Tuesday Poem: ‘Train Trip’ by Sarah Jane Barnett

Train Trip

my breath
through tunnels
the windows
flash into stone

I can smell you,
the exhaust
a morning song
your stomach smoking
in its coldness

wire fences curve
over the hill
as fish curve around your fingers,
little jaws run a line

you taste like
the dog’s bark
lost on geese flocking above

I press my forehead
against the glass
craning, staring down
stomach first
over the viaduct bridge,
branches like matchsticks
wet with the river,

I leave my frown lines,
fine leaf tracings


the baby
two seats over
has a feathered head,

as his mother


eels that sine wave
black and plump
down the glass

the announcer
getting on my wick

a sheep’s jaw
bleached and thrown into
the grass

beehives holding up
river stones
grey and smooth with weight


I want to read
out loud

the classifieds
or maybe the sports page
running the names of
race horses
around the rim of
my table

Hill of Grace
Light Fingers

I rock and
the clatter from
the carriage below
recites each word


she has closed her eyes
mouth relaxed into a
face she doesn’t know

he has
laid his hand
limp on the seat beside him,
secretly I count his sunspots

their girl is crowned with pink
feathers glued to her
plastic tiara
a princess with a blue


I wrote this poem in 2004 and it was one of the first poems I had published (in Catalyst, a Christchurch literary journal). I remember getting the acceptance letter in the post and feeling sick with excitement. The poem is based on a trip I took with a number of other artists for ‘inspiration.’ I remember some of the others also took acid in the evening ‘for inspiration’. I went to bed early and got up to walk down to the lake, taking notes in a little book about what I saw. I may or may not have been wearing a beret.

The other day, I came across the poem by accident when my son pulled a section of poetry books off the bookshelf. Reading it again, I quite like it, but can see all the issues. That’s pretty much how memory goes.

5 thoughts on “Tuesday Poem: ‘Train Trip’ by Sarah Jane Barnett

  1. Yes I agree with Helen about the observations. Great the way the movement of the train and the places you are passing through affect them. Stream of consciouness on train. I like it a lot.

  2. Yes, I agree with the others – it has that focus of attention, but at the same time it has a looseness and haziness that comes with long periods of travel. It seems to whisper almost. Beautiful poetry, as always, Sarah.

  3. I really like the subtle details of the leaving in the whole first part of this piece. And like the others have pointed out, the observation and variety offered in this quiet piece. It’s a quiet lovely poem, flowing from beginning to that rest at the end.

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