by Bruce Catton
The renowned American historian Bruce Catton concludes his autobiography with this epitaph. It is offered here as a model of poetry for both prose and verse: a complex image takes its power from everyday language accessible to everyone.
But you know how it can be, waiting at the junction for the night train. You have seen all the sights, and it is a little too dark to see any more even if you did miss some, and the waiting room is uncomfortable and the time of waiting is dreary, long-drawn with a wind from the cold north whipping curls of fog past the green lamps on the switch stands. Finally, far away yet not so far really, the train can be heard; the doctor (or station agent) hears it first, but finally you hear it yourself and you go to the platform to get on. And there is the headlight, shining far down the track, glinting off the steel rails that, like all parallel lines, will meet in infinity, which is after all where this train is going. And there by the steps of the sleeping car is the Pullman conductor, checking off his list. He has your reservation, and he tells you that your berth is all ready for you. And then, he adds the final assurance as you go down the aisle to the curtained bed: “I'll call you in plenty of time in the morning.”
...in the morning.
Copyright © by Bruce Catton,
Waiting for the Morning Train, p. 253
New York: Doubleday, 1972