Thursday 9 January 2020

In Midland Where the Trains Go By | Dorothy Hewett #AWW

In Midland still the trains go by.
The black smoke thunders on the sky.
Still in the grass the lovers lie.
And cheek on cheek and sigh on sigh
They dream and weep as you and I,
In Midland where the trains go by. 

Across the bridge, across the town. 
The workers hurry up and down. 
The pub still stands, the publican 
Is still a gross, corrupted man. 
And bottles clinking in the park 
Make symphonies of summer dark. 

Across the bridge the stars go down, 
Our two ghosts meet across the town. 
Who dared so much must surely creep 
Between young lovers lips, asleep. 
Who dared so much much surely live 
In train-smoke off the Midland bridge. 

In Midland, in the railway yards, 
They shuffle time like packs of cards 
And kings and queens and jacks go down. 
But we come up in Midland town. 
O factory girls in cotton slips 
And men with grease across your lips. 
Let kings and queens and jacks go down 
But we'll still kiss in Midland town. 

An oath, a whisper and a laugh. 
Will make our better epitaph. 
We'll share a noggin in the park 
And whistle songs against the dark. 
There is no death that we can die 
In Midland, where the trains go by.

In Midland Where the Trains Go By | 1959 | Dorothy Hewett

Dorothy Hewett was born in Perth, in 1923 and grew up on a farm in the wheatbelt area until being sent to Perth to finish her schooling. She joined the Communist Party in 1946 and was active in their volunteering work. She moved to Sydney, with her second husband and young family, where she worked in a spinning mill and wrote under a pseudonym for the Communist Party paper.

When this marriage also ended she moved back to Perth in 1958 to take up a teaching post at the University of Western Australia.

In 1960, she married Merv Lilley and two daughters, Kate and Rose.

Hewett left the Communist Party after the 1968 uprising in Prague. She was an atheist all her life. She often challenged the social, sexual, religious and political norms of her time.

She died in 2002 in the Blue Mountains of NSW.

John Kinsella said in her obituary in the SMH, 26 August 2002;
Hewett's writing is about freedom and equality, linked with a deep respect for the vagaries of the individual.

I chose this Poem For a Thursday in preparation for Bill's Gen III Australian Women Writer's week from the 12th - 18th January.


  1. This is a nice one. Thanks!

  2. Thank you Brona. I had to do a workshop on the engine sheds at Midland during my accountancy degree (I argued they should be run as a workers cooperative. Of course they were closed). I'm not sure I like the poem much, but it's fun to be able to picture it as I read it.

    1. I was determined to find a poem (that I liked) by an AWW Gen 3 for your week, but it was proving difficult until I found this one. It wasn't so much that I liked it, but I read several online comments that went with this poem from people who had learnt it at school in the 60's and 70's and who now found themselves reciting parts of it every time they drove through Midland.
      I had a Pop who recited poetry at the drop of a hat, so my sudden feelings of nostalgia matched the mood of the poem. That was enough for me :-)


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