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Trains (extended pantoum) – Psyche Marks

Trains (extended pantoum)

This was a flash (rough, quickly timed) poem with the challenge of writing a pantoum or villanelle about trains. I got the idea because I live near a train track and enjoy the sound of the whistle at night, even though it wakes me up. The sound of train wheels is also very repetitive, much like these forms. Also, I once met a person who was an actual hobo… I saw them on the side of the road with car problems, and stopped to help. They had an interesting and sad life story. They’d grown up on the streets with their mother between two countries, with no social security number or nationality. They had a pet rat they were very devoted to, used to jump trains, and had the hobo alphabet (which I now know is a thing) tattooed on their side. This friend, who left a huge impression on me in the few days I knew them, snuck their inspiration into this flash poem.

This extended beyond the usual verse limit, so it’s technically not a pantoum anymore. I polished it a bit after. Pantoums are good for exploring perseverating, obsessive thought processes. Somehow the form kind of helps to tame the pathos and make the repetition feel weirdly soothing, and it’s almost a sort of creative therapy for helping me to work through intense thoughts. The repetition is unique because each time, there are subtle changes in punctuation, meaning and sometimes even wording that add new twists to the development of the thought. If you want to learn more about pantoums or try to write one of your own, check this out.


They lumber through empty places
with their slow impossible loads
through lonely mountain spaces,
along rivers and past roads.

With their slow impossible loads,
they pull the weight of consumption
along rivers and past roads
toward some kind of junction.

Pulling this weight, consumption
leaves some among us in the cold
as we seek some kind of junction,
traveling further from the fold.

It leaves me in the cold
to think how far I’ve drifted,
traveled so far from the fold—
they used to call me gifted.

To think how far I’ve drifted:
I once had a place in this town;
they used to call me. Gifted
with secrets of the hobo crown

I once wore; a place in town
was written on my heart line:
it’s secret. The hobo sound
calls out through my veins

and is written on my heart line:
This lumbering through empty places,
calling out from my veins
through these lonely mountain spaces.

© Psyche Marks 2017

Photo taken by my daughter, who deemed it “Tumblr-worthy”

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