Chemin De Fer

Alone on the railroad track
I walked with pounding heart.
The ties were too close together
or maybe too far apart.

The scenery was impoverished:
scrub-pine and oak; beyond
its mingled gray-green foliage
I saw the little pond

where the dirty old hermit lives,
lie like an old tear
holding onto its injuries
lucidly year after year.

The hermit shot off his shot-gun
and the tree by his cabin shook.
Over the pond went a ripple
The pet hen went chook-chook.

"Love should be put into action!"
screamed the old hermit.
Across the pond an echo
tried and tried to confirm it.

by Elizabeth Bishop

Comments (11)

A great poem in the section, so well chosen. I feel happy to have read it. Loved every imagery, especially the old tear holding onto the injuries. Sounds great. 10+++++++.
an intriguing poet- -wow- have to read this again- want to read this again- -its immediacy is so vibrant and the last two lines resonate especially
People's suffering is described using elements of nature. The poem is a prayer for true saving love. The suffering of the hermit is in contrast to that of the world that is hopeless.
Yes! ! ! Love should be put into action! ! Thanks for sharing this poem with us.
The scene painted along the railroad tracks is familiar, well-rendered. My mind goes to how this mode of transportation, once so important, that once made a few quite rich—in part from government handouts—has sunk from prominence. A weird connection perhaps, but Shelley’s Ozymandias—for comparison—comes to mind. -GK
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