Passing Through

D. A. Powell - 1963-

Watching Picnic again for the
umpteenth time. We need
more trains. The tin-roofed stations in
red brick or the grand multi-track
white terminals. Someone left
me by train once, tearily, and
I never should have let his
jive ass back in to collect his things
that were stashed in Patty’s room.
Patty’s room is the closet. He was
a closet case. He was a cliché.
He left by train but the train
was a bus. Mysteries unfold
on trains. Strangers disembark
often enough to disrupt your day.

My chief fear on trains is not
murder nor stumbling into the wrong
berth. There is no wrong berth.
My fear is that I’ll have to ride
backward into memory. I hate memory.
My first train memory is the circus
puffing by on its way to winter
in Florida. Ever after I stood at
the porch and watched the L &N,
hoping for giraffes. There are no
giraffes in most circuses, so I was
obviously a forlorn child. Lonesome
whistle. Did Hank Williams wake
to the crossing guard blinking its red
light across his face at night
through a window he hoped someday
to climb out. Trains are sad as
elephants. Lumbering along. Or
pulling down tents.

Can’t blame Kim Novak for wanting
to run off with William Holden,
especially after seeing him with his
shirt off, dancing under the pink
and green Chinese lanterns,
him moving in—I too would hold on.
Even though I’m sure it’s wrong for Kim.
It’s wrong for him. Where do people
who are wrong for each other meet
but in the movies or on trains.
Best to meet a man who’s moving.
Passing through. Let him ruin
your weekend but not your life.
That’s what weekends are for.

More by D. A. Powell

[the cocktail hour finally arrives: whether ending a day at the office]

the cocktail hour finally arrives: whether ending a day at the office
or opening the orifice at 6am [legal again to pour in californica]: the time is always right

we need a little glamour and glamour arrives: plenty of chipped ice
a green jurassic palm tree planted. a yellow spastic monkey swinging

a pink classic flamingo impaled upon the exuberant red of cherries
dash of bitters. vermouth sweet. enough rye whiskey to kill

this longing: I take my drinks still and stuffed with plastic. like my lovers
my billfold full of rubbers. OPENs my mouth: its tiny neon lounge

corydon & alexis, redux

and yet we think that song outlasts us all:  wrecked devotion
the wept face of desire, a kind of savage caring that reseeds itself and grows in clusters

oh, you who are young, consider how quickly the body deranges itself
how time, the cruel banker, forecloses us to snowdrifts white as god's own ribs



what else but to linger in the slight shade of those sapling branches
yearning for that vernal beau.   for don't birds covet the seeds of the honey locust
and doesn't the ewe have a nose for wet filaree and slender oats foraged in the meadow
kit foxes crave the blacktailed hare:  how this longing grabs me by the nape



guess I figured to be done with desire, if I could write it out
dispense with any evidence, the way one burns a pile of twigs and brush

what was his name? I'd ask myself, that guy with the sideburns and charming smile
the one I hoped that, as from a sip of hemlock, I'd expire with him on my tongue



silly poet, silly man:  thought I could master nature like a misguided preacher
as if banishing love is a fix.   as if the stars go out when we shut our sleepy eyes

Abandonment Under the Walnut Tree

        "Your gang's done gone away."
                —The 119th Calypso, Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Something seems to have gnawed that walnut leaf.

You face your wrinkles, daily, in the mirror.
But the wrinkles are so slimming, they rather flatter.

Revel in the squat luck of that unhappy tree,
who can't take a mate from among the oaks or gums.

Ah, but if I could I would, the mirror version says, 
because he speaks to you. He is your truer self
all dopey in the glass. He wouldn't stand alone
for hours, without at least a feel for the gall of oaks,
the gum tree bud caps, the sweet gum's prickly balls.

Oh, he's a caution, that reflection man. 
He's made himself a study in the trees.
You is a strewn shattered leaf I'd step on, he says.
Do whatever it is you'd like to do. Be quick.