Adele Kenny, Age 9
The Trains
by Adele Kenny

We felt them first. Fingers pressed to the rails,
     a dull rumble filled our hands and hummed into
our arms before the cone of light, the great clatter

of metal against metal. Trestled high, above the
     bridge on Grand Avenue, we knew those tracks
went on forever, between trees that lined the ties

like stations of the cross. The hill was forbidden but
     holy, thick with clover, ripe with berries in spring.
The year I was nine, an April blizzard swept the

sky and we went to the trains in the dark. The wires
     strummed into sparks, the rails were a dazzle of
shadows. Our faces – ghosts of our selves – reflected

in every train car window, lines of breath etched in
     passing glass. Above us, chimney smoke hung like
smears of candle grease among the clouds.

We were grubby and poor, but we believed. We said
     our prayers, ate fish on Fridays, and never rode
those trains. We could only kneel in something like

wonder, something like praise, and wait for the
     tracks’ reverent shudder. The memory is a gauze
engine that time blows through and keeps me small.

SOURCE: Previously Published in What Matters (Welcome Rain Publishers, 2011).

PHOTOGRAPH: Adele Kenny, age nine,  Rahway, New Jersey (Photo by William Kenny). In the poem, the author mentions the April she was nine—that’s the same April this picture was taken.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Virginia Woolf called childhood “a great cathedral space.” “The Trains” is a poem about a “cathedral time” that continues to inform my present.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Adele Kenny’s poems, reviews, and articles have been published in journals worldwide, and her poems have appeared in books and anthologies published by Crown, Tuttle, Shambhala, and McGraw-Hill. She is the recipient of various awards, including two poetry fellowships from the New Jersey State Arts Council and Kean University’s Distinguished Alumni Award. A former creative writing professor, she is founding director of the Carriage House Poetry Series and poetry editor of Tiferet Journal. She has read in the US, England, Ireland, and France, and has twice been a featured reader at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival. Visit her at and