THE TRAIN CONDUCTOR
“End of the line,” called out the conductor, roaming car to car
Rail-thin and rangy, dignified in the spotless black uniform,
his timepiece gleamed at the end of a long gold chain.
Will was a good conductor, one of the best on the line.
He knew precisely the timeline, all destinations
His resonant voice calmed riders during bumps, holdups
and especially during inclement weather
He had a way with children; could recognize kids on their first ride,
fear and fascination dancing in their eyes
Will treated all workers with the same respect.
Never saw the color of their skin, only the quality of their service.
The last of a dying breed in the 1950s, both Will and the Rock Island Line,
as autos took to the highways and trains fell by the wayside,
rusting gravestones, remnants of the past.
He kept to himself, rarely shared stories about family.
Seemed troubled, standing off in a corner by himself on breaks.
But when tapped on the shoulder, came down to earth, immediately engaged.
The porters worried about Will, and the maids
saw his uneasiness; they prayed for him in church.
No one was surprised when, one foggy night
the man who knew the clockwork of each train, the routes of every line
was felled on the tracks and died.
“Accident,” read the report, thus ensuring widow’s benefits
for the wife he never talked about.
But she knew in her heart that for Will,
it was simply the end of the long, sad, lonely line.
© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Magpie Tales asked for poems about our ancestors. My great-great grandfather was a train conductor, amateur astronomer, introverted, extremely depressed man who help out my mother’s family during the Midwest Depression of the 1930s. I figured out the puzzle of his death, which the rest of the family never discussed.