By Train

This is proving a tricky blighter to pin down - it involves metempsychosis - I chance encounter I had on the TRANSPENNINE  from Hull (and embellished a little).  Apparently there are rabbis who teach that holocaust souls have been re-incarnated in order to complete their Earthly mission...
I edited it since - on the advice of a friend with acumen - I she wondered if the old guy was insane so I guess it's an exercise on psychosis or metempsychosis. 


By Train


Stranded in a tunnel on a stalled TransPennine Express


I sat in silence

at a table-seat

uneasy beneath 

the unblinking gaze

of the ancient opposite.


His was a face off Easter Island,

or moulded from a Petra carving.


I nodded,

he nodded back.


My opening gambit?


‘Manchester? Airport?’

‘Cheetham Hill.’




He sighed, breathing deeply,


‘... I was born as Dresden burned...’


I fumbled for my phone.


‘Please no photographs – no recording...’


He continued,


‘... I was raised as a Christian 

but could not fit in.


When I borrowed a copy of 

The Scourge of the Swastika

from the library

of my red-brick grammar

reading the account of

men, women, children,

families, communities

herded to destruction

in Buchenwald and Bergen-Belsen

in the name of insanity

both horrified and fascinated me.’


He unfolded a tattered photograph,

pointing out a woman protecting

two frightened children.


‘I was that mother in my former life.

This time, I’m born as a man,

a father seeking his sons...’


I would have dismissed this

as a lunatic fantasy

but his face chimed integrity.


‘... My mother was an atheist -

she had me christened

lit candles on Fridays,

bought matzos at Easter

and would not do Christmas.


She ripped The Scourge from me, screeching,


“If he won, Hitler would’ve done that to us...”


Who was ‘us’?  I did not ask.


‘... There have been nightmares since –

when I’m embroiled in the mayhem of

icy morning Drancy sidings

a contortion of faces –

bristling Wehrmacht

a cantor, a rabbi, an artist -

dogs, whips, screams, curses, guns,

my sons.


On other platforms

blasé citoyens read papers,

drink ersatz coffee.


Gendarmes turn their eyes away.


Surviving three days

in a cattle truck

drafted from an abattoir

with no light, no food,

nothing to drink,

no hope, no laughter,

to emerge at Auschwitz

goaded under the irony,

“Arbeit Macht Frei,”

to a certain future -


a choking shower


then nothing more.


My heart says my sons are seeking me

we will meet, perhaps today. ’


At Piccadilly he clipped on a kippah


I shook his hand, ‘Good luck.’






◄ Angoisse des Gares

Ma Chouette ►



Thu 7th Feb 2019 12:08

Thanks, Dave - I edited it (as per prologue) on the advice of a friend who cannot (she claims) write but has a fine eye for detail etc - regularly puts me straight 😃

It was a compelling meeting - his eyes bore through me - hardly blinking and he made it sound so 'real' or even banal.

What do we know?

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Dave Caplan

Wed 6th Feb 2019 23:26

Unusual Rick, but weirdly compelling in a pseudo macabre way.

I try to keep an open mind when confronted with something out of the ordinary.


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