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The Dining Car of the Southern Crescent
John Campbell


The Southern Crescent
snakes its way through
the rolling fog shrouded
piedmont landscape;
a young man on spring break,
returning home from
college, crosses the creaky
passageway that leads from
Pullmans to the dining car.

Breakfast smells give rise to
an ambitious order of fresh coffee,
country ham with red eye gravy,
grits, scrambled eggs and
biscuits with blackberry jam.

The waiter, agile and accomplished,
dressed in a white starched apron,
steadies himself against the swaying
motion of the train; with serving tray
in hand and balanced, he places the
piping hot breakfast on a table decked
with a linen table cloth, pewter
creamers, thick silverware, coffee
cups and saucers and plates etched with
a crescent moon insignia; a small
bundle of daffodils sit in a crystal
vase near the window.

The young man with the vittles before him,
relishes a feeling of adult composure
and delight. "How could life be this good?"
A breakfast fit for a king, waiters
eager to please, railway views of
rural Carolina: tenant shanties,
grazing black angus, abandoned junkyards,
brownstone depots and sleepy towns.

He, still unfamiliar with the niceties
of the wealthy elite, or even the
acquired dignities of his college
professors, avows, while pouring
coffee from a silver carafe into
a Syracuse China cup, that the
dining car of the
Southern Crescent
is a place of utmost refinement.

From January Snow and Other Poems (Williams & Company, 2008)
Used with the author’s permission.






John Campbell lives in Brevard, North Carolina, where he is a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice. Raised in the Mecklenburg and Union County areas of North Carolina, he has degrees from Wingate, Wake Forest University, and Vanderbilt. John taught Vipassana Meditation from a Theravada Buddhist perspective at the Deep Spring Center for Spiritual Inquiry in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and has written about integrating Buddhist teachings with Western Psychology and the influence of affects and aspirations in adult depression. Other interests include adults suffering from childhood trauma, and integration of Eastern Religion with Christianity. John is the author of January Snow and has published poetry in Journeys Magazine.




Post New Comment:
Perfect! I have recently been reliving a trip from NYC to Savannah Ga....on the ??? Twentieth Century Limited... I think it was...even your detail about the Syracuse china which is now, i have been told,made in China! Thank you
Posted 04/06/2015 04:57 PM
love rail travel still--the Southwest Chief, the Empire Builder...not quite as elegant, but very good!
Posted 04/06/2015 07:31 AM
Ross Kightly:
And here in the West Riding of Yorkshire - on the right side of the Pennines - I too can remember stopping at Warragul in the 1950s Country Victoria, Australia... to buy coffee at the Buffet on the platform when the Gippslander halted there for that purpose. And a Noon's pie. Smell and taste them still. Thanks for this perspective lesson - place of utmost refinement indeed, this being alive business!
Posted 04/06/2015 05:50 AM
How well I remember it! Not in Carolina - but in Lancashire! A wonderful memory. Marvellous bacon - I can smell it if I close my ancient eyes - !
Posted 04/06/2015 12:51 AM

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