NOT ABOUT THE TRAIN (Mike Cohen – Nov 2003)
This is not about the train that runs its rhythmic course through fields and forests.
This is not about the train that eases into waiting stations,
pausing politely to accommodate a diminishing public.
This is not about the train you hear in the distance of your sleep,
feel rattling your bed, as if you are being transported by rail
from dream to dream to dream.
This is not about the train, suspended in a vision,
as the world rushes past at so much faster than locomotive speed.
When the mournful whistle fades
and the woods overgrow the rails
and the town entombs the tracks in concrete
and, at the eatery that used to be a station,
the final dozen diners finish supper and depart,
leaving the walls to echo unto themselves
like the phantom ocean in an empty shell,
then you will know –
This is not about the train.
Okay, so there is danger adding commentary on my poem. If the reader likes the poem, it may be wise to leave it at that. A reader who doesn’t like the poem isn’t going to read the commentary anyway. But I am going to throw caution under the train and offer some comments about this poem. I think this poem is worth the risk. So here goes…
This poem is about the metaphoric nature of poems. It’s about poems not being about what they seem to be about. The explicit subject of this poem is a train. But from the outset, the poem tells you that it is not about the train. A train is typically a metaphor for something else: sex (of course), progress, power, adventure, the passage of time, nostalgia, loss… The last three are principally at work in this poem. It is about absences – things that are gone. The train was an engine of progress, but at length has been sacrificed to progress. The sacrifice of the train is reflected in the station turned to an eatery, which is in its turn fading away, as the final dozen diners depart (reference to the Last Supper). It’s about the hollowness left in the spaces where familiar things have been. It’s about lament and loss, echo and emptiness. And yeah, it’s about the train too.
The world does rush past at much faster than locomotive speed.
It’s later sooner than you think.
Please click on this link before it’s too late… http://mikecohentime.wordpress.com/