R. H. Nicholson: “Grief Train”

Grief Train

The Grief Train
Pulled into the station
Onyx black
Steam hissing
Angry, sullen,
And I handed the porter my single ticket
For grief is a solitary passage.
I claimed my seat,
Facing backwards,
The only option,
Nearest the couplings
Clanging in the gloam,
The rhythm of nihilism
Gnawing at my brain,
And watched the others board:
A Latina whose daughter drowned in the Rio crossing,
A lamenting veteran,
A husbandless wife,
A father whose son slipped
Through his fingers,
A sister who survived the massacre,
A lover lost
We sensed that we did not sense each other,
And traveled in silence,
Blur in the windows,
Arctic air at our bones,
With beads and bibles,
Photos and fragments,
Tears and trinkets,
Clutched to our hearts.
And we rode.
After hours or months or decades or days,
(For one is as the other),
The iron horse crawled to a stop.
We sat,
All of us
In silent stagnation,
Until the porter gently
Ushered us
To our destinations,
Surprisingly all the same.
I disembarked,
Numb and knotted,
And followed the path,
Of crucible stones
To the other side
Of the languishing locomotive,
Stood in line,
Until the porter punched
My ticket,
And I boarded the Grief Train

R. H. Nicholson is a professor emeritus of English, a writer, poet, playwright, and public speaker who spent forty years teaching in high school and college classrooms. His work has appeared in The Back Porch, New Poetry, Echo Ink, The Blue Lake Review, Wordmongers, and in the professional journal The English Toolkit. He was a contributing author in the book From Vision to Action. He won the 2015 Cincinnati Poetry Prize. He and his wife live in Greendale, Indiana, with their geriatric cat Fezziwig.

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