Monday, May 7, 2018

Quarter-Life Poem: Train Stop

Train Stop

At the train stop
I watch a mother
moving slowly like a heavy animal.
She follows her son
a boy with golden teeth.
When he smiles
all the sunlight left in the sky
glints in his grinning mouth.

The mother sits on a bench
her drained face and slight shoulders
slouch with relief
while her son skips back and forth
his late afternoon shadow
stretches across the tracks
so the shadow of his head
bobs on the other side
where people wait
for a train going in the opposite direction
The head's of their shadows
creep further away form us
toward desolate summer streets.

When the boy grows bored of skipping
he stands still and surveys the waiting strangers
making his decision
he sits in the empty space next to me.

He swings his legs back and forth
the tips of his shoes
scrape against the gravel.

"Hello" I say and he smiles again.
His mother watches us carefully from her seat
but she enjoys the peace of his averted attention.

The little stranger looks at me
and whispers "I'm scared."

"Of what?" I ask
suddenly worried
 of everything he could be afraid of.

"Riding the train!" He says
in that 'of course' tone
reserved only for the silliness of adults.
He glances nervously toward the direction the train will arrive.

I tell him of all the things
a person might see
while riding a train.

Mysterious forests
thick with trees
and pine needles and unseen life.

Dusty little towns
full of strangers
we will probably never meet.

Green hills
dotted with grazing cows or sheep.

Even the sea,
stretching out for thousands of miles
sparkling blue or gray and wrinkled with waves.
He is still so young
that maybe he has never seen the sea.

But he is not listening to me
he is listening past my voice
and past the voices murmuring around us
into the distance for the rattling chug of our train.

We both jump instead
when we hear his mothers strained voice
gently calling his name.

When I am finally on the train
I stare out the window
the sun has set, and until we reach another town
speckled with street lamps
and windows with light shining through closed curtains
I can only see shadows
and the faint outlines of trees. 

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