24 October 2009

Musings on Trains


And the people come out of the small towns,
and the cows come out of the cow towns,
and the ghosts come out of the ghost towns,
to wave at the trains
speeding by their backyards
and barnyards
and ghost-yards.

Hi train. Bye train. Predictable as the sun and the moon,
the Empire Builder barrels down.



Howard talks a lot;
It's hard to get a word in edgewise.
But who needs words and points?
When the green is growing as the mountains rise up.
And the valleys open-up revealing rivers flowing.
Scene-scapes flying past the panoramic glass,
And Howard knows it all.


A Native American smuggled hooch on board at Havre.
North Dakota.
He shared and was generous,
but he got somewhat mad rather quickly.
He just wanted to meet people, here and in the towns.
To Glacier west he was headed.

He wanted to meet me.
He'd never see any of us again,
not me nor Harvey.

"Please, do this for me," he said,
brandishing the pint of cheap whisky.
The 4 P.M. sun shone through the bottle.
Just a little bit more.

I declined. Drunkenness in transit,
whilst in the midst of Montana
seems a perilous business.
He would do it, he says.
I had to go.



I sat next to a little boy,
in blue pajama pants,
who liked to kiss his mom.

All the while she stared off into the distance.
She was looking for signs of life.



I met an old man
whose son
had a daughter
who met the president.
Obama, that is.

He told me of the changing landscape in Ann Arbor.
And of playing the flute,
In the Army band,
In Germany,
For John F. Kennedy.

He told me of a man,
Who tore down a silo,
An old, old silo,
And used the wood,
Polished by years of falling grain,
To build floors.

He was on his way
to see his old college roommates
in 'Frisco.


The sun lays down a silvery glaze o'er the ponds.
It is morning in North Dakota.

When the lights go dim,
the noises come out.

Creeks and rattles and clicks.
And clacks.

Listen: there's an eerie horn,
sounding as a ghost in the distance.


Travel By Train! Indeed.

Standing in my bare feet,
on a train platform,
in St. Paul.
I stretch my legs.

23 October 2009

Spontaneity in The Lounge Car

Sunrise in the Lounge Car

I spent this evening singing softly. With newfound friends. On a ukulele a she-hippie did strum and I tapped a drum, homemade, sometimes brushing.

And our song rose and fell and reached its climax through meows and yelps and rolling tongues.

And there were no words, but the words were sung and some words were barely words at all.

And the melody drifted up and down a single arpeggio, inspired by a single string. With harmonies and rounds and reiterations bursting through spontaneity.

And Spontaneity. Randomly joining and listening and laughing. Feeling goosebumps as madness drifts to order and back again.

And its all music. Bringing us together in all that we have to share. Without names or stories or destinations we share. Music. Spontaneity. Travel and the Train.

And we've only been rolling a few hours. On this Iron Horse, the Empire Builder, crossing this majesty which is crumbling.

And we share our humanity. Whatever that is. Hard to define, but nonetheless lived out in our clamorous music. A strum, a chord, a rattle and a word coming together by chance on the train traveling through time and space, and the moon rocks with our song in the sky. And Ani keeps ringing in my head.

And we all crane our necks as la luna, she rises and casts here silver carpet upon the Columbia at twilight. And it falls to our feet. And we can step off this Empire Builder, through the empire and into worlds that have yet to be built and that are haphazardly built to some wild perfection and pass fluidly into some shared oblivion, like water into steam, which permeates the air and thickens the air and the community and condenses on the walls and runs down the walls and pools upon the mighty hooves of our iron horse. To fertilize and bring new life come the morrow.

And this is the train. And this is travel. And this is why I left and had to go back and will soon leave again.

And I write:

"Spokane. Take me as I am.
On this nostalgic car
Hurtling through a dark abyssive void,
going and coming and roaming and going
And moving, with no way of knowing.

And a girl strums softly on a ukulele.

And outside, in the window,
beyond my reflection,
there is only blackness.
And a line separating the lighter from the darker,
separating rolling hills from tree tufts.

And I watch the moon wandering in the window.

Back and forth, as right and left
its lunar wandering, meandering.
Whilst witness to this celestial dance,
soft conversation ebbs and peaks and murmers.

We fly back in time,
the moon following.
On this nostalgic car,
the train at night."

And I dream of a life on these tracks. In my own private car, living on the rails. Passing through city after city, meeting these travelers, munching nuts from foreign lands and digging it. Playing music and sharing. And sharing.

The Journey.