Mark Roberts

Art: Rocky Mountain Express

crossing the mountains

i held my mother’s hand

as we walked the length of the train





until we came to engine

a dirty red box on wheels

sucking a humming sound

out of wires

the seats were big

& comfortable

i watched the platform

swarming with people

i was disappointed

when I heard the horn

it sounded like a truck

i thought all trains

had a whistle

we pulled out of the big platform

& travelled through familiar suburbs

looking down

———at backyards


—————————& chokos

mum pointed down

———burwood road

——————in the direction

—————————of my grandparents

& then



we went



through unfamiliar———-stations

———my eyes glued

——–to the window

——–wanting each

——-train to be a

——-steam train

then sheep in paddocks

ignoring the train

not seeing my face pressed

against the glass






———————————————a curve

i could


——————the engine

—————————but couldn’t


————————— ———at the driver

my mother pointed

——at the river


————-the bridge

—————-as the train

————-gathered speed

——-for the mountains

nepean she said

then tunnels

———sooty tunnels

you could still

———smell smoke

cause the window

———was opened

just a bit

we come out

into whiteness

an unexpected

leap from black to white

a mist

& the horn goes

again & again

like an ocean liner

at the top of the ridge

we rise above

the cloud

the train runs on the edge

the mist hangs in the valleys

wisps reach toward the track

like waves

i tell my mother

it’s like the beach

——————but colder she says

at lithgow we get out

———& walk up the platform

it is cold

———two men

have jumped on the tracks

between the engine


the first carriage

chains clang to the ground

& cables



———the engine pulls away

——————leaving people sitting

—————————in carriages

————————————an engineless train


my mother


my hand as








comes round the curve

at the end of the station

tender first

——————lots of steam

little smoke

——————i’m pulled back

——————from the edge

——————of the platform

as the tender approaches the first carriage

a gentle


& some coal falls from the tender

———my mother says



————–to get


—————- to our


or we would be stuck in lithgow

———i like lithgow

on the sweeping curves between lithgow & bathurst

i hang

———out the window

——————watching the engine

my face gets covered in soot

———i get something in my eye

my mother twists the end of a hanky

———to a point & extracts a black speck

my mother orders pies & a pot of tea

a man comes & puts up a little table

———in front

———of us

———clipping into slots

———in the wall

———& on the floor

then brings the pies a glass of cordial & a pot of tea

at orange tom is waiting in the old bedford

he brought a load of sheep into town in the morning

& waited for the sydney train

in the bar at the hotel canobolas

there is a single bench seat

& i have to lean against my mother

so tom can change gears

when we hit

———the gravel

——————at the end of town

my mother lifts me

onto her lap

dust has replaced smoke

a thickening layer covers us

———i sneeze

i forget how far along the cargo road

we have to go

——————finally tom pulls

up to the gate

———gets out

opens it

——————drives through

then gets out & shuts the get


as we drive up to the house

flocks of chickens coverage on the truck

a welcome of sorts

Mark Roberts is a Sydney (Australia) based writer and critic. He is a founding editor of Rochford Street Review ( and produces the occasional literary magazine P76. His work has been widely published in Australia and internationally. He has a collection of work, Concrete Flamingos, due for publication in early 2016.

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