I wonder where she’s going?

With her Taiwan airline tags and western trainers

staring out the train with suitcases of pain

I wonder where she’s coming from?

I used to sit on trains alone a lot

hoping for notice, for someone to wonder

at my destination, my accumulation

light burns orange then russet as dappled

trees bow their burned heads to the wind

this train passes the station for my mother

a ghost in my head winding loss

like web through a recalcitrant loom

invalidation is my golden ticket Charlie

I think of the post-sickness book that’s coming out

and my aunt saying she doesn’t read poetry

which isn’t the point when you support someone

I remember the old dreams set against the new

survival and endurance taking center stage

the toilets are better on trains these days

food just the same, flat and plain like my

chest when I forget to breathe deep and live

there are ancestors sitting on top of my bones

and liars in my pockets alongside pressed river flowers

I think of you and I smile briefly

luminescent in your radiance for a moment

that’s what you are; pure sunlight far from here

the train pulls into another station

I recall being young and standing all the way

my life strapped to me like an instrument

if you listen carefully, the past and present

sing vignettes over cold water and high bridges

like thwarted lovers will

never make their way back

to where they once were

I’m glad I don’t feel old yet

though pain is a pursuer, cutting deep into tenderized fabric

until we wear wrinkles and armor, blowing raspberries

it’s been so long since I was held, tight and too warm

against another fast beating tremulous heart

I see a brown hare in the tall saffron, and the edge

of a grey foxes tail

I wonder why he’s hunting on a mid-Summer’s day?

I wonder at the feeling of hunger and its diminishment

I turn back to my book and then, the feel of lulling laziness

envelopes me in light and I am flying against the train’s metal

whistling my own brew of grief and joy

like a forgotten kettle with just

enough water left to sing

6 Replies to “Thoughts on a slow train”

  1. I haven’t traveled, or even commuted, by train in a very, very long time, but you take me back to that in between state of observation, daydream, pondering, and meditation the train can bring. And then, I remember a verse from “The City of New Orleans” by Arlo Guthrie:

    “Dealin’ card games with the old men in the club car
    Penny a point ain’t no one keepin’ score
    Pass the paper bag that holds the bottle
    Feel the wheels rumblin’ ‘neath the floor
    And the sons of pullman porters
    And the sons of engineers
    Ride their father’s magic carpets made of steel
    Mothers with their babes asleep
    Are rockin’ to the gentle beat
    And the rhythm of the rails is all they feel”

  2. “With just enough water left to sing”— perfect closing line

  3. “My life strapped to me like an instrument” is such a great line; it sets up the finale perfectly… I feel like trains are a medium. Like music, train travel creates its own time and everything is seen through this lens of nostalgia and anticipation. It’s hard for anything to stick to you when you’re passing through space in a time machine.

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