On the Platform
1 The omen I didn't know I was waiting for pulled into the station the same instant as the train. It was just a teenage boy busking on the platform, cello cutting through garble, Bach's repetitions hard-edged as a scalpel probing an open wound. But then I kept thinking how a sound wave travels the path of least resistance, how the notes rebound off steel and stone the same as a blast wave shattering row on row of windows as it swerves through the city. And when the music stops, on the balcony above the rubble, coffee and tea are served. And if there's sugar, is it one lump or two and did you hear what happened to Mrs. So and So? 2 I saw, out from under the grime, whiskers dipping into clear water that trickled between the rails to get the feel of what was near— the same scene as on the church wall, the slimy brethren gathered at the river, one gnawing an ear of corn, the rest intently listening to Francis teaching them their catechism about the wild man John and his crucified cousin. Except they were birds in the painting, not rats. But let's go with that, let them stand on hind legs and sniff incense and myrrh wafting down from high up in the air so that one day on miraculous, fly paper feet they'll scale the golden walls and storm the high ground. 3 Nothing moving on the platform, nothing for miles. And then a shovel clanging against paving stone like an old man clearing rubble while a rat climbs a vine and looks into the broken window and smells the smells. Rubble shoulder high after two weeks work, a toilet with a sink and a light on a pull chain stand framed at the end of the gravel walk already sprouting suckers leafing out more green from the fire that scorched the burned out bush. Ten years, fifteen, and tree limbs shade the bedrooms and branch out window frames toward the sun. And where the electric pump pumped water for the town the wellhead lies broken and two clear streams wear ruts in the floor of the wrecked house.
Copyright © 2010 by Tom Sleigh. Used with permission of the author.