Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Train and the Station

The train goes
and the train stops.
I don’t know what I’d do
with either
without the other.
People must get somewhere
else, and so
we move together.
It is civilization heavy
but at the right speed. Then
just when it feels to have gone on
too fast too far
a station appears, its light
distant, a pinprick. But
by now we know
that a small light in darkness
can slow even a heavy train.
You feel it, don’t you?
The weight like the core of the earth
all around your little body,
by some power invisible to you
slowing. The noise of friction grating
and digging its heels
against the tracks. Lurch
full stop. Sigh.
Please get out, even
if it’s not your destination.
Lights are on telling you
through the windows:
Here is a place.
It is someone’s place.
Walk around. Sit on a bench.
Buy a coffee. See
how different it tastes
than it would have on the train.
Watch the ones who call this
home, their faces simultaneously
going and arriving.


  1. ooo! I LIKE this! and not just because I like trains, which I do - but maybe yes, because I like trains and the way they are a body carrying my body and there's so much unspoken on a train about mass and trajectory and coming and going. You say it here in a way I want to read and reread.


    1. Thanks, Wendy. There really is something special about trains. We were just watching Poirot the other night in Murder on the Orient Express, and that must have gotten me rolling down this track.

  2. Like this poem, I find train journeys to be mesmerizing and compelling! I love that sense of being a thundering part of the earth while we are transported across and sometimes through it and always getting on and gettin off...

    1. Broad, it does feel grounded and organic. No doubt there was a time when trains were too much for people, but now they seem like a more reasonable way to travel than airplanes, at least to me. We're thinking of a train trip to Chicago at Christmas time.

  3. A lovely, provocative poem, Ruth. I've been on this train most of my life, and I'm still on it, sitting toward the back with a window seat that permits me to watch the phantasmagoria of life that advances and recedes in the blink of an eye. Yes, I disembark occasionally at those small, inviting places, hoping that one might be my place, but, after walking around, sitting on the bench a while, and having that cup of coffee, I usually realize that my place is further down the line. So I board the next train, return to a comfortable window seat, and watch the small station fade into the past. It is no surprise that finding a home has been so elusive, for our lives, like the trains, know nothing but "going and arriving."

    1. George, thank you for riding the metaphorical train and imagery here. We really are just looking for home in all our doings. It isn't easy to feel at odds with the world and our surroundings and still find meaning. Lately I've noticed that if I focus very closely on what is near me it has made me feel better. It seems to be a constant balancing of background and foreground. It's good to be traveling along with you, my friend.

  4. We do crave that knowledge, don't we, of other places, other lives, the taste and smell and sight of them, the romance of the unknown, the uneasiness and anxiety of the new. A train does all this; and more!

    1. Rosaria, trains maintain an exotic feel for me, more than planes, which seem too sterile, even in remote parts of the world. Being able to watch the passing terrain is such a joy.

  5. Very intriguing indeed. Splendid!!

  6. I like this!
    I spent quite a bit of time on the train last year, back and forth to Windsor to be with my Mother. And in many ways it was physical and psychological travel .
    We take the Go Train into Toronto etc , which just feels like a commute and not at all romantic or adventurous.
    I would love to take a train anywhere actually, I agree .

  7. Last night I desired to walk a short distance to a station which is connected to our station. To leave my car and ride. But I didn't

  8. 'watch the ones who call this home'. Especially love that I find it so true - when I think of people and that wherever they are they are living their lives. Extraordinary work - as always!!!

  9. i love your question, ruth, You feel it, don't you? in the poem i suddenly can not help but trust that you know how i feel and we are both then on the train, all of us on the train, riding, waiting, lurching, stopping and getting off into someone's life. do we ever know if it is our own or not? does it matter?

    an entreating and haunting poem, both))) the more i read it, the more it finds its way into me.


  10. Oh to explore the unknown and still have that train to catch to go back home...A beautiful poem Ruth!

  11. i love the fact that this piece is about movement at the beginning and stasis at the end, with the most wonderful statement describing the life of a writer: Watch the ones who call this
    home, their faces simultaneously
    going and arriving.

    you make us see the yellow lights through the grime of the train window, smell the coffee, and yes, feel the weight.

  12. Don't ask me why, Ruth, but this feels so European to me! :) And you know me and the trains of Europe. Nothing like them anywhere. The wanderlust in me is alive and well.

  13. "it is someone's place" I felt that way traveling on the Amtrak. Kept looking out the window, half in pain as I wanted to capture images with my camera, half in wonder at "peeking" in on people's backyards. I will have to check out "small" as I enjoy your photography so much :)

  14. I love the image of the train stopping--"friction grating and digging in its heels." Often the stoppings of life are unanticipated and unwelcome, yet they ground us to earth and show us a place to be that we weren't aware of. In the stoppings, I need to get out and walk around to discover if this unfamiliar place is a place to be--a place that will nourish, teach, or challenge.


All responses are welcome.