I took this picture at train station.
The next morning, my husband, Carlos Hernandez, says: “I love it. Looks like the cover of some poetry book.”
Me: “Write a poem that would belong in said poetry book?”
Him: (opening doc) “All right. A little short one.”
We posted the picture and poem to Facebook and Twitter, with a challenge that others write the poetry of this non-existent anthology.
What happened? A virtual florilegium of poetry.* Literally. And metaphorically.
A few pastiches, a few parodies, even a limerick (the poet called it a “base limerick,” or at least intimated that all limericks were somehow base, but I don’t agree! Or maybe I just like base things. I am, after all, unapologetically fond of puns, so my taste is questionable), and many others with that soaring depth of precise introspection that gave me the Good Shivers.
This sort of thing used to happen on LiveJournal a lot–take, for example, the Cinderella Jump Rope Rhymes. But not often on Facebook.
With the permission of the poets, and all credit due to their enthusiasm, I post these here.
And, oh, by the way. Anyone who wants to add their voices, go ahead and leave a comment here!
*(See, Amal. I trust you are reading this.)
THE TRAIN TO EVERYWHERE
By All of Us
Do you worry
like I worry
that you will die
and become a ghost
who must forever
ride the Northwest Regional,
toward a destination
that, while you lived,
When the end did come
The sun rose over the land
Humans were not missed
If only I could look up
from rails that tie my feet
mired in unwanted journey
if only I could look up
Scoured from the tracks,
the train was forgotten by all who were waiting to catch it.
A glimmer of light and the scorch of cooked air
the only trace it had ever been.
Somewhere in the minds of those
stood on the wind shuttered platform
there was a feeling
of a lost connection
For the rest of the day they could not place
where they should be
, unused tickets forgotten in their pockets
the only reminder of a train
no longer due
Almost winter sunset
on the railroad tracks
is like my life:
Converging on a point
I can’t yet see.
- Avery Bowen
I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so TRAINS
A hazy sun shines
A vanishing point nexus
A tilted train track
All converge far, far
Away— a lost horizon
Shrouded in the mist
Trade waiting alone
For the journey home to him
And his open arms.
8. Tie by tie
Beneath our rattling tubes of transport
Beneath the hazy skyed sun
Tracks march in straight lines, gentle curves
Born lines on a plan
On a map
In someone’s minds eye
These tracks built
Tie by tie
Lines of patience
The sun sees all
Envying the rails
The infinite possible
Traversing each gate.
- Rebecca Maines
Sat on the porch of their trailer
They watched trains
they would never see
- Steve Toase
The wealthy summoned the beast
And fed the faceless poor and foreign into her maw
Bones of trees
And gleaming rail touched with rust
As bloody iron stitched the land
Her heart swallowed the memory of forests
And roared as she endlessly delivered the unfortunate to the veil
The bison and the cattle that replaced them
The train shattered the silence of the dawn
disturbing the only peace they ever knew.
- Jocelyn Barnhart
He rides and rides the rails
But never arrives at
The vanishing point
- Dave Munger
Lines above: electric links.
Lines below: strict lanes for locomotives.
Lines across: stitched under the road rails.
The silvergold sun stared through
the clouds, the lines, the wounded world.
Shall I cover my behind?
Do I dare to drink champagne?
I will wear my grubby parka and go walking in the rain.
I have heard the tuneless singing of the train
I do not think it will stop for me.
A road is a liar
Slickly promising control:
Hop behind the wheel early, you’ll zip along the tarmac
Get there with plenty of time to spare,
The flaggers and orange cones of construction
Endless traffic lights of doom
A tiny helmeted child scootering heedless across the street
As the digital dashboard minutes tick you
Into a world of rushed entries and sheepish apologies.
Equivocation is a road’s middle name.
But a train track, now,
That’s another tale.
An old one.
You hoist yourself up metal steps
Through a door swept open
Find a seat next to who knows who
Tuck your ticket into the slot provided
Wait for the smooth or jolting start
Knowing nothing you do
Will slow or hurry
Those hard wheels
Along that cold steel.
- Els Kushner
18. Third Rail
they told me keep on the straight and narrow
they told me with their teeth grit tight,
straight, and narrow, and iron wavering
and try not to look into the sun
there are two tracks, they said, and then picked one
said this is yours, only walk to the right
keep on, straight and narrow, unwavering, Good
keep your head down, your breasts bound, your hair done
they said there is no space in the middle,
told me this with a threat in their eyes
straight, narrow, unwavering, Good, docile, soft, patient, pretty, quiet
there are two tracks, they said; they were lying
there is room to the left and the right
there is space in the middle, and good that’s no Good
and other paths if the train doesn’t come.
Don’t you know there’s bright, somewhere?
