Train to Paris




Her name alone alarmed me.
Even her winds spoke a foreign tongue.
I was young;
I was not alone.
I traveled with a red haired wife –
We had come from England, where
Beauty was comprehensible.
From England, were we had moved
From castle to cathedral in
Stately English comfort, and
From America, too –
where it was safe as wheat.
At least for me.

Memories of my grandfather’s tales
Of war to end all wars –
An old man’s songs of fractured youth:
Of haunting women lifting skirts
And pissing in the streets,
Of crippled horses slaughtered
And used for meat;
Cunning children begging,
Eyes as quick as bullets,
Rutting lovers, whores and
Nuns in twisted streets.
The smells of love and death:
Of wine and bloody roses.

We tiptoe up her sands,
Stare into her heart –
A train for Paris moans,
Waiting for her passengers.
Should we go, dare I go?
Steam beckons, bells call;
Unknown words tug me,
Scare me, beg me
To climb aboard that train.
French winds beckon me;
But English ones warn:
Take the train to Paris!
Take the train to Paris!

Receding behind this English ferry
Somewhere, miles away,
That train drives on toward Paris
Without us, without me,
Through fearful mystery
I will not share with the child
Of my unimagined child.
Fog rolls across silent English waters,
This ferry slides through ebbing night.
He hair is colorless to sight.
Slumped against a rusting rail
I drink a bitter glass of English ale.

But if someday, in some other country,
I should have a second chance;
If somehow, I should be upon a shore
Of whispered love and death,
And if again a train sits waiting,
By the sea, moaning, pointing south –
If that train sits steaming,
Full of wine and bloody roses,
I shall listen to the winds,
Those bloodless English winds,
No more! I shall climb aboard.
I shall climb aboard that train!
I shall take the train to Paris;

I shall take that train to Paris! 

This is the only semi-decent and original poem I’ve ever written. Composed in the early nineties, it was inspired by my decision to commit to something I’d been apprehensive about for several years. The actual events depicted in the poem happened to me on a trip to England in 1978. My first wife and I took a ferry to Calais. There was a train; we didn’t take it. In 1995 my second wife and I took that train to Paris...


Paris, Romantic City Paris en PhotoParis by Night

Photo by Max Westby, remixed by me, both images subject to this creative commons license


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