Last Train Journey for Dverse Poetry

One way only

I just couldn’t resist this in answer to Claudia’s prompt on Dverse…


The pauper and the Spanish gentleman,
a seamstress, apprentice, clerk and engineer;
the builder, inn-keeper, much loved wife;
a flower girl, a thief, doctor and solicitor
slumber side by side, shuffle
to the rhythm of wheel on steel rail.
Steam whispers in through rail car
slats, sooty, damp, grey.

Drunkard, laggard, abstainer, the bully,
brought to the same end as the gentle, the
caring, the feeble, the strong. Swathed, snug in satin
or wrapped thinly, bouncing against cheap pine,
they jostle, rich against poor, good next to bad,
the uncaring, the pure, close enough to touch
but beyond touching, past knowing, levelled
by death, travelling in the coffin train.

In the carriages of the living, niceties continue.
The rich turn their backs on all but their friends.
The poor shrivel, at pains to cause no trouble ‘ere sir. Their
carriages separated by iron junctions. Wooden seated
or velvety cushioned, Brookwood cares for neither-
the only distinction – sunny south for Anglicans, gloomy
north for the rest. On today’s train, be-furred, bejewelled
will wait, while poor and poorer alight in warmth.

and the unscrupulous, mourning clad,
clutching bags of clubs-
golfers – glad of the cheap run to the country,
hop the cemetery pales
and make off to play the greens!


Brookwood Necropolis was set up by law to alleviate the pressure on burial space in central London. In 1854, it opened its gates and cemetery trains began to run daily from a dedicated platform at Waterloo Station to take coffins and mourners the 25 miles into the Surrey countryside for burial. There were two platforms at the destination – the South for the consecrated (Anglican) , the North for the rest. Although there were 1st, 2nd and 3rd class carriages for the mourners, the coffins all travelled together in the same car regardless of status – a previously unheard of idea for the times.
The area around Brookwood was populated by golf clubs of fame and because the fare was cheaper on the coffin train, golfers would dress as mourners, then, on arrival, climb over the cemetery walls and make their way , clubs in hand, to their games.



About SallyJ

I am a writer and a poet.
This entry was posted in death, Dversepoetry, funeral, poet, poetry, Uncategorized, writer, writing and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Last Train Journey for Dverse Poetry

  1. Sue says:

    Brilliant! Very evocative..
    I love the lines “close enough to touch
    but beyond touching, past knowing, levelled
    by death, travelling in the coffin train.”


  2. Laurie Kolp says:

    Societal pretenses are broken in death…the varied walks of life on this train make for an entertaining read while at the same time profound.

  3. brian says:

    how interesting on the golfers…but you capture well the divide in society in this as well…all kinda on the train, but each headed in different directions….

  4. claudia says:

    wow sally – this was so interesting – found your poem intriguing but even more after reading the footnote…glad they didn’t have first and second class for the dead…

  5. SallyJ says:

    well, I wouldn’t have put anything past the Victorians Claudia…it was debated in Parliament I believe!

  6. Loved the footnote and agree with Claudia that this was intriguing!

  7. jaytale says:

    Sally, they did have first, second and third class funerals for the dead. With a first class funeral, the grave site could be chosen by the person paying and prices began at what would now be £172. It was expected that these graves would have a permanent memorial stone.Second class cost £69 in 2011 terms. They had some control over where the burial location was but had to pay extra for a memorial stone. If this was not done – the grave could be reused. The mind boggles! Third class funerals were for the paupers and buried at the expense of the parish in their sector of the cemetry.
    Love the poem – so colourful. Especially love the last stanza about the golfers. Conjures up a funny picture of the golfers escaping to the greens. I believe they were required to dress in an appropriate manner for the train journey!

  8. Luke Prater says:

    very intriguing… great write, sally

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