past, cut off from all bearings. The moment stays only as long as the train stops. Soon, we know, the train would slowly chug out from a point where it has never stopped.

Now. The train stops. In the middle of a plain.

Look around and pick everything you see in this plain, because when the train leaves you are going to leave everything you have greedily collected in your pockets and gunny bags behind. Perhaps the most important things we learned in our life had slipped our mind thus. Along with pure love and Gods.

VN:F [1.9.20_1166]
Rating: 10.0/10 (2 votes cast)
Poetry in a Night Train: Part 2, 10.0 out of 10 based on 2 ratings

About Manu Remakant

Manu has written 288 stories in Rum, Road & Ravings. You can read all posts by here.

3 Responses to Poetry in a Night Train: Part 2

  1. Wonder why train journeys always evoke sadness and nostalgia.

    VA:F [1.9.20_1166]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.20_1166]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  2. I get the same feeling when I see yellow lamps. And you have put it so beautifully. Genius, thy name Manu Remakant. 🙂

    VN:F [1.9.20_1166]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VN:F [1.9.20_1166]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  3. 🙂

    VA:F [1.9.20_1166]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.20_1166]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

Leave a Response

Name (required)

E Mail (required)

Website

Comment