Train Stopping


Train Stopping

So much depends upon
your smile
towards the woman standing just across
the mid-door stretch
with teeth like a board fence that have seen
a snow drift
who asks how many stops
to Ossining.

Your inner slog slows
to a sharp blur of bars
and barbs, bricked-up blocks along the tracks
that mark the prison SingSing, her long hair thick
as a knit cap about her head, her bangs a fringe thick
as crochet, and you, conjuring an image of inmates with visitors
on their laps under shared
tube lights, say, softly, I don’t think this train stops
at Ossining, what you need is to change
at Croton-– and she, with a voice husked (you’re guessing)
by smoke, nods, oh yeah, oh yeah, I mean, how many stops
to Croton, and you try for a count but also not to make
the smile too shiny, not wanting to be fake, as if you could modulate
chapped lips into some
sort of balm, though the woman is shiny enough,
a bangled sequinsed bag
beside her little black purse.

Every once in a while as the train tugs on,
the two of you smile sheepishly,
you still standing at the mid-door
because to stand in a train feels like a little bit of freedom
in a life of desk-sit,
and she, in a seat by the aisle, both of you sharing something about being women, the river
gleaming, until,

Croton next, she bundles to the opposite door
the dangling hood
of her stiff wool coat spangled by the fall of that freshly-
washed hair, and something softish sounds.
You, wanting her not
to be the one to bend down,
lean over for it.

You dropped, you say,
a penny, reaching fingers purposefully heedless
of the smeared linoleum, and she says, from the opening door,
wait, is it heads?
and you, peering urgently into the worn
copper, say, no, tails.

She laughs, husk wide,
leave it, and, as you stand again, she turns you a face bright
as the door’s blue draft, you’ve been the one happy person I’ve seen on this train all day, she says, and you who haven’t actually been happy
at all,
suddenly are.

Well, thank you right back, you say, not knowing how else
to express that.

Very much of a draft poem, sorry for length, for Fireblossom’s (Shay’s) Prompt on With Real Toads, to write a poem beginning with William Carlos’ Williams famous first line about the red wheelbarrow.  Photo mine, taken from Metro North Hudson Line.  (This poem has been edited a little since first posting.) 

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18 Comments on “Train Stopping”

  1. Kerry O'Connor Says:

    One should never take chance encounters with interesting people for granted.

  2. coalblack Says:

    You never know when a pleasant encounter may surprise you!

  3. I really love this.. there is so seldom we have those random connections.. they tend to stick and come back in our memory many many times later on… I still remember conversations I had more than 30 years ago.. and it will never come back..

  4. I read this and only after I finished, I realised that I had not stopped to breathe properly. It has such wonderful rhythm. Thanks.

    Greetings from London.

  5. Mama Zen Says:

    I think this is incredible work, K. It feels really fresh and crisp.

  6. heads or tails. 🙂 I actually do get this poem after having visited NYC quite a bit lately – ridden the subway – and I understand how one studies people, sometimes a connection is made… The details are wonderful. For me you captured “the ride”

  7. hedgewitch Says:

    It’s odd that when I dream of Chicago it is often about being on the el or a bus, missing a train, needing a transfer, running after and catching a bus, as if the essence of urban life were in that traveling communal crawl of assorted bundles of human cells, of going somewhere one has to be…here, (as in a lot of Williams) there is a sense of going somewhere besides the posted destination, of looking at the scenery as not only part of the journey but part of one’s self, as well as the kindness to and from strangers who try to be (and intrinsically, ARE) more than just another drop in an infinite sea of humanity…I think there is an entire short story in this poem, Karin, condensed to its beautiful bones.

  8. What a wonderful, warm story. An interlude to brighten any day.

  9. humbird Says:

    love the story in this poem, the dialog so I could imagine to be there and maybe smile as some words reaching my ears….

  10. whimsygizmo Says:

    I love this, so much:
    “Your inner slog slows
    to a sharp blur of bars
    and barbs”

  11. Helen Dehner Says:

    Amazing write! “Because to stand in a train feels like a little bit of freedom” ~ I love standing on subway trains, my feet firmly planted. I am rebel, I am in control, I am woman ~ and I can roar.

  12. This is wonderful and warm and made me smile. Has to be one of my favorites I’ve read of your work.

  13. Marian Says:

    This is wonderful.

  14. M Says:

    to me this is another stirring example of your skill as a prose poet, k. we get little chance to train here in socal, but last year in NY I was able to partake (as it were), and this slice of life is so personal, insightful, and tender. really so well done ~

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