>photos, untaken


Turns out that waiting for the coal train to wander its way along the downtown tracks lasts as long as it would take to smoke two cigarettes. This I hadn’t known, and I also didn’t know about counterweights on the railroad crossing bars. You have to watch out for them when you are crossing the tracks on foot, after the train goes by.  Standing in zero-degree weather, waiting to cross from the south side to the north side, I listened to the slow-moving westbound coal train. Train wheels on a frozen track produce a continual ringing. Unlike church bells where you might hear the moment when the bells are struck, the train wheel ringing goes on and on. And on.
Stomping my feet to keep warm, I wondered outloud, in a Sherry-Being-An-Idiot moment, how many people had ever heard such ringing. The musical, cylical tones were new to me. The man who had informed me earlier that the end of the train wouldn’t show up until he had lit his second cigarette, blew a ring of smoke towards the full moon above us. “The hobos,” he replied.
When the last coal car slipped by, he offered to show me the best way to weave through the cross bars and piles of shoveled snow. We needed to hurry, he warned, because the eastbound rail was next.
“Are you after a tree, too?” he asked as we worked our way between the chain link fence and loading dock behind St Vincent de Paul’s. I didn’t know what to say. Really, I had only stopped by to take photos of the donated trees lining the front of the charity store.  

About redmitten

author of Cracking Geodes Open, Making Good Use of August, and The Peppermint Bottle. poetry editor for IthacaLit. website: https://toomuchaugust.wordpress.com

5 responses to “>photos, untaken

  1. >So many evocative sounds associated with trains–those ringing rails that you speak of, but also the heartsick sound of a faraway whistle, or the progressive clank of couplings when a stopped train begins to move again. pyouse

  2. >Paul Simon once wrote in a song…"everybody loves the sound of a train in the distance, everybody thinks it's true."To me there's nothing like being close to a train and its antique ways…love the images this post invokes! The nutcrackers in the window remind me of childhood days in the city and looking at all of the shop windows.

  3. >measuring time in cigarettes………..a new way to wait for a train~i recently visited a st. vincent de paul store. quite an amazing place, really. i love your images, sherry. you create multiple stories with few words, such a gift. best of holiday wishes to you, my friend.

  4. >Hi Sherry,We used to live a block away from the train tracks and a crossing. Your post reminds me of that sound, even the alarm bells ringing. I love the sound of a train on the tracks. Your writing puts me in that place with you, by your tracks, standing along with the man. Does your post title mean you didn't take pictures of the donated trees?

  5. >This post brought back so many memories of my grandparents home, which was directly adjacent to railroad tracks. It conjured up that sound of a train passing in the middle of the night, the stories of my dad as a little boy watching hobos jump on the train and the time one of them missed so Dad witnessed the sight and the sound of his head cracking like a watermelon, how he watched the clean-up crew pick up the pieces. Strong memories.

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