(An Auto-Train Memoir)


St. Patrick’s Day to most

But it will always be the day

I crossed the threshold

And began a new life


Kissing bye to my sons and dogs

At six in the morning

Driving my ‘87 Horizon

Every inch packed with possessions

Including a portable tv on the front seat

Wrapped in my ubiquitous sleeping bags

Winter and summer prize

For the homeless

Speeding down Interstate 95

Past the Washington DC loop

To Lorton, Virginia

First and only stop for the auto-train

CCR singing out the car speakers

“I went down Virginia, seeking shelter from the storm”


From noon to nine next morning

Rode the train in a sit-up seat

Met other women leaving their broken lives

Searching for peace

In what I began to think of

As the start-over state


Friend for the broken and lonely

But still optimistic


People of the States


We sat in the club car

Chain-smoking through the night

Telling each other horror stories

Of marriages made in hell

Telling each other our hopes

Of finding a job

And bringing our children down

(We were all Northerners, going down, going South)

Starting over

Starting a new life


At Sanford, Florida

We exchanged addresses

No cell phones then

I got in my Horizon

St. Patrick’s Day songs on the radio

Drove toward that line

Route 4 in a packed car

Only windows to see from

The windshield and my driver side

Torrents of tears poured from the sky

Lightning coming to ground inches before me

Never saw such a storm in Philly

Nothing to do but grit my teeth and drive

Change lanes with a leap of faith


Made it, though

Lucky to have a welcoming

Aunt and Uncle to give me shelter from the storm

Been a quarter century

Can’t say it’s been a lucky charm living here

But could have been worse

Started over

Steered my sons

Through college

Got more dogs

Found jobs, friends, men for those lonely nights


But along with the portable TV

And plastic bags of possessions

Came that same person from Philly

We drag ourselves intact

No matter where we go

No magical changes

When crossing the threshold

We have to change ourselves…


© 2016 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)



YouTube video: Creedence Clearwater Revival, Who’ll Stop the Rain




  1. Thanks, Mary Cathleen! I tried west–Arizona–and loved the desert but missed my swamp/bayou and prefer it here although I bitch about the humidity non-stop in the summer (mainly because my hair frizzes so badly!). Love Bad Moon Rising but also I Put A Spell On You. And, well, lots of others by them 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, here I missed another response. Good god!! If I missed more, I’m sorry.
    I live in Arkansas so I know all about humidity and the hair thing. My hair is naturally curly, and except for the dead of winter, it’s an ongoing fight to control it somewhat. CCR still does it for me. I love bluesy tunes also. Peggy Lee’s “Fever” is an old favorite of mine. And I was recently introduced to Stevie Ray Vaughn by a friend; he’s good too.

    Liked by 1 person

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