Monday, April 5, 2010


This is one of the first poems I give my students each year when we study poetry. It is simple to understand, but has an incredibly powerful message.

No one we knew had ever stopped a train
Hardly daring to breathe, I waited
Belly-down with my brother
In a dry ditch
Watching through the green thickness
Of grass and willows.

Stuffed with crumpled newspapers,
The shirt and pants looked real enough
Stretched out across the rails. I felt my heart
Beating against the cool ground
And the terrible long screech of the train’s
Braking began. We had done it.

Then it was in front of us –
A hundred iron wheels tearing like time
Into red flannel and denim, shredding the child
We had made – until it finally stopped.

My brother jabbed at me,
Pointed down the tracks. A man
Had climbed out of the engine, was running,
In our direction, waving his arms,
Screaming that he would kill us –
Whoever we were.
Then, very close to the spot
Where we hid, he stomped and cursed
At the rags and papers scattered
Over the gravel from our joke.

I tried to remember which of us
That red shirt had belonged to,
But morning seemed too long ago, and the man
Was falling, sobbing, to his knees.
I couldn’t stop watching.
My brother lay next to me,
His hands covering his ears,
His face pressed tight to the ground.
-Corrine Hales

When they finish reading it, I always ask - how many children died or lost their childhood?


Erin H. said...

Oh! I forgot this one - I don't know how though because it is one of my favorites!!!!!!!

Mellissa said...

That's a great poem. Thanks for sharing!

Harmony said...

Wow. Such a visual poem. I could see it as I read it.