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A Train Whistle

Updated: Nov 26, 2023

Life was simpler then

in innocence in trust

when I walked through the night

a seven year old on the road of flight my mother

pushing the carriage my brother inside

I held on to the hand

of my father

no fear just walking

eyes almost closing

walking wondering...

Where were we going?

How much farther?

I could see the stars and

the moon gave us some light

I heard a train whistle blow

coming over the land...

coming around a farm house

between the bushes and trees

out of the shadows into me

I've been riding one ever since...

fingers on maps deciding where the

new borders were to be who was to

govern and what rights people would have...

My mother cried all night

we fell asleep and in the morning

a guard took us back to the border

nothing we could do to persuade him

except that he unofficially said

go further down into the forest

where there are no guards...

My mother pushed the carriage

I walked slowly but intently

we trekked through the forest

no trail seen we stepped over branches and needles

we crossed what we thought

was the barbed wire of the border

and went further west

when west meant a heart felt freedom

for my parents and words for me

later becoming a land where we could

live a life with choices and opportunities...


Only later did I realize

the fear in my mother

the anxiety of my father

telling us to hide

that he would scout ahead

for Russian soldiers or the local police at the border

he left us and my mother

worried waiting...

No return after so many hours

alternative plans remembered

travel on and meet in a

town called Hof just over the border

my mother had known fear

and struggle during the war

her strength was felt...

She had risked the gathering of wood

for warmth in the cruel winter of 45

and the hope of getting a few potatoes from the surrounding farmers

in exchange for a knitted sweater...

We walked she pushed my

brother had no idea as we went

through the forest

away from the road until

a barrier a gate

a circumstantial border was seen

erected to keep ideologies separated

with living people and families

again and again becoming the victims...

We went around that barrier

and felt safe so glad to see

a different kind of guard

we were there we had made it

we walked into the freedom that mother father

had thought about and yet suddenly

it was with heavy hearts...

Would we find our father? we wondered

as we were taken to a guard house and

interrogated not allowed to go further and

cruelly told that we had to go back

that we were not allowed to go to the

American side of the divided Germany

out of abstract decisions made

regarding Russian east Germany and American

and British west Germany


Further and further we walked until

houses were seen and a village

emerged and she saw the sign Hof

on a delicatessen

a chance to buy a roll

a feeling of such relief

indescribable for my mother

a story for me to remember...

But there was no father here

not found in the place we were to meet

in sadness and anxiousness

my mother bought tickets

at the train station for the next

meeting place a town called Langen

there was her hope and I must

have felt it with the excitement of

traveling on the train

even with no more money to buy

a roll or an apple

we finally arrived in Langen

walked to the address we had with us

an address from a relative

who had also left Zwickau...

We knocked on the door waited and someone opened it...


Our father

who was so joyous

who held my brother tight

who held me forever

who held my mother in tears...


Here is where our lives began again

together...


Our lives now immersed in hope

and the dream to move to

America...


by Rainer Neumann


"Since my retirement I have devoted my life to poetry, pastel drawings and songs. I have had two exhibitions - Cafe Society 2017 and Ebbtide Cafe 2018 and have a current exhibit at HMB Coffee Company. Out of these exhibits I have published two exhibit books as well as a book of pastels produced over a 20 year period - “Fron Pigeon Point to Point Reyes”. Two poetry books - “Intersections of Concern” and “Our time has just begun” have also been published and are available on-line along with three books of fiction and two books of translation - a poetry book and a journal from the second world war.


These works can be seen and purchased on: lulu.com/spotlight/rneumann


During the previous 25 years before retirement, I had a chance to delve into many creative areas – writing novels, watercolor painting, pastel drawing, songwriting, designing furniture/toys etc. While living in Detroit I taught introductory Humanities courses at Wayne County Community College. During this time I also worked on wood cuts, silk screen prints, poetry and songs and was able to bring these into the curriculum when appropriate."




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