MN (12/17/33 / Chicago, Illinois)

The Ballad Of The Burma Siam Railroad(Warning, Grim Content)

Hear the tappety-tap of steel wheels
on steel tracks. Hear the rattle and clank
of the Burma Siam as it echoes down
Time's black tunnel of night.

Sick, starved stick-men built that track,
with beaten backs and feeble hands
that weakly clasped a few primitive tools.
Across mountains and rivers,

through jungles, disease, and death;
POW's and Romushas labored with bodies frail
to lay those rails. Naked slaves they were,
with all human dignity stripped away!

Now, in the day's light, some speak with fright
of their dreams at night and what lay under
those rails. They tell of hearing, in the dead of night,
skeleton men begging to be pulled out to the light.

Hear the tappety-tap of steel wheels
on steel tracks. Hear the rattle and clank
of the Burma Siam as it echoes down
Time's black tunnel of night.

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Comments (2)

Fantastic writing. So a structure exists... few pause to contemplate the sweat, toil, pain and sometimes death that went into it's creation. Much like old sayings such as, 'If these walls could talk' and so on. To some it's just a railway stretched out across the landscape and to others it is a monument to humanity. I'm reminded of something from the original Kung-Fu series about a man who spent his whole life finding stones, pieces of glass and other things and building a monument in some town square. The old man died and the lead character asks his master something about the old person accomplishing nothing more than a pile of stones. The master asked, 'Is it but a monument.... or is it the man? ' That always moved me and I haven't been moved that way since. At least not until I read your poem. So once again... fantastic.
I can hear the darkness in this powerful poem..Exceptional write, Mary. Warm regards, Sandra