THE TRAIN SONG
It is hard to remember parents in their loving
In the austerity of wartime, the bravest front was home
And after, in the bleary dawns of milking morns
Farm hands were made for sickles and lips for whistling dogs
Still in ’43, when I was three, in a night train full of Yanks
He in blue, she in best, my heavy lids spied hands locked fast
I particularly like this poem. Part of the loss of childhood innocence is the realisation that your parents are sexual beings. Kidman catches in her poem the security that exists before this discovery. When that handsome soldier, Dick, began courting my widowed mother, a naïve but sensitive child I watched the romance blossom and then saw Mum’s fears when he was posted overseas. He survived the Italian campaign and returned to marry her. They were idyllically happy together breaking in a run-down farm.
Kidman’s poem fits my experience, he in uniform, she in her best, hands locked fast, a gesture of emotional solidarity. Emotion subdued in public, if not in private. The shoo-sh-shoo-sh-shoo rhythm is like the quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle of Denis Glover’s magpies. I’ve always been a sucker for a chorus.
New Zealand Bedtime Treasury - an absolute gem
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