My therapist says I’m afraid of vanishing.
Last week his ceiling caved in, ending our session
in a shower of words and water.
I’m serious. I’m always serious
when I talk about therapists and cave-ins.
This morning I’m serious in a train
sliding past a clock-tower constructed
when this city thought it was flourishing. Flourishing
is a form of vanishing, a verb embedded in what comes after.
Once there was a city that flourished, its spires confident and secure
as my therapist’s ceiling. Once there was a train
that pulled out of a once-flourishing city.
One morning I was on that train, speeding between woods and river,
through a village of wooden houses and plots in a cemetery,
moving on, vanishing
too fast to become part of local history.
Vanishing was fun, like a sky skydiving.
I was the sky into which I dove.
I brooded above the little wooden town
and postage-stamp cemetery.
Time said, “Welcome to the fountain.”
History said, “You’re already forgotten.”
Wind-scalloped river, algae-covered pond, fronds of goldenrod,
a patch of reeds and then a factory parking lot, cars and men
moving slowly, lit by Sunday morning.
The train slowed to a stop, waiting to claim the single track ahead.
I will tell my therapist, when we meet again
beneath his brand-new ceiling,
“Once I was sitting on a train,
stopped dead and already gone.
Happy. Flourishing.’”

From The Future Is Trying to Tell Us Something: New and Selected Poems (Sheep Meadow Press, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by Joy Ladin. Used with the permission of the author.