Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Train : Poem In Your Post

I've been trying, my darling, to explain
to myself how it is that some freight train
loaded with ballast so a track may rest
easier in its bed should be what's roused

us both from ours, tonight as every night,
despite its being miles off and despite
our custom of putting to the very
back of the mind all that's customary

and then, since it takes forever to pass
with its car after car of coal and gas
and salt and wheat and rails and railway ties,

how it seems determined to give the lie
to the notion, my darling,
that we, not it, might be the constant thing.

                            - Paul Muldoon

Last night, as most nights, I stepped onto the front stoop as my dog tore out into the yard for her bedtime unburdening, and I heard the familiar yet strangely amplified thundering of a coal train's horn as it barreled down a track five or more miles away.  Our house, on the far side of the bowl-like system of hills that lifts such sounds to our doorstep, receives these haunting hoots five or ten times a day and thrice or more at night.  So I wondered if there might be a poem to capture that rumbling - now barely noticed, it's so routine - and its attendant sense of heft and speed and inexorability.  Apparently there was.

Thanks to Irish poet Paul Muldoon, and to Bill Moyers' book-length transcript of interviews with poets called Fooling with Words, who brought it to me.


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