Trains, by Johnny – A Poem

The poetry prompt at dVerse Poets Pub today was to write a poem involving trai_n_n_n_n_n_n_n_n_s. I immediately thought of the song “Down there by the Train” by Johnny Cash, and then I remembered several other songs by Johnny that involved trains. Some are well-known songs, others are more obscure. I decided to write a poem in response to the prompt in honor of Johnny Cash, the Man in Black, and his many perspectives on trains.

Trains, by Johnny

Johnny played and sang
of trains
some I know he rode
others were just
stories that he told

Freight train
carrying pig iron, not pigs
sneaky train driver
avoiding a toll on
the Rock Island Line
cocky, ’til the toll
came due

The lonesome sound
of a distant train
the mourning of a prisoner
Folsom Prison Blues
overwhelming his soul
choices of youth
defining his fate

Riding home on the train
anticipating Dixieland
Hey Porter, cries the passenger
When will we be home?
Now he smells
the southern breeze
off the train he goes

Train whistle blowin’
a line everybody knows
the Orange Blossom Special
beckoning to warmth and sun
away from city life
riding to freedom

Far from home
not a penny to his name
Waitin’ for a Train
A little money would grease
a brakeman’s palm
and a ride it would mean
but 1,000 miles from home
is where he’ll stay

The final train
all can ride free
though the cost was great
passengers well known,
the infamous and the ordinary
are Down there by the Train
Johnny rode home

I was going to post a video of “Down there by the Train” with this, but in my search on YouTube I found this great live video of “Rock Island Line” with a terrific intro about trains by Johnny and decided to include it instead. I hope you like it.

I am a Jesus Freak, and I don't care who knows it. I am a wife, mother, sister, aunt, daughter, and friend. My blood family is only part of the larger family of Christ that I belong to. I love to write, especially about my dear Savior.


15 Responses

  1. The final stanza started out as the first? Almost like writing in a circle?

    I like the way you assumed the tone of the character and the life he lived. Just awesome. Make sure it goes in your first book! ; )

    • Linda, The first stanza was originally going to be the whole poem! But yeah, I think in a more linear fashion when I write prose and essays, but poetry is a whole different media and is processed differently in my head.

      So do you have any idea when that first book is coming out? 😉 I have been thinking about doing a book of Christian poetry. Time will tell. Peace, Linda

    • Thanks. I just love Johnny Cash, and was happy to find that video even though it wasn’t the fast-paced version of Rock Island Line I’m used to singing along with in the car. 😉 Peace, Linda

    • Claudia, Thank you for the awesome prompt to work with! I was just so excited when Johnny was the first thing that came to mind, and had so much fun with this. 🙂 I’m glad I was able to do a tribute to him justice. Peace, Linda

  2. Oh my goodness, Linda. You really nailed this! You keep getting better and better and better. I loved it! And the song by Johnny at the end made me smile so much. Thank you and God bless you and your poetry!
    p.s. Aubrey loves trains too. We ride a little one at a park 3 times a week! haha!

    • Deb, I’m glad you liked it. It’s funny, I do have to think a lot harder when writing poetry but I love the challenge. And the songs mentioned in this poem are some of my favorites, with the exception of Orange Blossom Special, which I never really cared for, but it’s so well known I thought I better not leave it out. Peace, Linda

  3. damn…really nice close…smooth with a bite…my fav is the final stanza but you have some wonderful textures all the way through…nice lacing of songs and fine bit of story telling in between…well done linda

    • Brian, Thanks! The final stanza is what I started with, but then all these other songs came to mind and I realized there was so much more depth to Johnny Cash than that last song. This was a really fun one to write. Peace, Linda

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