Poetry Friday: The Sound of a Train by Faith Shearin

Poetry Friday is hosted by Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference

Growing up in India during the 1960’s, we travelled by train when we travelled at all.  My favorite trip was the one we took every year from Bombay to Cape Comorin, which is at the very tip of the Indian continent, where three oceans meet: the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean.  It was a long trip, but our traveling days were graced by the beauty of the Indian coastline and…the fabulousness of our sleeping car!   For four days, my siblings and I (along with two nannies who spent a lot of time sleeping, if I remember correctly) shared an entire railroad car with bunk beds, arm chairs, our own bath room and a dining alcove. It was bliss.

All these years later, I have many vivid memories of these journeys, especially the views of India’s coastline and some of the bridges we crossed as we made our way to our destination.  And all these years later, it takes just the sound of a train whistle to send me back in time.  And, today, in the midst of the cornfields of upstate New York, I heard the faint sound of a train somewhere off in the distance…and thought of my far away homeland, of travel, and the journeys I’ve taken.


The Sound of a Train by Faith Shearin


Even now, I hear one and I long to leave
without a suitcase or a plan; I want to step
onto the platform and reach for
the porter’s hand and buy a ticket
to some other life; I want to sit
in the big seats and watch fields
turn into rivers or cities. I want to eat
cake on the dining car’s
unsteady tablecloths, to sleep
while whole seasons
slip by. I want to be a passenger
again: a person who hears the name
of a place and stands up, a person
who steps into the steam of arrival.



16 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: The Sound of a Train by Faith Shearin

  1. What a great train memory, Tara! I can’t imagine having a whole car to yourselves. I grew up in two homes that were just within the sound of the railroad track. I, too, love to hear a train whistle in the distance. It’s a symbol for longing, isn’t it?

  2. I rode the West Highland train to Arisaig once, on my honeymoon. We had the whole car to ourselves for the day. Not another soul in sight. Just the misty Atlantic to the left and the lochs and glens to the right. Ahhh. Great memory. Thanks for sharing yours of the sleeper. I’ve never been in one of those.

  3. Tara, I never knew that you grew up in India. It sounds like a beautiful fantasy, the kind you see in movies or read in books. Your memories are strong of your childhood days. I, too, love the thought of train rides but mine came from books. I love to travel to historic sites that have old trains on them. My mind wanders to Victorian days when sleeping cars were the way to travel. You should write more about your youth. It sounds like you have stories to tell.

  4. My father is a train fanatic (in the great British tradition of eccentrics), but we don’t have much of a tradition of them where I’m from. It wasn’t until I travelled through Japan that I actually started travelling by train, and what a magic experience it can be, sitting by the window and watching as the world goes by!

  5. More stories, please!
    And I love train travel. Our train comes in about the time we grocery shop and it is parked right there in sight. I am always tempted to just hop aboard and get a ticket to Boston. We are “planning” to “spontaneusly” do that this summer!

  6. Oh, I love this. I also have many happy train memories from childhood. Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

  7. Love that last line, “a person who steps into the steam of arrival.” I love the image of you in the sleeping car being mischievous with your brother. I haven’t spent much time at all on trains. We thought about taking the train to Chicago when Martha was there, but some shared that is as not as glamorous or romantic as it seems, just long.

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