Thank you, Michael J. Rosen, for being today’s guest poetry poster!
In “Running with Trains,” two boys speak in alternating poems. By the end of the book they do meet, but for most of the novel, they observe one another at a distance. They come to imagine and envy the other’s life.
Steve is 9 and lives with his parents on the family farm. He spends much of his time with his border collie and the herd of cows he shuttles from pasture to pasture.
Perry, who speaks this poem recorded here, is aboard the B&O Railroad that crosses Steve’s acres. He’s on his twice weekly trip between Cincinnati, where he spends his weekends with his mother, to Wapakoneta, where he stays with his grandmother while he finishes middle school.
Steve’s father, fighting in Vietnam, is MIA. His mother has started nursing school. And his free-spirit of a sister is at college with no time to answer Steve’s weekly letters: “…along with taking classes to be a social worker, she’s busy crafting rainbow candles so she can open a shop with her friend Sunshine, who used to be her friend Cynthia, who creates far-out jewelry with beads and shells. The last time I saw my sister she looked like a cross between my braces and a coral reef.”
The novel takes place in 1969 and 1970. As Perry writes in another letter: “We’re riding the current of current events. We’re swirling in a whirlwind of news from all over…as if a hurricane had uprooted everything, from Vietnam and Israel and Washington and Africa—and flooded together everyone’s future.”