In a Fog In the Quiet Car


In a Fog In the Quiet Car

There was a train that sliced the fog
all of a misty morning.
Nice enough ’till came a dame
who reeked of ignored warning.

I’m talking of the notices
siding packets of cigarettes,
the movements of her jacket
could have advertised nicorettes.

After folding sleeves and torso,
their fabric wafting smell,
she stowed them in the overhead
with another bag or two as well.

About her, the train car rustled
as others did not inhale,
but no complaint was uttered,
gasping silence did prevail.

This was, after all, the Quiet Car–
quiet lets one stop and think–
how much worse for the blow-haired woman
who generated smoky stink.

The stink of Camels stubbed for years,
ash trays left in the damp–
true rain now hid behind the fog,
water staining station’s ramp.

Her chin stuck out defiant,
though her rooted head was bowed–
I can’t speak for the compartment
but my heart at least was moved.

Thinking of lonely nights alone,
and also of lone nights shared–
perhaps a glowing butt would help
(I wasn’t joking, I sweared.)

If only the lady’s overflow
and her reeking jacket too
weren’t sitting right above my head
radiating a habit of two–

Two packs at least each single day,
Oh boy, I felt a lout.
So, the woman had a problem,
who was I to shout?

Especially in the Quiet Car,
how dare I throw a stone–
Me, beside my glass window
with bad habits of my own.

So, I took my shoes off the train seat–
(I fear I often squat–
I find it relieves my back–
though the conductors tell me not.)

Tried too to settle my stomach,
we were almost at Yonkers now,
let go the tightness in my chest–
just had to breathe somehow.

The rest of the car stayed quiet
as if no drama had taken place.
Outside the fog had lifted,
plain grey filled in its space.
Here’s very much a draft poem for the 15th of April, a ballad for the wonderful Kay Davie’s prompt on With Real Toads. I don’t know if it’s really a ballad, all that happens being quite ethereal–  And I really don’t mean it to sound nasty–Sorry to any smokers out there!  I have nothing but sympathy, given what a hard habit it is to quit.

PS – sorry it’s so long!

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7 Comments on “In a Fog In the Quiet Car”

  1. I can identify..I am the only person in my immediate family to never smoke…It is a tough habit and I watched them struggle with quitting…just can’t get over the smell.

  2. Kay Davies Says:

    I never intended to smoke, and didn’t start until I was plenty old enough to know better. Then it took me years and years to quit.
    This is a ballad, told from the point of view of the writer, whose suffering is vivid and very real.
    Well done, Karin!

  3. margaret Says:

    I so understand – a person came to our house the other day and I couldn’t breath – clothes and hair were so full of smoke – must smoke constantly in the car… I don’t think the realize how the smell… The details here are so full of your agony!

  4. Sumana Roy Says:

    very hard to quit…and non-smokers become passive smokers and suffer…could feel the passion in the lines…

  5. brian miller Says:

    ha. we all have bad habits that is for sure
    some are just a bit more obvious and public
    than others…yeah no rocks in glass houses
    or windows…smiles…

  6. hedgewitch Says:

    You really do make this a ballad–something that sticks in the memory because of the rhyme, but also a very personal statement about a certain place, time and character–really all one can ask of a ballad–and beyond a ballad, it’s a poem, with a twisty insight into our own guts and judgements, not to mention the metaphor, and ending, which brings us out of the fog, yet also lets the fog have its place. Draft or not, seems pretty damn good to me.

  7. janehewey Says:

    oh, wonderful. a real-time ballad. I guess all ballads are at some point, but this is so current it makes me smile. I will reserve my opinions about smoking here, but echo the sentiment that its effects are prevalent… esp. in a train car.

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