The Hobos And The Tramps

     Last week as I was reading “The Yellow House Cafe” here at “libraryscene” had mentioned that “trains” was a prompt over at d’Verse and I got to thinking  what could I write about trains. So while driving to work I came up with the phrase, the hobo doesn’t ride the trains anymore. After a couple of creative pull-over and write/thinks, I finished the poem in an hour or so. Or so I thought… As with all writings it is never finished until it’s finished. So the editing began. Three days later, that poem that was completed in an hour, now has finally been put to bed, so to speak. And probably the only lines left from the original is ‘the hobo doesn’t ride the trains anymore.’ And most likely would not be considered (at d’Verse) a poem about trains at all, but more a poem about the people who once rode them in and out of our towns. One of my professors in college said that my writing wasn’t bad, if I would only stick to the subject at hand. Maybe he was right.


 * Oops, after writing this I went back to make sure I had my thoughts and references in order on this, and I realized that “libraryscene” had posted a poem on ‘hobos’, it was and is, not my intent to step on anyone’s toes. I am glad I didn’t use the Woody Guthrie line, that was going through  my mind. I hope I didn’t cross a literary no/no line. If I did, please let me know. I am after all relatively new at this.


The Hobos And The Tramps

 The hobo doesn’t ride,

the trains anymore,

and hasn’t, I’d say,

for years, more than a score.

Content now to queue,

outside the shelter’s door.

Content to stay just where they are,

the gypsy, lives no more.


No, the hobo doesn’t ride,

the trains anymore,

for there’s so much given free,

at “Salvation Army Corps.”

And now they’re called “the homeless,”

not like the days before,

when derelicts, bums, and drunkards,

were the names they bore.


Gone now are the “jungles,”

that’s what they called their camps.

Yes, gone now are the wayfarers,

the hobos and the tramps.

Huddled in cardboard lean-to’s,

warding off the damp.

That piece of Americana,

not found on postage stamps.


No, now the soup, it’s served by kitchens,

ladled out from clean steel pans,

not sipped from rusty tins,

cupped by cold, and dirty hands.

But, gone too is the rail yard bull,

swingin’ his beatin’ stick.

Busting the head of the healthy,

or the tramp that’s weak and sick.


Shunned by polite society,

considered scalawags and scamps.

 Soot-faced and unshaven,

the hobos and the tramps,

always looking for the ‘outbound,’

to take them to another camp.

But, gone now is the hobo,

yes, gone now is the tramp.


No, the hobo doesn’t ride,

the trains anymore.

No, you won’t find them looking,

for an open boxcar door.

They rode the trains into history,

on tracks, straight into lore.

But, the hobo doesn’t ride,

the trains, anymore.



Jack Downing

Sept. 2011



About poemsandponderings

Hearth and Health are wonderful things and if you're without either such sorrow that brings So I cannot express enough thanks to my Lord and to my family and friends for the support you afford! ~Jack Downing~
This entry was posted in Americana, bull, college, demise, Earth and Us, education, environment, fire, help, history, iron hand, journey, life, men, old days, rain, reception, salvation, Seasons, Sleep, stranger, traveler, truth, tyrant, violence, wealth and worth, welfare program, whiskey, Winter, women, Words on Wanderings. Bookmark the permalink.

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