NEVER BOATS

“Trains are present,” she said,” and somewhat
the buses, but airplanes are mostly absent.”
I understand what she meant, and didn’t need her
to cover hands over her ears to cement the point.
On a train, most sit back, some with ear buds
but many simply stare out the window at towns
and villages and fields flowing by, willing
to share bits of their lives, real or imagined.
On a train there is only truth, and what is said
is real, if only within the confines of the car.
On a plane the people hide inside headphones,
bend their headrests around their ears, as if to demark
some personal space inside which the person
in the adjacent seat dare not enter, even with words.
“Trains,” she said, “are as much about the journey
as the destination, while planes are an abyss
between the points of departure and arrival, crossed with
the fear you could fall into the pit of another’s life
and never again emerge.” I agree with her
as we pull into a station and she rises to disembark.

WHAT DID YOU DO

When they asked him
what did you do during the war
he said “I just stood guard.”
When they asked him where
he said “A station, just
a station, like most others,
I just stood guard.”
When they asked him
did you see the trains
carrying the bodies crammed
into cattle cars
he said “I saw many trains,
it was just a station, but mostly
I looked at the sky, wishing
for the sun, but mostly it was gray
and there was smoke
from the chimneys.”
When they asked him
why did you wear
the lightening bolts
he said “I was a ski instructor
but I broke my leg
so I stood at the station,
just a station like most others.”
When they asked him
did he know of the ovens
he said “They made bread
which we ate each night
when there were no potatoes.”
When they asked him
about the Jews
he said “I knew no Jews;
there were none in the town
where I stood guard
at a station, just
a station like most others.”
When they asked him
what he did after the war
he said “I prayed, just
prayed for my sins,
sins like those
of so many others.”