(beginning with a line by Kathleen Graber)
It is hard to say simply what is true.
The weather here is what natives call spring
though when they refer to it as this, they mean,
rain, hailing, and thunderstorms. My friend said
ask five people and you get six opinions. If you asked
my mother, you get that alone. She is
lonely—the word she uses—most of the time,
and likes to call on the phone to ask me—
what is it she asks me? It seems she calls just to talk,
which is fine, though she certainly enjoys hearing herself
speak. Before my father died, he hardly spoke a word.
We relied on nodding, sometimes touching
each other’s hands. My brother still remembers
the last time we were with him breathing, though
slower, much slower, than the day before.
And he gripped my brother’s hand. Was he scared?
What was he trying to say? If he could speak
now, if he were still alive that is, what would my father
tell me, besides “life is hard.” There wasn’t
a punchline. That was it. I try not to remember that
my hair is going grey. Not a lot, but enough
to see it, like the shadow of birds out my window,
even if I don’t know how many are there on
the sill. On the street today, I hear a rumbling above,
then see it is a train entering the station. It stays there
a long time and I’m sure people are upset by that.
My landlord was upset, and I would be too
if I were in his shoes, that I didn’t pay my rent
on time last month. I said I would try.
He hung up on me and I was surprised by that.
My mother hung up on me once also.
She’s not really a rude person, but
she likes the attention. Don’t we all want
someone to pay attention to us? For a while,
I was reading a book this morning, and listening
to the hard rain, then my friend came by and said
ask five people and you get six opinions.
I think the train started moving after
many of the people had gotten off and walked
to the taxi stand on the corner, the bus shelter,
or their destinations. Sometimes that is how it happens.
Nude (Study), Sad Young Man On A Train
After Marcel Duchamp
Dark light of shadows and the train
moving speedily, windows shut,
everyone or nearly everyone, asleep,
the sound of their breath, mouths
lifted up, and soon, coffee and steam.
Who is this man, this boy going
somewhere, or riding from station
to station, his eyes open, looking
out the window, at the nothing,
the fields, or buildings,
at the men he will become
leaning on them, red brick?
Or maybe he sees a cigarette
or Christmas tree on fire, ashes, tinsel—
can he distinguish anything in the dark?
The train goes all night, and into
the morning, fog, light rain.
Then the outline, the subtle feel
of a lurching, hiding woman.
Who is this shadow figure?
Why is she not wearing
any clothing, crouching in the almost far
corner? It takes a long time
to find her, in the painting, looking
or not looking at the boy.
On the train recently,
I gazed at a boy, sad like the one
in the painting. He left
onto the platform, the way someone
walks away from a painting,
disappearing quickly. I don’t know
if it was him rushing to somewhere,
or the train speeding by,
blurring each station, as I looked
at men, at their leaving, the dent
of where they sat, long emptiness in the air—