Figure bent and dressed in black,
All her worries on her back,
Plods along the country lane
Whilst, in her mind, she hears a train.
Metal monster on metal rail,
Thund’ring o’er hill and dale.
Tired Old Emily, all forlorn,
Shuffles passed The Ear Of Corn
And Frederick Stone. the landlord there
Bearded face, like a polar bear,
Rests on a broom with heavy sighs
To wave away imagined flies.
Lovely weather, nice spring day;
Forty years ago, this way,
Her son went off to Flanders field
And Emily said, as Frederick kneeled
To tie his boot, all hobnailed bright,
My son comes home this very night
Poor old lady, Frederick thought,
All her hopes will come to nought.
But on she plods, the weary figure,
passed Arthur Johnson, vim and vigour.
Twenty years, the village bobby,
Whittling at his favourite hobby.
P C Johnson, hale and hearty
Plays his part as legal party
In sleeping village of the wold
Whose every house a history told.
Crooked windows, old thatched roof
And pathways made by horses hoof.
Removes his shirt to catch the sun
And Margaret Burke, the District Nurse,
Pays him money from her purse
To trim her hedge and cut her lawn,
Both saw Emily, all forlorn.
Of Emily, it has been said
That all’s not right within her head.
She goes each day to meet her son,
Not knowing that his life is done,
His bowel torn out on foreign soil
And thousands like him, true and loyal.
Slamming doors and hiss of steam
Are nothing now but distant dream;
For no trains run on rusted tracks
And station walls with a myriad cracks
Will serve to tell who wants to know
That the last train ran an age ago.
The station now, in tall oaks trees,
Is all the poor old lady sees.
The train she hears is very near.
We know, of course, that it wont appear
But let her dream, if dream it be
Until death arrives to set her free.
For death has turned her mental lock
And so, she goes at four O’clock,
To a disused station in the trees
And waits, with a rug upon her knees
For man and train, forever gone.
Still, never mind, her hope lives on.
This is a true story and, although Emily is not her real name, the old lady was a real person. It is also my very first piece of verse. I wrote it one afternoon in September 1963. I was with the RAF in Germany at the time and had, one month before, celebrated my 20th birthday.
There is also a prose version of this story which I have expanded and mythologised a tad. Watch this space