By train

This a true, albeit embellished, account of a chance meeting on a train – I’m the kinda bloke that attracts ‘the weird’. Psychosis or Metempsychosis?  You decide 🙂

By Train
Stranded in a tunnel on a stalled TransPennine Express
I sat in silence
at a table-seat
uneasy beneath 
the unblinking gaze
of the ancient opposite.
His was a face off Easter Island,
or moulded from a Petra carving.
I nodded,
he nodded back.
My opening gambit?
‘Manchester? Airport?’
‘Cheetham Hill.’
He sighed, breathing deeply,
‘… I was born as Dresden burned…’
I fumbled for my phone.
‘Please no photographs – no recording…’
He continued,
‘… I was raised as a Christian 
but could not fit in.
When I borrowed a copy of 
The Scourge of the Swastika
from the library
of my red-brick grammar
reading the account of
men, women, children,
families, communities
herded to destruction
in Buchenwald and Bergen-Belsen
in the name of insanity
both horrified and fascinated me.’
He unfolded a tattered photograph,
pointing out a woman protecting
two frightened children.
‘I was that mother in my former life.
This time, I’m born as a man,
a father seeking his sons…’
I would have dismissed this
as a lunatic fantasy
but his face chimed integrity.
‘… My mother was an atheist –
she had me christened
lit candles on Fridays,
bought matzos at Easter
and would not do Christmas.
She ripped The Scourge from me, screeching,
“If he won, Hitler would’ve done that to us…”
Who was ‘us’?  I did not ask.
‘… There have been nightmares since –
when I’m embroiled in the mayhem of
icy morning Drancy sidings
a contortion of faces –
bristling Wehrmacht
a cantor, a rabbi, an artist –
dogs, whips, screams, curses, guns,
my sons.
On other platforms
blasé citoyens read papers,
drink ersatz coffee.
Gendarmes turn their eyes away.
Surviving three days
in a cattle truck
drafted from an abattoir
with no light, no food,
nothing to drink,
no hope, no laughter,
to emerge at Auschwitz
goaded under the irony,
“Arbeit Macht Frei,”
to a certain future –
a choking shower
then nothing more.
My heart says my sons are seeking me
we will meet, perhaps today. ’
At Piccadilly he clipped on a kippah
I shook his hand, ‘Good luck.’

© coolhermit 2023
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critique and comments welcome.
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movies reading can create false memories we only live once. so, psychosis. false memories perhaps can be traced in genes, we are carriers of many false memories. tales and stories haunting generations. a brain not to be trusted when pondering over the possibility of reincarnation therefore.


Was just passing through, but glad I came upon this piece, would make a good story…Thanks…Tony

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