News & Reviews Reviews Last Train Home poems book review

Last Train Home poems book review

By Steve Sweeney | April 3, 2023

"These poems will help explorers reflect on their own journeys."

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Last Train Home book cover.
Last Train Home

Try reading “Last Train Home” on your next rail journey, especially if you don’t normally enjoy poetry.

Last Train Home is a compilation of haiku, tanka and rengay poems from authors around the world and has a head of steam going for it.

The austere style of the poetry forms means that the best will evoke whole scenes with few words, such as “Sharing the Sunrise”:

“Slowing into
a western town
in pj’s

sharing the sunrise
with strangers

behind schedule
gentle ripples
in a cup of tea

in a lounge car
mingling to guitar music
a mosquito

comforting whispers
in the Moffat Tunnel

long whistle…
snuggling into
a berth for one”

— Alan S. Bridges and Jacquie Pearce

The poets are obviously on the California Zephyr in Colorado. But this (I think the best single poem in the book) is both specific and universal, as readers on different journeys could easily exchange Moffet for Simplon or guitars for flutes or banjos and make it their own.

I also like David Jacob’s untitled work on page 250:

“thinning crowds

the station mouse obeys

the Keep Left sign”

I smile when I read that and how much of a scene those few words evoke in my imagination: a tiny, furry, brown scurrying mouse pausing briefly when encountering flaking yellow safety paint on a cracked concrete floor, a “Keep Left” sign, different toned fluorescent lights, and dank city smells — all at an underground station inhabited by fewer and fewer passengers on their way somewhere late at night.

Last Train Home is 269 listed pages with a few extra in the back. It has an index of authors along with their countries of origin.

The index is one of eight listed sections that include editor Jacqueline Pearce‘s introduction and six themed sections: Departures; Passing Landscapes; Counting Cars; Making Connections; Crossing Borders; and Journey’s End.

“Sunrise” is from “Making Connections” while “Mouse” is in “Journey’s End.” I read through the book in a couple of sessions before Christmas 2022 and dog-eared pages where I liked a poem. The pages I creased most are in the “Making Connections” section while “Passing Landscapes” earns a distant second place.

The Connections section’s works feature dining cars, taking a passing glance at graffiti, being awoken in the night by squealing metal, seeing passengers’ faces lit at night with cellphones, romance, and more. I think this section, more than others, speaks to the humanity still present in rail travel. It is a detente, if you will, in which people have the time and space to see each other, to notice, to observe, to interact in ways that are now difficult and unlikely with airplanes and automobiles, and which no one, save certain religious communities, will do with horse-and-buggy.

These poems will help explorers reflect on their own journeys.

Last Train Home was published by Pondhawk Press in 2021. It is softcover and perfect-bound and has several illustrations. It retails for $19.95 at

One thought on “Last Train Home poems book review

  1. A short poem from my archives that I wrote years ago, a mixture of fake haiku/real aphorism:

    “A gray road switcher
    Takes a nap under gray skies
    While its gray-haired engineer eats his lunch”

    Dr. Güntürk Üstün

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