Somewhere the air is luminous, spins
silver out of industry when it recedes, spins
Find-Your-Way tracks as it leaves, weaves
rigid lines into a glamour of iron and steel,
into a Way we can take to
But that Leaving, that Receding, see,
it has given us these tracks;
these sharp lines, metallight
to mark our progress.
The leaving is forever.
The lines run long, and endless.
But don’t you know there’s bright, somewhere?
A luminous air, just there —
Those rails must
Lead outta here
A road somewhere
Away from the yards
The harvested rust
And scraps of years
Wasted on moaning
To the train’s long whistle
I wanna run down the track
I wanna see what lies
On the other side of
The trash and dust
Come with me
Or wait till I get where the
Tracks and the rust all end
And I’ll drop you a line
- Kris Dotto
She hides in right angles and straight lines,
Crossing at the light,
Keeping off the grass.
Straight as light poles, as bars on windows,
As tightly wound braids.
If there is a song within her
It is the crickets at twilight.
It is the creak of a broken door.
It is the thrum and surge and whistle of the trains
Passing her by.
Even her dreams of escape
Are shining parallel tracks
Autumn train —
still the sun remembers
see the tracks
disappear into a
field of wildflowers
stretching to greet the
see the cars full
of people of long ago
now and tomorrow
faces carved by time
see the ground fall
away from the tracks
rising into blackness littered
There once shone the sun o’er the tracks,
Its light glinting sharp as an axe.
Did the rails run conjoint
To an infinite point
Or recede to a gray parallax?
The cat and the mouse made room on the tie
I knew they were friends, and we waited
Friends for true, and we waited.
The trains don’t come, the strength to stand
it hasn’t come. The sun dims, low as a friend.
Mouse in the pocket, cat on the shoulder.
Time to rise, time to rise.
Clasp it, wires,
Praise its wavelengths
And all their frequencies
Bless us, near star
You who power us all
Directly or at removes
The rooted and the winged
And those that roll on rails
Do I need to say again?
I am a Traveller.
And in search of a destination to
Soothe my soul.
You too are in a way Traveller,
But our poles are apart.
I am moving towards south.
And you’re towards north.
Still I am okay.
At least we both are Travelling together
On a same land.
the sky draws lines
each half as small as the last
shrinking as the sun sets past the crossbeams
its energy sapped from the wires
as it fueled another journey
A long train creeps by
the city’s on the other side
of tracks to which she could be tied
prostrate and also waiting
but in vain
for her oh-so-handsome hero
or a swiftly moving train.
- Lisa Marie Farver
30. A haiku
Train tracks, lives, and loves
Converge on the horizon,
And the sun warms all.
rolling past the houses alongside the track
he would peer out his windows into other lives
faces emerging between curtains
foot stomping and fiddling on porches
glimpses of humble dinner tables
women hanging clothes and beating rugs
he’d paint the impressions left on his retina
By then reduced to shadow and motion
skin gone from brown to blue
surrounding eyes silver as the dusk
he’d paint them in paper
cutting up newsprint, putting
all those awful words to better use
All things parallel must converge,
At that strange infinite place, that nondescript meridian,
Where the one eternally meets the other,
Where all possibilities flourish,
In the domain of sunrise, the tomorrow of all tomorrows.
Until that time, until that undiscovered instant,
We must travel our parallel gradient,
Always following, always followed,
Side by side, in no particular order,
Through the construction of our terrestrial dreams.
As the sun rose
She looked in vain for the five o’clock eastbound train.
“Where is my lover?” she cried.
“With his cold steel wheels and hot electric power?
“Is he only late or am I once again forgotten?”
She waited impatiently for the answer.
A study in perspective,
Shot caught, homeward bound.
- Allison Souter
These tracks are infinite, though they appear to fade
I’d give up my last breath if I thought it’d make you stay
You say you must continue but anywhere that takes you will always be too far
My love for you can’t be measured, your footprints left on my heart forever mirrors a symmetric scar
I wish we had forever, though enough it’d never be
Nothing can replace or mimic how much you mean to me
I plead please just reconsider, my tears flowing like a river no matter how much I wanna stop
I believe what we have is bigger and I won’t accept it’s not
These tracks break my heart for taking you away
I’d give up my last heartbeat if I thought it’d make you stay
- Marie Ang
3g. A Conversation Between Poet Father and Poet Husband
Part 1: A Dissenting Opinion
A freight train embarks from Vancouver
And blocks my path oeuvre and oeuvre.
I can’t leave my house
Nor return to my spouse.
I say CN sucks like a Hoover.
Part 2: Just Went For the Joke
don’t ask Rory Cooney
to write you some verse for
a poetry prompt:
His rhymes are so tortured
and his wit such a scorcher
you’ll just feel chomped, clomped, plonked,
stomped, tromped, and whomped.
- Carlos Hernandez