Off Across the Desert

desert trainIn good weather, I always sit outside at lunch, with a blank book I use to write poetry, looking at the fountain near the table where I sit. A year or so ago I used to push myself to write poems, straining for ideas, so that I could read those poems at a poetry event I go to once a month. Then I realized that pushing myself to write wasn’t fun, and I said to hell with it. I’m not a poet. I don’t have to do this, and I stopped for several months.

I write poems now just for the pleasure of playing with words and ideas. As long as it’s fun, I write. If it stops being fun, I’ll stop. Sometimes I write down phrases, just seeing what I can come up with, and since it’s only a list, I never have to use them, but if a phrase strikes me, I’ll see if it goes anywhere.

Here are a few recent lines (that went nowhere):
• the volcano in your heart
• the shadows on the floor of people you once knew
• we’ll take the train to Mars one day and eat strawberries in the dining car
• we’ll make umbrellas of starlight and walk in the moonlit rain

A few days ago I wrote “Off across the desert, she hears the horn of the train” and with enough effort that did gradually go somewhere. Here’s where it went.

Esperanza Street

Off across the desert,
like a whisper from lost lands
she hears the train horn moaning far away.
In the pinkened early morning,
with the pale stars hanging on,
she gets up to wake her son,
hoping this time that he’ll stay at school all day.

Distant desert train horns
come like lizards, wind, and dust
to the flat adobe house
with a fountain standing dry out by the wall.
She sits a moment in her car
before she drives to work,
to think about her sister
with the baby in Chiapas near the church.

The train is on the river bridge
where boys take dares to jump.
She’s driving past the laundromat,
the place she worked a year ago,
then past a field of peppers,
hopeful green in early sun,
till she turns off from the bypass
heading toward the heart of town.

The bar comes down on Esperanza Street.
The heavy train clacks shudders rumbles through . . .
someday someday . . .
she’ll leave her job,
someday someday . . .
she’ll go back home,
someday someday . . .
she’ll make sweet cakes
in a bakery of her own.

The bar goes up, the train goes on,
she watches down the track,
then drives on to the hospital,
where she’ll wash the haunted sheets,
thinking back through better days
of papayas, waterfalls,
and an orchard where she played,
but her heart is on the train,
traveling free, traveling light,
as it slides off into morning,
and the whistle blows again.

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Filed under Not Real Poetry

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