This train goes between cities, further
between nightmares and dreams, it travels
on track laid by dying
men that form the body nightmares.
Familiar faces, human, leave
our darkening world,
shadows answering no cries in the fog.
Do we forget who ride the empty boxcars
still searching for places to live in
a dream country for their own sons,
We travel with their souls, here in the dining car,
with the smell of broiled lobster and sizzling steaks.
Have we the right to say or the guts to whisper:
You have it all WRONG
and can we take the pervasive laughing
clacking of the tracks
I wrote the poem above when I was in second year university, many years ago, influenced mostly by my experiences working on the Canadian National Railway. In the poem I am present to the existence of the thousands of workers imported into Canada to build the railways, and how many of them died in the process.
Many of the construction and railway workers were sent back home, mostly back to China, where they reunited with their families. Many, however, ended up staying in Canada, effectively separating them from their wives and children forever.
It is easy to forget that modern civilization was built on the backs of indentured and enslaved people, who still are denied any recognition for their real lives and losses.
In the current era, in a Canada now highly ethnically and racially diverse, these ancestors can finally have a say in who we are as a people. Acknowledging these people also opens the way to rediscover the indigenous peoples who have always been here. Long before European settlement the first nations were already here.
Before we can truly be the civilization we could be, we need to see and acknowledged these people, as well as the part of ourselves still enriched by their sacrifice.