Monday, 17 March 2014

Tuesday's Train

“You don’t get frosts anymore, not real frosts, not here,”

I looked up from my book, surprised at being addressed.   The speaker was sitting opposite me and I hadn’t noticed him arrive, he must have got on at the previous station I suppose.


“Your book, Frost.   Just saying you don’t get frosts these days.”

He was an old man, small, tidy looking, with pure white hair and a neat beard, he wore an old but dark suit beneath a thick winter jacket.   His smile had the mischief of a kitten looking at a precious vase.

“It’s not about weather,” I said holding the book up, “It’s poetry.  Robert Frost.”

His smile widened.

“You don’t get real poets any more either,” he said, “I remember poets that could charm summer out of snow, and lightning from a clear sky.    Babies into cribs too, most of them.   What’s this fellow like then?”

“He’s good,” I said, “I like his work.”   It had been a long day and I didn’t feel up to a conversation anyway.    Work had dragged eight hours into twice that and this train had been diverted so far from its usual route I’d be lucky to see my home before midnight.

“Like his work?   A poet’s words should stab you to the heart with florid flame and turn your world to ash in an instant, hah yes, and then build a new and better world an instant later that makes you wonder how you ever bore the last one.”

That was quite an expectation, and I said so.

“Guilty as charged,” replied this exuberant fellow, “and unapologetic.    Words are too wonderful a thing to expect anything but magnificence from them.   So what did this Frost fellow write that was so good?  Do tell me, I adore being proven wrong, it has an enjoyable rarity value about it.”

I couldn’t help but smile in response to his unabashed impudence.   I flicked through the book to find my favourite quotation.

“Here,” I said, and quoted, “I would have written of me on my stone: I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.  And it is, you know, it was used as his epitaph.”

The old man considered this.

“A lover’s quarrel with the world,” he said, musing and stroking his beard, “A fine phrase, but maudlin perhaps.   I’ve never really understood lovers quarrelling.   I’m more the one night stand sort myself.”   He chuckled at some hidden joke of his own.

“New lovers are easier to find than new worlds,” I replied, nettled at his dismissal of my favourite quotation.

“Now what makes you think that?” he said leaning forward and pressing something into my hand.   A movement at my elbow distracted me, a flutter of wings and an impression of something large and tattered.    When I looked back the old man was gone, utterly gone, and a ring of ancient gold lay in my palm shining with truth and the burning cold of ancient winters.

A response to a prompt from Write on Edge using the Robert Frost quotation mentioned in the text