Academic journal article The Hudson Review


Academic journal article The Hudson Review


Article excerpt

The model trains my father liked were small

And fragile looking. He called them H. O.

I think those were initials for some brand name

I never learned. What else could that spell to a boy

But half of ho-hó? The little boxcars,

Flatbeds and caboose were a joke compared

To the larger, cartoon-colored Lionels-

I trembled at that name-which Rex, the kid

Next door, would show me imperiously. He laughed

When I told him about my father's. Those

Are for sissies, he smirked. I should've punched him,

But I was too ashamed. How could my dad

Do this to me? I wondered. Mom had said

He was an engineer. But not the kind

I wanted: a man who drove a locomotive.

On Saturdays my brothers and I would watch

A man on TV dressed like one. The host

Of a cartoon show, Brakeman Bill would joke

With Crazy Donkey, his puppet sidekick.

For years after, I could get my brothers to laugh

By calling Dad "The Brakeman": his nickname,

Though he signed himself James W, was Bill.

I didn't learn till I was grown my father

As a young man had ridden a train

Clear across Australia in World War II. …

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