*Bullet Train, © Laurie Wajima, 2005
Intro: I've long been fascinated with trains, maybe because Mother
and I put Father on a train to Chicago every morning, picked
him up at night, maybe because during one such excursion,
I saw a man fall onto the tracks. He lost a leg. Maybe
trains are a rich metaphor for the journey of our lives.
Probably, for me, trains represent the vast machine, Jean Cocteau's
Infernal Machine, which I've always resisted, wanted to change
and have never been particularly content riding.
Today, they bring to mind the media ramp up for another war.
These wonderful paintings by Laurie Wajima got me thinking
about them again.
Don’t Stand in Front of a Moving Train
is a rule I invented in the sixties,
when America was like an old time movie,
a train barreling down,
ragtime piano and suspense,
a heroine tied to the railroad track,
and it seemed like, unless
you were hog-tied, a sensible
person would get out of the way.
I invented it shortly before
I got fired
for giving radical material
to high school students.
So I altered it
(because you never know
when they’re going to get you) to:
Don’t stand in front
of the same moving train
I carried the rule with me
when I moved to Texas,
but didn’t see the train coming
until I was flat on my back.
So I altered it again:
Try to recognize
a moving train
when it’s running over you,
which should have done the trick
except I shared it with a man
who said it was
Just words on a video screen:
OF A MOVING TRAIN,
then a locomotive coming at you.
* Stop Again, © Laurie Wajima, 2005
Again the Train
For many years I warned myself
not to, but did it anyway, I stood in front of moving trains.
It was a compulsion.
who is smarter than I, told me to get
a moving cart.
I wasn’t convinced.
I tried to stay away from moving trains, shut the rhythm
out of my heart.
It reminded me
of tornadoes, it reminded me of the man I saw get run over
by a train.
And still I dream
of trains, long shining slick and black shafts of energy
into the unknown, going someplace fast, someplace vast
It is a way of being trapped
and lost at the same time. It is me traveling into something
I am afraid of.
I agreed to find a context in my life for the train.
I have to. I agreed because I can’t know where I’m going
if I refuse to go.
you don't stand in front of them,
©Susan Bright, 2006
Susan Bright is the author of nineteen books of poetry. She is the editor of Plain View Press which since 1975 has published one-hundred-and-fifty books. Her work as a poet, publisher, activist and educator has taken her all over the United States and abroad. Her most recent book, The Layers of Our Seeing, is a collection of poetry, photographs and essays about peace done in collaboration with photographer Alan Pogue and Middle Eastern journalist, Muna Hamzeh.
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