Have recently begun researching a book project and in my readings came across this poem, written around 1914 by railroader-turned-writer Cy Warman.
I thought it was too lovely not to share, plus I have a bit of a fascination with the nostalgia of trains. Apparently Cy often recited his poems aloud to his railroading friends so I imagine the escalating rhythm and sound of a locomotive in transit when I read this.
WILL THE LIGHTS BE WHITE?
Oft, when I feel my engine swerve,
As o’er strange rails we fare,
I strain my eyes around the curve
For what awaits us there.
When swift and free she carries me
Through yards unknown at night,
I look along the line to see
That all the lamps are white
The blue light marks the crippled car,
The green light signals slow;
The red light is a danger light,
The white light, “Let her go.”
Again the open fields we roam,
And, when the night is fair,
I look up in the starry dome
And wonder what’s up there.
For who can speak for those who dwell
Behind the curving sky?
No man has ever lived to tell
Just what it means to die.
Swift toward life’s terminal I trend,
The run seems short to-night;
God only knows what’s at the end –
I hope the lamps are white.