Thursday, August 24, 2006


*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
good art.

Just words on a video screen:
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.

A friend
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
and terrifying.

It is a way of being trapped
and lost at the same time. It is me traveling into something
I am afraid of.

But today
I agreed to find a context in my life for the train.
I agreed

I have to. I agreed because I can’t know where I’m going
if I refuse to go.

About trains,
you don't stand in front of them,
you ride.

©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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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very moving stuff, indeed. (no pun intended) Thanks, Susan.


1:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why I like moving trains?
Many, many reasons.

Going someplace vast and fast, a place I don't know, a place not here, a place I have never been or don't remember--Maybe.

No longer still, propelled with fury.
I can jump through the door and leave everything behind.
A few times I dove face first to catch a train in Tachikawa. I have a scar on my knee from a fall on the DC escalator.....running fast to make a train....I made it and bled all the way home.
If I don't like the car inside next stop I exit then explore the surface or wait for another on the same track.
If I want to be still I claim a space, close my eyes and vanish.
In Japan they always wake at "their stop"....I have slept through mine enough!!!!!
Each train is full of stories.
The Yamamote Line on a Saturday night amazes me....the world's greatest "pick-up" destination.
I don't stand in front of the train....I ride and ride forever.


4:11 PM  
Blogger SB said...

And you paint them!!


5:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm enjoying your blogs--some of them I'm resonating with tremendously. Thanks for having me on the list.


7:56 AM  
Blogger polit thoughts said...

Wonderful evocative words.

It got me wondering - what makes the train move? Not the passengers, at least not directly. The train would move without them. Not the cargo, either. The conductor plays only a ministerial role.

Something about the arterial nature of train systems. Somewhere beats a heart, a driving force. And on they go.

Thanks, SB!


10:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The heart does beat--constantly. Many millions of people every day run and walk through Shinjuku Station in Tokyo....moving to through that "arterial system" that will help them find their work, home or destiny. It is exciting to watch. Are they the veins?

I have spent hours looking down at the big Shinkansen (Bullet Train) station in!!! Yes a major artery....big and fast and efficient! Art in motion!

Thank you for the analogy....this train addict has a new vision!

2:01 PM  
Blogger SB said...

Many people are finding this page from Google searaches looking for information about Laurie Wajima, our brilliant train painter.

The post entitled "Inside the Train" has more information.

Tragicaly Laurie was reported missing on Tuesday, Sept 12, and on Saturday the 16th her body was found in Lake Mokoma about 150 yards from her parent's peir. She'd gone to PA for her sister's wedding.

We will miss her deeply.

If you email -- -- I'll pass your concerns to her family.

8:36 PM  
Blogger SB said...

Obit: Laurie Williams Wajima

Laurie Williams Wajima, formerly known as Laurie Ann Williams, went to meet her Lord on Sept. 12, 2006, at Lake Mokoma, in Laporte, Pa.

In addition to her parents and husband, she is survived by her siblings, Christopher M Williams (Stacy) of Montoursville, Pa., and Amy W. Sundaram (Prasanna) of East Providence, R.I.

Mrs. Wajima attended the Williamsport and Muncy public schools but graduated from the Stony Brook School, a Christian School located in Long Island, N.Y. Following high school she graduated from Smith College in Northampton, Mass., with honors and majors in English writing and photography. As part of her studies she attended Oxford University in England and traveled extensively in Europe and Africa.

After College, Mrs. Wajima moved to Austin, where she started twobusinesses, one in Austin and one in Galveston, Texas.

In 1994, Mrs. Wajima moved to Williamsport, Pa., where she took a position as a financial consultant at Merrill Lynch. In 1997, after her marriage to Dr. Wajima, they moved to the Yokota Air Base (USAF) near Tokyo, Japan, and they resided there until late in l999, when they moved to the Washington, DC area. In 2000 Mrs. Wajima became a financial consultant with Smith Barney and later with Mass. Mutual. In 2005 the Wajimas moved back to Austin, where Dr. Wajima assumed a new position.

Laurie Wajima enjoyed downhill skiing, swimming, yoga, painting and photography. She had planned an art exhibit of her paintings this month in Austin. Recently she and her husband attended the Mesa Community Church. While in Williamsport, she was a member of the Pine Street United Methodist Church and the advisory board of the American Rescue Workers. In Japan, she served as the station chairman of the American Red Cross at the Yokota Air Base and taught English in a Japanese Catholic girls' school. During the time she lived in Japan she traveled to China, Singapore, Korea and later in Mexico and all over the United States. In Washington she was the city group team captain for the Susan Komen Race for The Cure. She was a member of the Epilepsy Foundation of America and the Mokoma Conservancy.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 19, at the Eagles Mere Presbyterian Church. Friends may call at the church from 10 a.m. until the time of the service.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Mokoma Conservancy, PO Box 220, Laporte, Pa. 18626-0220.

9:34 AM  

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