The Great Days of the Railway

Post image for The Great Days of the Railway

Beneath the black scar of this cinder track

The earth is cancerous with disused mines,

Diseased with emptiness where once the lines

Of coal-trucks, pulled by blinkered ponies, clacked

Unheard by those who could not sleep without

The constant sound of coal-trains clunking by –

The miners who all thought that they would die

In darkness, with their ponies kicking out …

Now horses gallop where the sleepers lay,

Their riders squinting through the rattling rain

Of hoof-flung coal that lands upon their caps,

Competing with imaginary trains …

And miners, men who saw their world collapse,

Recall the great days of the railway.


By Jonathan Steffen

First published in The Good Society Review Nos. 7-8, 1994; republished in St. Francis in the Slaughter-House and other poems, Falcon Editions, 2006