The going out
Of an inland soul
The train leaves Southern Cross right on time at 7.10. No queueing, No Security. No fumes.
The price of a cup of coffee at Southern Cross does not amaze the buyer nor does the drink disgrace the bean. (The cup is of paper; you can’t have everything.) Once aboard, no safety sermons, no-one forbidding standing or moving about the cabin, no weight limits, no serpentine lines of tired, tense travellers with toddlers to repress.
How old fashioned this iron caravan. The carriage rolls, moving in its jazz rhythms forwards, side to side, moving as it did in the rides of childhood, in those long slow rides across time, across the wide, dry land, singing clickclack past silent mobs of kangaroo, putting to flight soundless pink-grey clouds of galah, slipping past indifferent cows looking at me in philosophic enquiry, rolling past stands of eucalypt, no two gumtrees the same, every one the same – whether elegant, smooth and pastel, or scarred, twisted and greygreen – every gum tree declaring I am Australia, I survive, I thrive, I endure, every gumtree bearing, proffering vital knowings.
Only the cabinet has changed. Gone is the sign requesting passengers not to use the appliance while the train is standing at the platform. A press of a button, an airliner’s hiss, and everything disappears without trace.
The twenty-first century city, where they’ve gone about as far as they can go, the city, with its looming concrete overpasses, its car-teeming freeways and tollways, its roar and bustle, its gouging, its uprooting, its foetid air and gritty, its smoking and choking, its babel towers rising up to the heavens, its pavements grey; this great, enfolding and alarming home to millions and to me; this violence, this violation, this nature denying, this horizon hiding, this coded mute cry, this city slips away. And I ride.
The ride beguiles. It seduces. It invites nostalgic romancings of the past, endless retrogression, convenient forgettings of how railways were themselves violators of countryside, the out of control, accelerating agency of dangerous change.
The train to Albury accelerates, exhilirates into the green.
And for all that nostalgia is malignant –
acceleration is/the going out/of an inland soul/to sea
Past the houses, past the headland/to deep eternity…
A nod to Yeats, a filching from Paterson and a bow and apology to Emily Dickenson.