Love this poem! Makes me nostalgic for many things--from train rides to good manners to spring break with no responsibilties!
The Dining Car of the Southern Crescent
The Southern Crescent
snakes its way through
the rolling fog shrouded
a young man on spring break,
returning home from
college, crosses the creaky
passageway that leads from
Pullmans to the dining car.
Breakfast smells give rise to
an ambitious order of fresh coffee,
country ham with red eye gravy,
grits, scrambled eggs and
biscuits with blackberry jam.
The waiter, agile and accomplished,
dressed in a white starched apron,
steadies himself against the swaying
motion of the train; with serving tray
in hand and balanced, he places the
piping hot breakfast on a table decked
with a linen table cloth, pewter
creamers, thick silverware, coffee
cups and saucers and plates etched with
a crescent moon insignia; a small
bundle of daffodils sit in a crystal
vase near the window.
The young man with the vittles before him,
relishes a feeling of adult composure
and delight. “How could life be this good?”
-A breakfast fit for a king, waiters
eager to please, railway views of
rural Carolina: tenant shanties,
grazing black angus, abandoned junkyards,
brownstone depots and sleepy towns.
He, still unfamiliar with the niceties
of the wealthy elite, or even the
acquired dignities of his college
professors, avows, while pouring
coffee from a silver carafe into
a Syracuse China cup, that the
dining car of the Southern Crescent
is a place of utmost refinement.
From January Snow and Other Poems (Williams & Company, 2008)
Used with the author’s permission.