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.

THE WATCHER

He stands transfixed
on the bridge,
arms outstretched,
staring at the river
always flowing slowly by below.
He wears a garland of gold,
an inscription in Hebrew,
the holiest of holies,
mocking those
who hold him a man.
Did he peer out
of the corner of his eyes
as they marched them
across the bridge
to the trains
to the camps
from which they
would never return,
never have headstones
in small, ghetto cemeteries,
would be merely names
on a wall of remembrance?
What did he want to say,
what would they not hear,
for surely
he must have known,
in the way a son
knows so much more
than a father imagines.
They are gone,
he remains, forced
to be ever silent,
and the river flows
under the bridge
beneath his ever constant,
mournful gaze.

IN DREAMS

Late in the night
a train rolled by
through the city, a few
miles down the hill
from here, its horn
muted but still required
at crossings.
I know it appeared
in my dreams,
but I cannot tell
if it was as the heron
in flight over the lake,
or the long bearded
hiker with the oversize
backpack who wandered
down our street
and became a slat
in the fence
at the dead end.

NIGHT CHANGES

Night alters sound in ways
we can never precisely determine.
It is possible our hearing changes
with the flight of the sun, but
the moon scoffs at this premise.
A train rattling across the landscape
in the heat of day becomes
a musical instrument in the relative
silence of night, playing a melody
that insuates itself into dreams.
Birds raucous by morning
are sirens in the night, drawing you
from sleep onto the rocky shores
of sudden wakefulness, the darkness
a strangely unwelcome companion.
But it is the breathing
of a lover sleeping next to you
that caresses you, and you slide
deeper into Morpheus’ grasp.