Wednesday, March 12, 2008

the significance of steam trains

(I feel the need to add some kind of disclaimer to this poem, which is much more traditional than most of my current work. I feel a strong need to write this poem for a more traditional sense of "understanding" because it is for my son. When I speak to him, I am attached, unified, and sure of my trajectory; therefore, my usual sense of division and confusion is erased, of only for a moment. I want the words to carry a figurative weight of a more traditional style- more lyric in the traditional sense. Because this poem serves a specific purpose for me, it is written in a specificly direct way. Not that you asked. . .)

For Eliot

Such explosions, steam. Rising in the dome.
Turning the wheels.
For you, everything is linked, coupled,
sequenced in terms of who
carries whom. You wake up already attached
to the elements of significance:
Who is the engine? What is being carried
into this separate coincidence
we call "freight"? Who is, after all,
on the train?

Still, I'm astonished to see the dexterity
with which you connect everything. Paper clips;
silverware; books, once a pile, now lay end to end,
from one side of the house to another.
Your tracks take shape and look
both like circles and tangents at the same time.
Each engine has its place, its own power source,
and its own cars to carry.

We've read countless books about trains,
some are about arriving, some are just about
getting on. Destination and arrival. You often return
to the story of our own journey on a train, the orange engine
straining up the mountain and through heavy rocks,
tunnels, emerging into light. You slept soundly
on my lap as we descended, like a river,
into the valley. Your wheels, for once, at rest.