Reflections from a train window: Writing in northern Montana

Amtrak's Empire Builder streams over Marias Pass near Glacier National Park. I took this photo from my passenger car.

Amtrak’s Empire Builder streams over Marias Pass near Glacier National Park. I took this photo from my passenger car. It was a crisp autumn day in Montana.

By Kevin S. Giles

(Taken from my journal, written as the Empire Builder passenger train crossed northern Montana.)

We travel on a bench of high plains that unfolds to eternity, as if no one thought of building cities that would spoil the privacy of what stretches before us.

Take me to Kevin's books: One Woman Against War, Summer of the Black Chevy, Jerry's Riot

 

Montana is so big that most people who visit here come to understand what the natives already know – in its forests and its fields, from north to south and in its interminable distance from east to west, it’s a state bigger than the imagination.

The Empire Builder appeals to writers wanting solitude in Montana.

The Empire Builder appeals to writers wanting solitude in Montana.

There’s romance here. People sit by the train windows and dream. You can look out at that vastness and fill your minds with what you can’t see, can’t know, and it’s calming. Cities today clamor with marketing messages that tell us what we should know – and ultimately, buy – while here, we look at the green land passing and the agenda is ours.

(I wrote the following poem at 3 in the morning in the “observation car,” empty except for one other person writing in the illumination of a laptop computer, and the occasional conductor hurrying through on his way to someplace else. As much as I love traveling on trains, I can’t sleep on them.)

 

Train, train

Into the night

Spilling its light

In dark places

Farmers asleep in their beds

Somewhere out there

Silver bullet

Shooting through their dreams

Coaches full of people

Their eyes closed

Train horn blares

They don’t hear

Rocking on the rails

Going somewhere

Everyone has a story

Just ask them

Deep in the night

Anonymous

Who do I see at this window

It’s me, staring back

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Reflections from a train window: Writing in northern Montana

  1. Love your poem… you captured the essence of trainisms. I could hear your thoughts punctuated by clacking, see the scenes broken up by flashing by. Can I go, too?

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