Sunday, June 17, 2012

Stopping in the middle

“Never stop the train between stations,”
the old man told us as we rode going west
dust swirling in every open window
of a train straight out of another time
the raw desert stretching out on both sides
raw and remote, thick with that lonely ache
I sometimes get waking up alone
“This world is full of snakes and pitfalls,”
he went on, his wrinkled face testimony
to all the things he’d seen,
while we stared out at the passing things
bones stripped to white by unrelenting sun
and perhaps the bones of things that
may have resembled us, greenhorns
coming west for some adventure we thought
of as fun, not deadly or painful or worse.
How many have gotten off their train too soon
thinking they could huff and puff through the desert
only to end up bones,
“It doesn’t matter where you’re going,” the old man said,
“as long as you don’t stop half way there.
Don’t get off until your ticket tells you to
and you plant your feet firmly on a platform
not the remains of someone else’s misery,
and we stared out at the scenery, wondering
how many lost souls had chosen to get off too soon,
and whether any of them actually managed to get
to the other side, how many are still out there
waiting forlornly as we pass by.

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