country scenes of railroad right-of-ways and roads
Rivers and Roads and Railroad Tracks


Rivers and railroad right-of-ways
were the trails of breadcrumbs
that led me away from home
to adventures in long hot days
of childhood’s summers.

They tempted me to run across the tracks,
then follow until the railroad bridge
spanned a river. Tree branches overhung
a bend where I could fish and dive and swim,
sheltered from the rapid currents.

Later, because one cannot hike or swim
through all the years of growing up,
I saved my allowance to travel the right-of-way.
A commuter train would take me to the city
with its wonders of a Five-and-Dime with escalators.

The right-of-ways felt right. They
ran both ways: between home’s safety
and a world of new sounds and hotdogs with
mustard and tall buildings and people
who didn’t all talk or look like us.

Sometimes railroad right-of-ways
divide a village into two. The ‘right’ and
‘wrong’ divide themselves from one another.
The right-of-way can turn into a wall of
self-defense against humiliation, others’ pride.

We have need of right-of-ways, the trains and
rivers that guide us, move us from traps and tears
to dreams and possibilities. Roadways not barred,
right-of-ways that offer open passage
to wherever we are called to become.

Copyright © 2015-04-30, by Liz Bennefeld.


Mara Eastern’s Poetry 101 Rehab
Prompt: Right

10 thoughts on “Right-of-Ways

    1. Thanks, Anne. I’m glad you enjoyed the poem. We live in one of the recently settled parts of the country. My home town came into being in the later part of the 1800s, when the railroad was being built. That gave the town a core population of Norwegians and Swedes (the Italians lived a couple towns west), most speaking their own languages and forming their own communities. Aside from the railroad, there was farming, along with supportive goods and services. It can take two, three or even more generations for immigrant populations to open up to the outside and start the assimilation process. Hence the divisions and retreating to their own parts of town.

      Or to separate towns. For example, the Norwegians and Swedes, being mostly Lutheran, or at least that was what it seemed as I was growing up, I didn’t know there were any Catholics in the town (they all went to church elsewhere), and there was no Catholic church in Hawley. The first Catholic church in Hawley was established and celebrated its first mass in 1978 and dedicated the church building in 1980.


      1. I’ve never seen the retreating you mention… but then, I’m in Hilo. If I didn’t live here, I’d probably be amazed at how Hilo manages to balance being a parochial backwater and a cosmopolitan mixing ground at one and the same time. {chuckle, Fond Smile} In Hilo, it rarely takes that long for a immigrants to connect to the great community. We’ve lost our ethnic communities to tsunamis and the diaspora of being able to afford a better house in a better neighborhood. Now, new immigrants can’t really clump… and we’ve never believed in letting folks celebrate alone if we can go over and help. If it’s not our celebration, we’ll bring food, and invite you to ours in turn. {Smile}

        A.E. B.


        1. As with other migrations/immigrations, people traveled, or tried to travel, in family or community groups. This was true with my father’s people in the 1800s, just as it was with my mother’s people, when the British attacked and burned portions of New England and the commodities banded together to travel to the Fire Lands or Western Reserve. New to the land, country and language, the groups who came to the Red River Valley of the North turned inward for the first generations and didn’t start to scatter widely or assimilate with the larger population until they no longer felt threatened or like strangers. Diverse countries of origin and various religious practices, and so like settled with like.

          My mother was stationed in Hawaii during World War II; she regretted not being able to go back, after the war, but I imagine it would have been all different, then.

          From Wikipedia’s North Dakota page:
          “Throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century, North Dakota, along with most of the midwest, experienced a mass influx of newcomers both from the eastern United States and new arrivals from Europe. North Dakota was a known popular destination for immigrant farmers and general laborers and their families, mostly from Norway, Sweden, Germany and the United Kingdom.”


        2. I think that the big parties/celebrations is a great mixer idea. Free food, lots of music, plenty to drink and quiet corners here and there for visiting. If I were an extrovert, I am certain, I would love every last minute of it, listening hard and yelling to be understood. 🙂


  1. A very nice summation in the last stanza.
    Right of ways need to be open to all.
    Thank you for sending me the link.

    I had perhaps too much freedom to wander growing up.
    Now I like being settled.
    Though I do get to travel with hubby sometimes – I got to explore a good bit of
    Frankfort, Ky this summer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much. I’m glad you like it.

      I pretty much like being settled, also, but every once in a while…a couple years ago I spent Easter weekend in Minneapolis for Minicon (SF convention), where I met up with one of my favorite authors and her husband (who is a photographer). Is good to get out on my own, visit with new people, old friends, folks I’ve only known via the Internet. Must be nice to get out and travel with your husband occasionally.

      And some years before I retired, I had a long weekend in Manhattan to attend a client’s celebration of getting her master’s degree. Mostly free time by myself and quite wonderful! Reminds me of earlier break-outs to Montana and the West and East Coasts. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I liked walking to different sights during the day. But a night now I’d rather be home.

        I’ve been on a couple of sort of weekend get-away’s that had agendas so the time wasn’t really my own.

        I think it would be fun to attend a Sci-Fi Convention. This spring or summer there was a Steam-Punk convention in our city. Reminded me of the show ‘The Wild, Wild West’.

        Once (if ever) my hubby retires then we can make more plans to visit places. I have to plan things off school season so-to-speak as I watch Little Miss. Last year we made the mistake of going to a popular sunny place during the end of December. We still had some fun though 😉



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