Douglas Messerli

From a Train


March streams exist, if streams exist
-Inger Christensen

From a train, tired soldiers
or sheep who run
from the herd-that's all erased,
burned up in the throne of nothingness like a substance
instead of an act-poof! A little incense
that lingers across the air. There is that scent
of dried apricots. The parrot speaks: the house
is still open. The house…
somewhere I am suddenly born
in that house, that wide open
house, that narrow house, that house
with all its windows closed, close as flesh
of any family who hate that they have to
stay so close. Never apricots,
broccoli or cauliflower even, fried fish!
and the flesh of fathers and mothers
and brothers. I recall the train
slowly gathering speed
as it took its way out
of the station unto…wherever it went.
Everyone was exhausted! Everyone went to sleep.
And the train went on ahead like a river
that never stops. It was March or May
or even June since I have no memory of it.
Everything is erased.

Then we stopped or seemed to or went on
again and on like a stream on its march
to the sea. This was later, many days.
I played with my "tin men"
in my dream of the trip. Where have I been?
Perhaps the child in the forest will show his face.
He must-at this point-look like a little
tarnished star, a silver thimble upon his thumb, his mother's
gift? Nowadays dreams go around so openly.
The soldiers were tired. Who could blame them?
I put them back in the box. I got out my gun.
I shot a ewe about to cross the tracks. I was a hero
I believed. I was confused. I was so innocent
I was awarded apricots. But I never saw
the soldiers again. I never saw where I went
or where I had been.

Los Angeles, 13 June 2004